ZIMBABWE – In your opinion, what could have motivated George Charamba’s attacks against you and those perceived to be opposed to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa?
I don’t have an opinion about this. I have information. Loads of it. While Charamba’s scurrilous political attack on me and other Cabinet ministers perceived to be opposed to what they allege is Vice-President Mnangagwa’s succession path went viral after his long interview on ZiFM radio and after The Herald reproduced a verbatim script of that interview two weeks ago, in fact Charamba had been on my case over VP Mnangagwa’s succession for a very long time.
To make a very long story short, things started turning ugly between Charamba and me and his fellow successionists out there in May 2015 when BBC HardTalk broadcast an interview with me in which I poured cold water on the ambitions of successionists by saying President Robert Mugabe had not appointed his vice-presidents so they could succeed him, but so they could assist him to implement the policy programmes he pledged to the nation in the 2013 elections, which he won resoundingly.
I also said in that interview that questions whether the First Lady, Dr Amai Grace Mugabe, was a future leader were ridiculous because she’s already a leader today not least as secretary for the women’s league, which is a senior national leadership position in the ruling party.
I later learnt, something which is now common cause that the BBC HardTalk interview did not go down well with successionists.
The most disappointing reaction came from Charamba. Remember, I was then Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services where he was as he still is permanent secretary. Soon after my BBC HardTalk interview, Charamba started throwing administrative spanners into my ministerial work either by instructing officers not to do this or that for the minister or by holding up paperwork or by running a whisper campaign with State media journalists and officials who administer parastatals under the ministry to say to them, “the minister has fallen out of favour with the system”, and things like that.
He tried anything and everything to derail my campaign programme in Tsholotsho for the June 2015 by-election which had been running well until the BBC HardTalk interview. There are witnesses to this, many, who are waiting for their day in the sun to tell their story.
In the week of the June 2015 by-election Charamba travelled with President Mugabe’s delegation to two working visits that were close to each other, one overseas and the other to South Africa.
Charamba used those programmes to deep-throat the State journalists assigned with the delegations with a rumour that I was going to be dropped from Cabinet, allegedly because I had contested in the by-elections without the president’s permission and that by winning the by-election I had expelled myself from my position as a Cabinet minister. Again, there are witnesses to this, especially but not only in the media.
A week after I was sworn in as MP for Tsholotsho North following the June 2015 by-election, and a few days after Charamba’s return from his assignment with the President in South Africa, I noticed that he had taken into avoiding me altogether and yet it is a fiduciary requirement for the permanent secretary and minister to work together as public officials entrusted by the president and enjoined by the law to serve the public.
And so I took it upon myself to go to his office to greet him and to find out what was going on as I was hearing a lot of disturbing things.
When I got into his office, he appeared to have been taken by surprise, perhaps for the reason that he had taken the view that we no longer had anything to do with one another since he had already told State journalists that I had fallen out of favour with the “system”.
My effort to engage him in the pleasantries of greeting each other failed. There were no smiles. No usual courtesies.
Charamba gave me an arrogantly officious and dismissive look and said, “Minister, what is going on?” About what? I asked him. “With you, minister”, he thundered.
Remember I was seeing him for the first time since recording a historic win for the party in the Tsholotsho by-election. He did not use the opportunity to first congratulate me on that victory, or to say anything about the fact that the party had won all 16 or so by-elections nationwide on the day. He just wanted to huff and puff about what he was convinced was going wrong with me.
So I reminded him I was not aware of anything wrong because I had put all my time and effort in my by-election campaign in Tsholotsho and I was not aware of what had been happening elsewhere, especially in Harare. “Minister, minister”, shouted Charamba. “I am very, very worried.
“The commanders have been asking me what’s going on with you and the whole system is concerned about you minister”.
He said. “I’m being asked a lot of hard questions about the BBC interview. Who organised it? How did they come here? Things would have been okay if the interview had ended there, but then it was transcribed and the script was published in The Herald.
“They want to know who did that because it is only done for the president and nobody else”. By the way, remember this was coming from the same Charamba who only two weeks ago had more than an hour of his venomous ZiFM radio interview against at least three Cabinet ministers, including myself, transcribed and published by The Herald verbatim. But that’s a digression.
Then Charamba said, “Minister, the system does not trust you at all. Now the commanders are angry with me. they are saying why am I not stopping you. It’s like, it’s my job to stop you”. “Stop me from what?” I asked Charamba agitatedly.
“Stop you from doing what you are doing minister and you know what you are doing”.
When Charamba realised that I was getting very frustrated and even annoyed with his narrative, he then said, “Minister, the system is asking if Moyo is not supporting VP Mnangagwa to succeed, so who then is he supporting? Why is he trying to prevent VP Mnangagwa? That makes him dangerous and he must be stopped.”
At that point I lost my cool and told Charamba that whoever wants me to support VP Mnangagwa to succeed President Mugabe should go to hell and I don’t care what anyone is going to do to me because of that.
I reminded Charamba of 2004 and told him I was not going to be part of Tsholotsho 2 in Harare and that Joice Mujuru was not removed for her successionist plots in order to replace her with VP Mnangagwa to pursue his own successionist programme against President Mugabe.
Noticing that I was getting agitated and angry, Charamba then tried to cool things down by saying, “I hear you minister but nobody is going to believe what you are saying. Nobody in the system believes you”.
That was my last conversation with Charamba in the Information ministry. I’ve kept a record of it because I realised as soon as we started talking that he was up to something big and no good. A week or so after that conversation I related my encounter with Charamba to his deputy, Regis Chikowore and made it clear to Chikowore that I was not going to allow successionists to intimidate me into supporting their scheme to succeed the president.
The conversation with Chiko-wore happened a week after I had been advised that the Attorney-General, Prince Machaya had advised that the legal effect of my winning the June 2015 Tsholotsho by-election and my taking oath as a Member of Parliament was that I had technically resigned from my Cabinet post by operation of the law and that I could no longer attend Cabinet.
What followed thereafter is in the public domain, save for the fact that Charamba and other successionists used that period to trade all sorts of self-indulgent stories about my fate.
First, they said I was out of Cabinet for good. Then when the president appointed me to my current post, they said I had been demoted.
I chuckled over the demotion jibe because I moved from a ministry whose annual budget (check the blue book) is about $3 million to one with a budget of over $600 million in de facto terms, let alone the fact that the ministry I’m currently serving is the one that plans and develops the human capital skills for the entire economy.
The untold story is that my situation in the Information ministry became impossible after my BBC HardTalk interview. I was very grateful when the president reshuffled me from there.
But Charamba has remained on my case on behalf of successionists. Only last Thursday he telephoned the acting CEO at ZBC just before News Hour at night and directed him to pull off STEM ads on ZBC television and ZBC radio stations. I understand he said he was doing this because the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had complained about the ads and he wanted to show “who controls the media in Zimbabwe”.
Can you imagine that? A Permanent Secretary in Information ministry unilaterally sabotaging a government programme, by another ministry, that’s been well-received nationally beyond description. And doing so without reference to any administrative process.
No reference to his counterpart in our ministry. No reference to the Cabinet office. No reference to the ZBC board of governors. I don’t know if there was any reference to his own minister.
And this all because Charamba sees himself as an untouchable super successionist who allegedly has the blessing of VP Mnangagwa and is thus part of the “system” if not as the “system itself” and he believes he has the power to do anything by himself without reference to anyone or to any process in accordance with the operational framework of making and implementing government decisions. As a typical successionist, Charamba supports the president during the day and works against him at night.
Clearly, Charamba is no longer a fit and proper person to be Permanent Secretary in the Information ministry.
What is your relationship with Mnangagwa, are you on speaking terms?
Answer: I recognise and respect him as one of two different but equal vice-presidents and second secretaries of our party and vice-presidents of our country appointed by the president to assist him to discharge his national mandate and constitutional responsibilities. I don’t know what talking terms are, but I definitely report to him in the discharge of part of my work as I also report to Vice-President Mphoko in similar light.
In your response to accusations that you are part of a faction that is allegedly abusing the First Family’s name, you have said you learnt your lesson in 2004, what was that lesson?
Answer: I learnt that at all times, I must remain loyal to my appointing authority and forget the rest. Successionists then would say Pamberi naPresident Mugabe during the day and spend the cover of night plotting his ouster. That’s what they are doing now. Lots of daylight slogans in support of the president followed by a nightfall of unprecedented succession scheming. Loyalty is a 24-hour proposition, 24/7. It’s not a part-time job of the politics of appearances.
In 2004 you were accused of working with a Zanu PF faction that was pushing for Mnangagwa’s elevation to the presidium but now you are said to be fighting him. What has changed?
Answer: I just told you that I learnt my lessons. It’s called political maturity and experience. I’m not fighting anyone. I’m just making sure that I do not again put myself in a political situation that is in conflict with my president as my appointing authority. I shared this position publicly in a Sunday Mail interview soon after my re-admission to the party and election into the central committee at the 5th Congress in December 2009. We have the position of one centre of power in our party’s constitution. I drafted that position as I drafted all the key amendments to our party’s constitution for the 6th Congress in December 2014 and I did that under VP Mnangagwa.
War Veterans minister Chris Mutsvangwa has accused you of, trying to divide Zanu PF…. What is your response?
Let the situation on the ground speak for itself about that.
What is your response to Mutsvangwa’s claims that you are related to the late Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and that you could be fighting his wars?
My late friend Professor Masipula Sithole must be laughing in heaven about that comical allegation. If there was the slightest truth to it, he would not have gone to heaven without saying it. Not Masipula. But of course I believe I am related to every Zimbabwean. That’s where I get my Zimbabweanness.
Your critics often accuse you of working to destroy Zanu PF from within, what is your reaction to such claims?
The overwhelming majority of Zanu PF members know better. I’m in the politburo and Cabinet not because I smuggled myself there but because the president appointed me to serve in both organs as he knows better than the critics you are talking about.
Do you believe there is a media campaign to discredit you and if so what steps are you taking to stop that?
What I believe is not an issue. The situation on the ground speaks for itself.
Zanu PF has previously accused the private media of concocting stories about factionalism in the ruling party? Do you now believe that there are camps in Zanu PF pulling in different directions?
Zanu PF was said to have two factions: Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions. The Mujuru faction met its fate in 2014 leaving the party with one faction. It would be wrong for the remaining faction to see itself as the chosen one when the right thing to do is for it to dissolve itself and support President Mugabe both during the day and at night.
Do you have ambitions to lead Zanu PF as alleged by your detractors and are you a member of the so-called G40 faction?
I have never had an ambition or done anything based on or driven by the allegations of my detractors.
Your constituency Tsholotsho North is one of the most affected by the current drought, do you have an idea of its impact and what has government done to cushion villagers?
You are right that Tsholotsho North is one of the constituencies most affected by the current drought and the impact on livelihoods and livestock is indescribable. But the status of “most affected” is becoming widespread in our nation. We are working on a range of options to keep hope alive. Cde Prisca Mupfumira, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, has done everything possible to ensure that vulnerable families in the constituency are cushioned. And Dr Joseph Made is assisting us to find a water solution since access to water is the vital need in a drought situation