Chimene, the acting chairperson of a splinter group of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA), told President Robert Mugabe and thousands of bussed youths that Mnangagwa was the leader of the Team Lacoste faction, which “has its roots in the Tsholotsho Declaration” of 2004.
“It all started in Tsholotsho and we had some people expelled, while others were suspended. But the cancer remained and we nurtured it,” she fumed.
“We now hear there is a group known as Team Lacoste and to legitimise it, they created a fictitious group called G40.
“We have seen people wearing Team Lacoste T-shirts, but never G40. Some of us are accused of being members of G40, while others now think I take drugs. I am okay with it, if it makes me work well. I am ready to be the sacrificial lamb. I have been asked to come here and say things as they are. Tsholotsho was led by Mnangagwa and now we hear Team Lacoste is led by him as well.”
Chimene was referring to the infamous gathering in Tsholotsho in 2004 that had sought to catapult Mnangagwa to the Presidency, before axed Vice-President Joice Mujuru was elevated. Chimene said Mnangagwa was running a parallel government.
“President, you have a parallel government, because some ministers do not even report to you. We have two leaders, even at party level, and now it’s time to separate the two of you,” she continued.
“We gave you power to hire and fire people, but if you cannot do that, then call for an extraordinary congress so we can deal with these rebels. We are tired of intimidation across the country. They have their president and war veterans’ chairman. (Christopher) Mutsvangwa is not our leader as former freedom fighters.
“Zanu PF has problems, animals and environmentalists normally resort to culling, so the party needs that. We need a process of culling in Zanu PF. Crocodiles must go back into the water. Zanu PF is not a dam and we do not need crocodiles among people because they may harm us.”
This was a thinly-veiled reference to Mnangagwa, whose nickname is Ngwena, a Shona word for crocodile. The meeting was arranged to hit back at the recent damning communiqué issued by the Mutsvangwa-led ZNLWVA executive.
In the hard-hitting communiqué, the former freedom fighters called on Mugabe to resign, accusing him of dictatorship, genocidal tendencies, political gamesmanship and blamed him for the divisions rocking the ruling party.
The latest public attack on Mnangagwa comes five months after Hurungwe East MP, Sarah Mahoka also publicly dressed him down and labelled him a faction leader angling to succeed Mugabe. In the ensuing shock and melee, Energy Mutodi, an avowed Mnangagwa loyalist, was ejected following calls from a section of the crowd. In response, a jaded Mugabe instead, rejected calls for Mnangagwa to be expelled from the party and government or the call for an extraordinary congress, albeit in couched terms.
“We shall keep together at the top. We shall remain united, we know there are accusations, some false, but some are true. But Zanu PF has always known how to settle its contradictions. We learnt from Mao (the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong) on how to deal with issues when people disagree, we concentrate on those issues that we agree on,” he said.
Mugabe accused unnamed party enemies of seeking to divide the Zanu PF leadership, but diplomatically called on Mnangagwa to exonerate himself from the allegations and distance himself from those plotting an internal rebellion.
“The enemy wants to divide us using our names. We must keep watch and be vigilant. As leaders, it is also up to us to reject claims that we are behind some people,” he said.
“You are always accused; we do not want to be divided. It is our duty, as leaders, to denounce these developments together outrightly without hesitation, so that the people can continue to have confidence in us. Let us keep together, and at the base, you must help us with your unity.”
Mnangagwa and First Lady Grace Mugabe have long been touted as jostling to succeed the veteran Zanu PF leader, although they have both publicly denied harbouring such ambitions.