HARARE – After more than a year of being at the receiving end of a savage and relentless mauling at the hands of their Zanu PF foes, the Generation 40 (G40) group, the party faction rallying behind Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured) is said to be edging ahead in the brutal ruling party war to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
A senior Zanu PF bigwig told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Team Lacoste, as the Mnangagwa faction is popularly known, currently had the upper hand in the former liberation movement’s deadly and seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars.
“Let’s be clear, this is a complex fight to the death. But recent developments within the party since … Mugabe met war veterans in Harare a few weeks ago indicate that Lacoste is now on top, with G40 having to play catch up. How this has happened and how long this will last no one knows.
“It has not helped the G40 that Amai (powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe said to be a G40 ally) has seemingly been distracted by the recent birth of her grandchild (her daughter Bona’s son), which has seen her less active at party level,” the official who has consistently asserted that he is “non-aligned” said.
If the emerging picture is correct, it represents a stunning reversal of fortunes for Mnangagwa within Zanu PF, as the Midlands godfather had appeared to be down and out for most of the past 18 months.
War veterans led by former Cabinet minister Christopher Mutsvangwa have been the VP’s most effective storm troopers, taking Grace and the G40 head-on unyieldingly, and wearing down Mugabe’s waning capacity to continue dictating matters in the divided former liberation movement.
At the same time, Mnangagwa himself has of late become more visible nationally — addressing high-profile gatherings, meeting various constituencies and launching an anti-graft blitz, that has been enthusiastically-embraced by lickspittle State media where he currently holds complete sway, which threatens to sink many of his G40 foes.
Insiders say it is in this light that salacious claims to the effect that several Cabinet ministers and some of Mugabe’s relatives are pillaging the fiscus and parastatals have, unusually, been played big by State newspapers over the past few weeks.
However, analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday predicted that Zanu PF’s mindless bloodletting would continue for the foreseeable future, as the war to succeed Mugabe was “far from over”.
Academic and publisher, Ibbo Mandaza, said Mnangagwa’s allies had “wrongly assumed that Mugabe would retire before 2018, but after the million-man march they realised that he was not going anywhere and now they are going for broke”.
“Remember, they (Mnangagwa’s allies) were not for the march in the first place, but they were forced into it only to receive the message that Mugabe was not going anywhere and that he would even rule from the grave. So, their actions show that they are responding to that,” he said.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunugure, observed that what was happening in Zanu PF was “typical of the pendulum nature” of the ruling party’s politics.
He also said that far from Team Lacoste gaining ground as insiders were claiming, it was in fact Mugabe “playing his usual politics of playing one faction against the other”.
“Today it might be Team Lacoste on top, tomorrow it might be G40 again … it’s the juggling by Mugabe and the pendulum is going to continue swinging until the succession dynamics are resolved.
“As it is now, Lacoste does appear to be recouping the losses it suffered earlier, especially around the end of last year. The question, however, is how long they are going to be on top.
“But unlike what some people might think, Mugabe is in charge and he is a beneficiary of all this. I do not think he is worried because when it gets out of hand he comes in to regulate and it works in his favour,” Masunungure said.
Another analyst, Macdonald Lewanika, also concurred that neither of the two factions had reason to celebrate yet, as “politics is a game in which fortunes can change in an instant”.
“I think team Lacoste knows better than anyone else that ascendency in politics can be temporary. As such, neither Team Lacoste nor G40 can pop champaigne bottles yet until ultimate pursuits are achieved because political fortunes can change at the drop of a hat,” he said.
Only last week, the combative Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association also vowed ominously to recover Team Lacoste’s lost ground by overturning the suspensions of seven Mnangagwa-aligned Zanu PF provincial chairpersons who were recently suspended on allegations of fanning factionalism.
But party national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere scoffed at the threat that the former freedom fighters would unilaterally reinstate the seven, saying only Zanu PF had the power to do so.
“That remains an opinion of the war veterans which does not have an effect on party decisions. The decisions we make are discussed at Zanu PF, not some war veterans’ meeting. So, it’s not worth commenting on,” Kasukuwere firmly told the Daily News on Sunday.
As if to demonstrate the growing frustration of Mnangagwa’s political foes with the pace of developments within Zanu PF, his co-VP Phelekezela Mphoko — who has been linked to the G40 — last week accused war veterans of engaging in treason after they openly backed Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.
“War vets, never ever deceive yourselves, some of you are walking on a very dangerous course, you’re walking on the line of treason and subversion. These people go around talking about me, the first lady and attack the president indirectly. That’s treason and insubordination.
“In actual fact, building someone when the president is alive and still in office, you talk about me and say I will take over, what does that mean in military terms, it’s a coup, it’s subversion, you can go to any military annals,” he said.