2014 year of weevils, gamatox

Former Vice-President Joice Mujuru

IT has only been three weeks since Joice Mujuru made history by becoming the country’s only living former vice-president after being fired following a messy fallout with First Lady Grace Mugabe.


Emmerson Mnangagwa was finally appointed vice-president alongside Phelekezela Mphoko after Zanu PF’s night of the long knives which saw a number of heavyweights losing their party and government posts.

First Lady Grace Mugabe
First Lady Grace Mugabe

The president’s wife had publicly demanded the resignation of Mujuru declaring that the Zanu PF congress would force her husband to “baby-dump” the freedom fighter unless she apologised for her actions.

What were those actions? Grace later revealed that Mujuru’s litany of transgressions included, among other sins, speaking badly about her, not supporting her nomination as women’s league boss or congratulating her; and to add weight to the allegations, the treasonous act of a coup de tat by plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe as well as rampant corruption.

Her suspected lieutenants suffered similar doom, former party spokesman Rugare Gumbo being expelled while former secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa was suspended and former politburo member Nicholas Goche was prevented from contesting for the party’s central committee.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Some ministers and deputies were later fired for allegedly performing below expected standards, although it is widely known that they were booted out for sympathising with Mujuru.

As you read this article, the culling in the ruling party continues with more heads expected to roll for supporting Mujuru when Mugabe returns from the Far East annual leave.

Although these remarkable events have left most Zimbabweans wondering about their future, it is the run-up to the shock mass dismissals that caught much attention.

Grace went on a whirlwind countrywide tour to ostensibly thank Zanu PF provinces for nominating her to the powerful women’s league position, but the rallies soon turned into platforms for insulting perceived enemies.

While Grace made some disparaging remarks targeting those she disliked, two words sum up Zimbabwe’s political environment in 2014 — weevils and gamatox.

Mugabe was the first to use the term weevils at the burial of former Cabinet minister Nathan Shamuyarira in June.

Phelekezela Mphoko
Phelekezela Mphoko

Mugabe said Zanu PF had been infested by weevils which needed to be flushed out as they were destroying the party from within.

Most people thought he was savaging Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo, who stands accused of using the State media that he controls to attack his enemies.

Mutasa was quick to find a solution and urged party youths in Mutare to use gamatox against the party weevil menace.

Since then these two words, which are not relatively used in everyday Zimbabwean vocabulary, became some of the most common words.

In fact, even Zanu PF’s two warring factions were now distinguished by the two words. Weevils referred to the anti-Mujuru faction and gamatox to the pro-Mujuru group.

Slogans such as pasi negamatox (down with gamatox) and pasi nemaweevils (down with weevils) became common, forcing the party’s politburo to step in and “ban” the use of such slogans. However, Grace openly defied the ban and continued to use the down with gamatox slogan at her gatherings whenever she referred to her “enemies”.

It’s surprising the two factions settled for these terms. Just what is a weevil and what is gamatox?

“Weevil” is a pest, which has attacked grain since ancient times. It is not a very strong or resilient creature and would easily perish if it has no access to stored grain.

There are about 40 000 species in the family. Its mouth parts are not terribly strong, so it wouldn’t do very well even in a field of growing wheat.

The weevil has become adapted over a long period of time to living in the easy conditions alongside humans, who grow, thresh and grind their crops to make it palatable for them and the sneaky pests.

Adult female weevils can lay hundreds of eggs in wheat grains or products such as flour where they hatch as tiny larvae, then pupate before finally emerging as adult weevils.

The weevil does not fly, but can walk long distances to find a mate. Weevils do not bite or sting and they do not carry any diseases or germs. They are just pests that ruin food and can be an annoyance in the home, but do no harm to people or pets.

“Gamatox” is a pesticide that is highly lethal to humans. According to health experts, exposure to gamatox can result in adverse effects such as skin irritation, nerve disorders or even death. Its use was banned in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s.

The obtaining political scenario indicates that just like the pesticide, the “gamatox faction” has effectively been banned in Zanu PF while the weevils continue to breed in hidden food holes, spoiling available human feed.

Although both weevils and gamatox are undesirable in any facets of our economic, political and social lives, 2014 should be declared “The Year of the Weevil/The Year of Gamatox” in keeping with the strange manoeuvres by Zanu PF.