The latest news from Zimbabwe this morning is about the "firing" of Simba Makoni.
It now emerges that the anti-Makoni alliance is in disarray after its most influential backer questioned the motives of those seeking a confrontation with Makoni.
Dr Ibbo Mandaza (pictured above), who effectively nurtured this group, giving them office space at his Southern Africa Political and Economics Series Trust (SAPES Trust), pulled out of the group at the last minute because he was uncomfortable with the motivations of its senior figures.
A fierce row erupted between Dr Mandaza and Major Kudzai Mbudzi after Mandaza withdrew his support because the group appeared to be focused on money and vehicles. I understand Mandaza insisted that the dispute was about the delay in forming a party and that the issue of "resources" (the group's euphemisim for the money and cars that they are demanding from Makoni's presidential campaign war-chest) should not figure at all. Mandaza was uncomfortable especially with how the focus on money and other resources would eclipse what he called the "real dispute", which was about the delay in the formation of a party out of the loose grouping from the March 2008 elections.
Mbudzi and others insisted that the main issues were the money and the cars, in addition to the delay in forming of a party.
The statement that was released last week by the group, calling itself the National Coordinating Committee of Mavambo was not signed by Mandaza, who was the National Coordinator for Makoni's presidential bid during the first stages of the election campaign in March. A couple of weeks after the presidential bid was announced by Makoni, Mandaza then stepped aside from the National Coordination role in order to concentrate on his own parliamentary seat campaign in Mazowe.
Major Mbudzi himself, then the head of National Mobilisation, was also asked to step down from this role within a couple of weeks of the launch of the campaign. The reason given was that he was also running his own personal campaign for a parliamentary seat in Masvingo. Mbudzi resisted this. I reliably understand that Makoni was disappointed with Mbudzi's performance as head of National Mobilisation and towards the end of his campaign even sought to set up an independent "presidential crack team" to campaign directly for Makoni, going round with him as he made his road-trip tour of the country.
Makoni was unhappy that rallies seemed unprepared for, sometimes with venues not being paid for in time although the schedule was known well in advance. He blamed the disorganisation on the mobilisation front on the fact that Mbudzi while concentrating on his own parliamentary bid, was neglecting his mobilisation role for the presidential bid while at the same time refusing to delegate any authority to people he worked with in that Mobilisation department.
I am also reliably told that after the disagreement with Mandaza, Mbudzi's group went off and released the "libelous" statement last week. Mandaza, whose wife is a senior and respected lawyer in Harare, had sought advice on the document, which levelled financial impropriety allegations against Makoni.
The advice Mandaza got back was that the document was not only libellous but that the group had no legal standing to claim the resources from Makoni's Trust.
At this point, Mandaza had gone back to the group and asked that they redo the document and simply concentrate on the issue of the delay in forming a party. He told them of the legal advice he had got. Major Mbudzi reportedly countered by saying he had also spoken to lawyers and they had told him to go ahead and that everything was in order.
It was at this point that Mandaza refused to have anything to do with the Press Conference that was addressed by Major Mbudzi last week. He also refused to sign the document that was released at the same press conference.
The loss of Mandaza has dealt a heavy blow to the group, since it was he who had given them administrative support. The document that was released at the press conference carried his personal email address at SAPES and he had opened the sprawling SAPES complex in leafy Belgravia to the group for their meetings.
Dr Makoni met with his lawyers last Friday, who urged him to focus on his political work since they would handle the matter, which they said was such a clear-cut case of libel and defamation that they were relishing the chance to work on it.
It is expected that summons will be issued to the signatories to the document this week for them to substantiate their allegations against Makoni or face punitive damages. Dr Makoni himself has now put the issue at the back of his mind and says he is letting his lawyers and Advocates handle everything.
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