Zanu PF on fire
HARARE – Despite the bravado exuded by President Robert Mugabe in calling for an early election, he faces the daunting task of uniting a party that is cracking at the seams ahead of this year’s harmonised elections.
Zanu PF party’s boat is sinking in almost all of the country’s 10 provinces owing to Mugabe’s failure to stem factionalism spurred by the 89-year-old’s failure to groom or at least identify a successor.
Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice President Joice Mujuru are reportedly leading the two largest camps battling to succeed Mugabe as party leader.
Nothing could have highlighted the cracks in the party more than the Independence Day celebrations boycotts in Masvingo and Manicaland provinces by party stalwarts.
In Masvingo, Mnangagwa’s faction led by provincial chairperson Lovemore Matuke is under fire from a rival faction that wants them punished for snubbing independence celebrations held at Mucheke Stadium, opting to attend a campaign rally for an aspiring member in Mashava.
The other faction, loyal to Vice President, Joice Mujuru and led in the province by politburo member, Dzikamai Mavhaire, wants Mugabe to discipline their rivals for defying his calls for non-electioneering before primary elections dates and guidelines are set.
Mavhaire blasted the provincial executive for doing the party a disservice.
“It’s very unfortunate that Zanu PF brought independence to the country and its leadership here decided not to attend the celebrations for their own activities. This is an exclusive show of defiance of the party principles and leaders at national level,” said Mavhaire.
“The day is respected by every person in the country, including members of other parties that did nothing to liberate the country but we are failing to understand why some party members would do such a thing, it’s actually treacherous,” said Mavhaire, who is battling to outdo the rival faction in primary elections which have been stalled by infighting.
Successive politburo meetings chaired by Mugabe have failed to come up with guidelines for primary polls as members continue to haggle over the issue which could aggravate cracks in the party.
In Manicaland, provincial governor Chris Mushowe had to beg for Mugabe’s intervention, warning that the party could again lose elections if the factionalism is not sorted out.
Mushowe believes Mugabe’s intervention in the province could help salvage Zanu PF as factional fights have now spilled into the courts where top provincial officials Mike Madiro and Dorothy Mabika are being prosecuted for allegedly stealing Mugabe’s birthday beasts.
Mushowe admitted to the Daily News that factionalism could harm his party’s chances of winning back support in the province where it got only six seats out of 26 which went to the MDC.
“What we saw last week (Independence boycott), which is a culmination of the political squabbles in this province it must be avoided.
“I hope that the leadership of President Mugabe and the presidium will one day decide on how Manicaland should be handled and take a decision that will save Manicaland,” Mushowe said.
Another case in point is the ongoing trial of businessman-cum politician Temba Mliswa on charges of assaulting Mashonaland West Zanu PF‘s women’s league chairperson, Sarah Mahoka which has been viewed by many as epitomising the factionalism in the province.
Mliswa is reportedly in Mujuru’s camp while Mahoka represents Mnangagwa’s interests.
In Bulawayo, the party is in tatters as it has had three provincial chairpersons within seven months following the ouster of Isaac Dakamela in July last year to be replaced by Killian Sibanda, who has since been toppled by Callistus Ndlovu.
The infighting raises questions about Mugabe’s preparedness for an election likely to be the most competitive since 1980.
Insiders say Mugabe is desperate to unite warring factions to entertain hopes of trouncing his political nemesis and uneasy coalition partner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who won first round voting in the 2008 presidential election but pulled out of a subsequent runoff citing violence, leading to the formation of the coalition government.
In the March 2008 election, Tsvangirai polled 47, 9 percent of the vote while Mugabe managed 43, 2, only to be saved by Simba Makoni, who according to Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa, entered the race to avoid an outright Tsvangirai victory.
Makoni garnered eight percent to force the disputed runoff between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
Analysts say it will be difficult for Mugabe, a former school teacher, to bring together warring factions ahead of elections as there is realisation by the faction leaders that Mugabe’s time is over in view of his advanced age.
“The two warring factions in Zanu PF will never be united by anyone precisely because there is a critical realisation that Mugabe is past his sell by date. They see this as a chance to cement their political hegemony in the party after Mugabe,” said Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya.
Ruhanya said the best move for Mugabe would be to resign before elections and call for a congress that would choose a new leader.
“If you look at Mugabe’s physical appearance in public you can see he is old, tired and has serious health problems associated with old age. So the factions also realise if they go to sleep, they will find another faction in ascendancy.
“Mugabe can only save his party by resigning and calling for a congress to allow internal democratic processes to choose his successor,” he said.
However, political analyst and publisher Ibbo Mandaza says all parties in Zimbabwe, despite their fractious nature, have a tendency of uniting for elections.
“It must be noted that here we are not talking about political parties in the conventional sense as it is say in North America. In Africa parties are movements which are largely election platforms though outside elections they have enormous problems,” said Mandaza.
“They tend to unite during elections because there is a prize to be won and the advantage of Zanu PF in our case is that it is conflated with the State over the years. What you see as the State is Zanu PF in many respects.
“The MDC has an uphill task especially because they have failed to either break the State or sufficiently infiltrate it to their advantage,” Mandaza said. – Mugove Tafirenyika