PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa fired his outspoken political ally Christopher Mutsvangwa as Minister of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Affairs with immediate effect for various reasons, but the trigger was his outburst against Information minister Jenfan Muswere — a presidential blue-eyed boy — over recent state-controlled media board changes.
Informed official sources told The NewsHawks that some of the reasons the militant Mutsvangwa was sacked include his dodgy business dealings with Chinese investors, his son Neville’s commercial undertakings, especially regarding United States Starlink satellite internet service operated by the world’s richest man Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX and fallout with war veterans ahead of their expected congress whose date is yet to be announced.
Besides, Mutsvangwa has bad relations with Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who was Acting President when Mnangagwa was recently on leave, and the military top hierarchy.
Sources say Mutsvangwa’s attack on Muswere was the last straw. Muswere is close to Mnangagwa and his son Emmerson Junior.
He was instrumental in helping Mnangagwa escape the country into Mozambique and then South Africa after he was fired as vice-president by the late former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017, a trigger to the subsequent coup which brought him to power within two weeks of his expulsion. So, Muswere, appointed ICT minister after the coup, is like a son to Mnangagwa.
“Mutsvangwa was fired for several reasons, but the final straw was his attack on Muswere — and by extension Mnangagwa — over new board appointments at ZBC and Zimpapers. Mutsvangwa wrote to Mnangagwa complaining about Muswere, saying he was removing information or propaganda chiefs who helped Zanu PF win elections and does not know anything about party policy. This was seen as gross interference in another ministry’s affairs, brazen arrogance and unacceptable challenge to the highest appointing authority, the President,” a source said.
“There were also other issues concerning his business dealings with the Chinese and his son’s commercial undertakings, especially his connection with Starlink. The issue of war veterans who are disgruntled with him was also a major factor.”
In a direct challenge to Mnangagwa and Muswere, Mutsvangwa told journalists at a Press briefing at Zanu PF headquarters in Harare on 27 January that the removed board chairpersons of the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and state-controlled Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Ltd Dr Josaya Tayi and Thomas “Tommy” Sithole respectively were accomplished professionals who did a tremendous job during their tenures, particularly during last year’s general elections.
Mutsvangwa reminded the President and the minister that Tayi and Sithole were at the forefront of Zanu PF’s disputed elections victory last year as they delivered an information tour de force, a great performance.
When Muswere was appointed by Mnangagwa as Information minister to replace Monica Mutsvangwa, Chris Mutsvangwa’s wife, he moved to replace the ZBC and Zimpapers boards. More changes are coming at managerial and editorial levels.
Muswere appointed new boards, with Mnangagwa’s approval, but Mutsvangwa was sulking. He was upset that Muswere had replaced board chairpersons appointed by his wife.
Mutsvangwa was already bitter that his wife was removed from the influential Information ministry to the less prominent Women Affairs, which disrupted alignment of government and ruling party communication services.
With his wife at the Information ministry and him as Zanu PF communication boss, Mutsvangwa ran the show at both government and party levels. He had become an information czar, with bigger political ambitions.
During the 27 January Press conference, Mutsvangwa openly supported Tayi and Sithole, saying they had done a sterling job in leveraging the public media to support Zanu PF during the recent elections.
This was a rare admission by Zanu PF that they were abusing public media for a partisan party political agenda. The opposition and election observers have always accused the ruling party of capturing the public media, a charge Mutsvangwa inadvertently confirmed in his defence of Tayi and Sithole.
At the media conference, Mutsvangwa said: “I will divert a little bit because I’m the information secretary of the party. There have been changes now at the boards of the Ministry of Information, with new boards coming in.
“Unfortunately along the way, there have been aspersions cast upon the performance of some of the former board members. We want to say as a party those boards and their chairmen performed sterling work during their term of office. They are the ones who superintended the information and publicity drive of the party during the elections which we won. They delivered an information victory for the party those board members at ZBC and Zimpapers. They did a sterling job. They were selected in some instances personally by the head of state.
“I definitely know that chairman Tayi of ZBC was selected by the President. Every knows he is a professional doctor and everybody knows what he did to save the President in 2017 after the poisoning which happened in Gwanda. Everybody knows Comrade Tommy Sithole, the former chairman of Zimpapers, a professional in the media field, but a long-time cadre of the party even during the days when we were in the national liberation war. He is an accomplished sports administrator with footprint even in the International Olympic Committee and the President literally had to cajole him.
“I use the word cajole him to become the president [chairperson] of Zimpapers. Not only did he do a good professional job, he also ran the institution well. It made money, it is making money by the loads. So he is a man of supreme, exceptional achievements.
“We would not like people of that calibre to feel that after rendering such service to the President, to the party and to the organisation, there is impingement on their professional standing. No. They are competent Zimbabweans who loved their country, who render service and my department will be going to the President to make sure that we will throw a party for them here at party headquarters to recognise the sterling work they did in their term of office, particularly surrounding their covering of the national elections where every aspect was being made to cast our elections in a bad light. They defended the integrity of the Zimbabwean electoral process and that is a domain of information. They did a good job.
“Of course, we will be extending the invitation to the minister and his team so that they can come to the party of revolution and fully understand that we work as a team and we tap on the professional competence of Zimbabweans, their history, their patriotic credentials when boards are being selected and that they serve the president, they need to be recognised. So I just felt that we would want to put it on record that thank you Comrade Tommy Sithole and your board, thank you Comrade Tayi and your board at ZBC. You did a great work.”
By publicly challenging Muswere — and Mnangagwa by extension — Mutsvangwa sealed his fate as minister. He was fired with immediate effect — a week later.
It is not the first time Mutsvangwa — who has a sense of entitlement about the liberation struggle and romanticises the anti-colonial war with hyperbolic stories while peddling delusional stories of economic recovery — has previously been sacked as minister or senior government official.
In 2018, Mnangagwa removed Mutsvangwa as his special adviser following the military coup which brought him to power. Mutsvangwa played a key role in the coup.
In 2016, Mugabe also fired Mutsvangwa as War Veterans minister over his acrimonious leadership succession battle.
He was booted out for “gross misconduct and disloyalty” and fanning factionalism in the party.
Mutsvangwa’s dismissal came as Mnangagwa also appointed three deputy ministers.
The appointments were announced by the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Martin Rushwaya through a statement from Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba.
The three deputy ministers are Omphile Marupi, who has been appointed deputy minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services; Sheila Chikosho, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and Benjamin Kabikira, deputy minister of Local Government and Public Works.
Mutsvangwa (69) has worked as a senior public servant, diplomat and minister during his long political career, which has been characterised by dismissals. NewsHawks