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MDC-T suspends Justice and Legal Affairs deputy minister Obert Gutu over wikileaks comments

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The MDC-T Harare provincial executive last week suspended its spokesman and Justice and Legal Affairs deputy minister Obert Gutu for describing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as an inept, weak and indecisive leader during a meeting with US diplomats.

MDC-T Harare provincial chairman Paul Madzore on Wednesday confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent that the provincial executive had suspended Gutu last week over statements he made to US ambassador Charles Ray in January 2010.

“It is true that we suspended him as the provincial executive and the suspension was indefinite, but we are thinking of lifting it soon,” said Madzore. He said Don Chiringa, an official in the prime minister’s office, was now the acting provincial spokesman.

However, Gutu said he was unaware of the suspension.

“Where did you hear that?” asked Gutu. “That’s news to me.”MDC-T secretary-general Ten-dai Biti said the provincial executive had no power to suspend Gutu.

“That is not true because the provincial executive has no power to suspend Gutu,” said Biti. “It is the national executive that can do that. The provincial executive has not communicated with us on that issue so it is not true that Gutu has been suspended,” Biti said.

The suspension flies in the face of the party’s national executive committee’s decision to ignore WikiLeaks cables which exposed four top party officials, namely national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa, national treasurer Roy Bennett, Biti and Gutu.

Tsvangirai last week dismissed the cables as mere gossip, saying he did not consider WikiLeaks cables as reliable information.

“Our party regards WikiLeaks with suspicion,” said Tsvangirai. “We can’t follow rumours and we cannot run a country on gossip. We are not doing anything about that and that’s where it ends,” he said.

According to the leaked cables, Gutu said Tsvangirai had a tendency to listen to the wrong people. He singled out Ian Makone, Tsvangirai’s chief of staff, and his wife Theresa, the co-Home Affairs minister.

“He opined that neither was a good strategist and that the office of the prime minister was weak due to Ian Makone’s lack of leadership,” read the cable.Gutu also claimed that Tsvangirai practised nepotism and cronyism when it came to appointing senior people to party and government positions.

“Gutu noted that (Murisi) Zwizwai and Tsvangirai are cousins and this is another example of friendship getting in the way of governance,” read the cable.

Zwizwai was then the deputy minister of Mines and is now the deputy minister of Media, Information and Publicity.Chamisa, the Information Technology minister, was quoted saying the office of the prime minister was weak.

“We asked Chamisa about a common perception that the office of the prime minister was weak and had failed to play a coordinating role of government ministries. Chamisa agreed.”

Chamisa also said: “Ian Makone, Tsvangirai’s chief of staff, was ineffective. But Makone was a good friend of Tsvangirai and it was unlikely that Tsvangirai would make a change.”

Bennett was quoted saying Tsvangirai remembered the advice of the last person he had spoken to, while Biti criticised his boss for lacking a strategic plan for the MDC in government.

Biti was described by former US deputy chief of mission at the Harare embassy, Katherine Dhanani as ambitious.

“Biti is ambitious and undoubtedly sees himself as the heir apparent and he does differ with Tsvangirai on tactics,” said Dhanani in a cable to Washington in July 2009.

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