Former president Robert Mugabe has been holding secret meetings with a prominent lawyer amid indications the opposition National Patriotic Front (NPF) wants the 40-year-old businessman to challenge President Emmerson Mnangagwa in elections due in two months.
Mugabe has met Farai Mutamangira to discuss the leadership of the NPF, currently led by former Cabinet minister retired brigadier general Ambrose Mutinhiri, who is said to be on his way out, impeccable sources said yesterday.
Mutinhiri was announced as the NPF leader in March after holding a meeting with Mugabe, but sources say he has fallen out of favour with the party’s structures after he failed to “assert his authority”.
The former Zipra commander has allegedly failed to attend NPF meetings.
Mutamangira has already held several meetings with the party’s founding stakeholders, the sources said.
He is said to be the legal brains behind the party that is poised to threaten Mnangagwa’s support base, especially in the rural areas.
NPF sources said Mutinhiri had been “a big disappointment” and Mutamangira’s appointment was being done to save the party linked to a former Zanu PF faction known as G40.
“He’s a ghost president who’s never been seen or heard from,” said a source.
“The biggest question in the NPF is; where is Mutinhiri?
“We only read about him and saw his pictures with [former] president Mugabe in the newspapers. He never attends meetings.”
Mutinhiri was not reachable for comment yesterday, but his backers said his absence is related to an alleged power struggle between him and former Local Government minister and G40 kingpin, Saviour Kasukuwere.
Kasukuwere was accused of trying to position himself to take over from Mutinhiri.
Mutamangira and party spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire were not reachable for comment yesterday.
Mutamangira is a prominent corporate, investment and mining lawyer.
He taught law at the University of Zimbabwe and recently completed a high profile executive education programme with the Kennedy School at Harvard University.
He is the chairman of FastJet, a budget airline registered in the country.
NPF public meetings have been addressed by members of the party’s yet to be officially unveiled founding national executive members who include Eunice Sandi Moyo, Sarah Mahoka, Mawarire, Jeppy Jaboon and Wonder Mashange, among others.
Mugabe’s relationship with Mnangagwa took a severe battering after the 94-year-old ruler in March suggested that he will support the NPF in the forthcoming elections.
“My view is that if they think that the new party will represent the people better, that it will be democratic and avoid hypocrisy and falsehoods that are now characterising our government, and appealing to people in an honest way, I will support that,” Mugabe said in the only interview he has granted to journalists since his ouster in a coup in November last year.
“The NPF, any party that is for democracy has my support and the NPF has come to me and said they want to work towards correcting the present unconstitutionality and all the hypocrisy that is being said, we want that to go.
“People should not say one thing and do another like they say they support me as a legend and working to destroy me. The NPF don’t want that.
“(They want) to regularise the situation and to be truthful and also to ensure that two organisations, Zanu and Zapu, continue as the Patriotic Front and we created that with Joshua Nkomo.”
Mugabe said he no longer felt wanted in Zanu PF.