After waiting for nearly 12 years, former air force chief Josiah Tungamirai is finally going to contest the Gutu North seat, scheduled for February 2 and 3. And while commentators tried to write off factionalism from Masvingo, it seems it is still far from being over.
Tungamirai has been eyeing the Gutu North seat since he retired from the Air Force in 1992. There has been wide speculation that he was forced to retire to make way for a new structure as he would logically have been the undisputed first commander of the defence forces.
But top ZANU-PF officials were a little wary about him as he is a no-nonsense who will stand his ground against anyone if he believes he is right.
He clearly showed this three years after his retirement when he refused to step down when vice-President Simon Muzenda, who had represented Gweru since independence, decided to switch to Gutu North.
Tungamirai, who wanted to contest the seat and had been selected by 11 out of the 17 party districts in Gutu, said he was not going to step down. ” Only the President or the central committee in the absence of congress can stop me,” he vowed.
When his supporters asked him to stand as an independent, he refused to budge saying: “I have grown up with the party, been educated by the party, fought with the party and my politics are the party. I won’t be an independent. Never, ever.”
President Mugabe had to finally step in and Tungamirai gave way and was rewarded with a non-constituency seat.
The death of Muzenda in September provided Tungamirai with a unique opportunity, but the young Turks who had just been elected to the Masvingo executive tried to block him.
Tungamirai’s archenemies governor Josiah Hungwe and his home-mate Shuvai Mahofa tried to block Tungamirai as well. Once again Tungamirai refused to budge.
Hungwe, Mahofa and Tungamirai have never seen eye-to-eye since the 1980s when Mahofa was involved in a number of scandals in Gutu South.
Tungamirai was at the forefront of calling for Mahofa to go and accused the party leadership of favouring her when they nullified a vote of no confidence in Mahofa passed by the people of Gutu South.
Tungamirai is believed to belong to the Eddison Zvobgo faction which once reigned supreme in Masvingo but seems to be withering with the declining health of its boss.
Tungamirai’s victory in the Gutu North constituency could therefore spark another battle for leadership of the province now that the two main contenders, Muzenda and Zvobgo are out.