Zim politicians' knickers in knots in Mugabe succession fight

2016-02-08 11:15
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)

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Harare - Did a senior ally of President Robert Mugabe really steal women's knickers during the 1970's war for independence?

Bickering between top officials in Mugabe's party ahead of his 92nd birthday this month has reached such levels that War Veterans' Minister Chris Mutsvangwa this weekend felt obliged to tell a national newspaper that he was not guilty of snatching the panties of female freedom fighters from washing lines so that he could resell them.  

Last week Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo, a key member of a Zanu-PF faction, called rival Mutsvangwa on Twitter "some bloke famed for stealing & selling underwear of female cadres from the drying line at the camps!"

The allegation provoked some mirth in what are becoming increasingly vitriolic fights between opposing factions of the party.

Understandably, Mutsvangwa was miffed.

He told Zimbabwe's privately-owned Standard on Sunday: "How does one get to trade in textiles in a war zone where guns are blazing and bombs are exploding? And with what payment?"

Long denied by state officials, the infighting in Zanu-PF has been played out in public in the last few days. At present, top party members appear to have crystallised around two major formations, each vying to succeed Mugabe.

One is led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and has the advantage of counting presidential spokesperson George Charamba within its ranks. He has a say over the content of state media, although editors deny this.


The other faction is composed of younger officials including Moyo and Mugabe's nephew Patrick Zhuwao. They are known as the Generation or G-40 and have less access to government media.

Zhuwao circumvented this restriction by inserting a paid-for statement in the Sunday Mail. Using the hashtag #thankyoubob, Zhuwao said his uncle, Mugabe, was "our greatest economic champion".

Mugabe has not declared his preference for a successor yet.

Moyo's comments about second-hand underwear have particular resonance in Zimbabwe, where the sale of used panties was banned in 2012 by then Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

Biti, a member of the opposition said when he announced the ban: "If you are a husband and you see your wife buying underwear from the flea market, you would have failed."

Used clothes vendors have quietly defied the ban and the sale of used knickers, bras and bikinis continues at some Zimbabwean flea markets.

Mutsvangwa on Friday told the state-owned Herald newspaper he had a "clean record" with regards to stealing underwear.

"Gives a new meaning to news in brief," tweeted Zimbabwe's @RangaMberi on Sunday.

Read more on:    zanu-pf  |  robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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