Mnangagwa demotes three vocal critics in Zanu-PF’s Youth League

Zimbabwe's president Emmerson Mnangagwa. File photo.
Zimbabwe's president Emmerson Mnangagwa. File photo.
Image: Jekesai Njikizana / AFP

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa effectively dismantled a trio within Zanu-PF’s Youth League that had become powerful enough to attack his business and political benefactors.

At the party’s politburo meeting on Wednesday, secretary for youth affairs Pupurai Togarepi, his vocal deputy Lewis Matutu and secretary for the commissariat Godfrey Tsenengamu were reduced to ordinary card-carrying party members. They will be grounded for a year. After that they can contest for any party position.

Their transgression, according to the party’s acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa, was “their irregular modus operandi which is alien to the party’s way of doing its business”.

When the three went on their latest anti-corruption crusade they called for the arrest of a member of the president’s advisory committee and benefactor, Kudakwashe Tagwirei, and another key ally to the presidium, Billy Rautenbach.

Tagwirei enjoys a monopoly in the fuel industry. He is also the main player in the Command Agriculture programme that has since its inception in 2016 gobbled more than US$3bn of state funds. Matutu called Tagwirei, “the most corrupt person in the country” at a media conference on Monday. In 2018  the same accusation was made against Tagwirei by Christopher Mutsvangwa, who was later dropped as presidential adviser.

This was the youth league’s second attempt at getting those alleged to be corrupt  brought to book. In their first effort last year, they named senior party members such as secretary for administration Obert Mpofu. At the time Mpofu was not amused and he almost physically charged at Matutu during a politburo meeting. Mpofu later sued Matutu for ZWL$10m — the matter is yet to be heard in court.

The trio knew they could land in trouble with their latest attempt to speak out.

“We have prepared ourselves for this, whatever the consequences we don’t care, we don’t mind, but the message has been sent,” Matutu said.

Reacting to their expulsion MDC Alliance politician Fadzayi Mahere  tweeted: “The godfather of corruption in Zimbabwe came out in full defence of his godson (Tagwirei) yesterday.

Analysts say since coming to power via a military coup, Mnangagwa’s corruption fight has been halfhearted.

It started with a list of foreign currency externalisers in January 2018 which was underwhelming. Then there was the formation of a new Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) which is yet to make landmark breakthroughs.

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