HARARE – Feuding factions in President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF are headed toward a violent confrontation, analysts warned yesterday, with war veterans backing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa threatening physical disruption as a means of drawing attention to injustice if the VP fails as the nonagenarian’s successor.
The emerging threats of physical disruption by war veterans stem partly from disillusionment with Mugabe’s reluctance to relinquish power.
His earlier claims to step aside for a fresh candidate in the 2018 poll sparked unprecedented excitement among the Team Lacoste camp.
But that excitement has been followed by deep disillusionment as it became clear that the 92-year-old leader has absolutely no plan to relinquish power.
Mugabe, battling against a whispering campaign within his Zanu PF party begun by some of his deputies and lieutenants vying to succeed him, has decreed ambitious officials in his party jockeying to succeed him to stop it, claiming this was “treasonous.”
Mugabe also reminded those angling for his job that he was still on the throne for the foreseeable future. He said this in his address to thousands of party supporters who had gathered at the Robert Mugabe Square in Harare a fortnight ago to back his continued leadership, marking the conclusion of the million-man march.
Political analyst and publisher Ibbo Mandaza told our sister paper the Daily News on Sunday that feuding Zanu PF factions were headed for violent confrontation and that 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.”
Stephen Chan, a respected professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London told the Daily News: “If Mnangagwa is going to make a bid it really has to be soon, probably in 2016, as younger factions can only gather steam as he grows older. A man in his 70s succeeding a man in his 90s is not going to look like generational change.
“But using the war veterans and his military contacts is also looking backwards to support from the past. The problem is that the G40 has no real ideas about the future either. The tragedy of Zimbabwe is that no one has a plan for the future. A nation that thinks and fights as if it were the past will just continue to live in the past as the world moves into the future.”
Piers Pigou, a Southern Africa senior consultant at international conflict prevention organisation International Crisis Group (ICG), said: “What weekday capacities for violence do each side have? That’s the starting point.”
The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute(ZDI)’s political economy review paper titled , The Zanu PF ‘Million-Man March’:Mugabe’s Game Plan?, noted that while the 2007 million-man march was organised by the war veterans, in 2016 it has been organised by the youth league solely for the reason that the chemistry that Mugabe used to enjoy with the war veterans and the broader coercive apparatus of the state seems to have waned.
The Pedzisai Ruhanya-led ZDI noted that the latest march was a show of force foremost to those in Zanu PF seeking to torpedo Mugabe from office.
“The latest march is not about the youth or Zanu PF; it is more about …Mugabe himself that those who seek to succeed him should not underestimate his popularity within the party,” the review paper said.
“It should also be noted that this solidarity is taking place despite provinces having already endorsed …Mugabe as Zanu PF’s presidential candidate for the 2018 plebiscite. More than anything, the 2016 march was to seal the succession debate once and for all that …Mugabe is not going anywhere, yet. This is cemented by First Lady Grace Mugabe’s utterances at the rally that her husband will rule Zimbabwe from the grave.”
War veterans have always been the shock troopers of Zanu PF and Mugabe yet nowadays the public spats between them and some of Mugabe’s appointees notably Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, ministers Jonathan Moyo and Patrick Zhuwao exhibit a quarrelsome relationship.
At the centre of this acrimonious relationship has been the war veterans’ repugnance of the first lady, as a result of her undoubted control of Mugabe, Zanu PF and the State.
“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 retorting to that,” the Southern African Political and Economic Series (Sapes) Trust think-tank director Mandaza said.
Last week, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) vowed to recover Team Lacoste’s lost ground by overturning the suspensions of seven provincial chairpersons Kasukuwere suspended on allegations of fanning factionalism.
Kasukuwere has dismissed the threats, saying they lack the locus standi to reinstate anyone, heightening tensions in the governing party.
Team Lacoste has also booted out the first lady’s loyalists in Mashonaland in women’s league elections held last week, and is also gunning for Grace’s foremost ally Sarah Mahoka.
The Mnangagwa-led faction on Saturday also booted out all G40 loyalists in Masvingo after a meeting of the provincial coordinating committee, but the executive there claims the meeting was convened unprocedurally.
The war veterans at their Gweru meeting last week took pot shots at G40; only days after Mugabe had decreed a halt to factional activities by any grouping. The nonagenarian’s remarks were pointed at the ex-combatants, whom he said must channel their grievances within party ranks.
But the increasingly disillusioned war veterans have thrown down the gauntlet, boasting that they could not be expelled from Zanu PF by anyone, and repeated their calls for the expulsion of Kasukuwere; Moyo; deputy secretary for women’s affairs Eunice Sandi-Moyo and Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene, who told a news conference on Saturday that Mnangagwa’s allies were “daydreaming” about the Midlands godfather succeeding Mugabe.
“Don’t threaten Zimbabweans with bloodshed because we already shed our blood for this country and no other blood will be spilled unless it is your own blood,” she told reporters ominously, adding it was “treasonous” for the Gweru meeting to come up with a succession plan while Mugabe was still on the throne.
The Gweru meeting was convened under the cover of providing feedback on the April war veterans’ indaba with the nonagenarian where they tabled a raft of demands to the country’s leadership.
The highly controversial indaba was addressed by the chairman of the ZNLWVA and top Mnangagwa ally, Chris Mutsvangwa, as well as the organisation’s secretary general, Victor Matemadanda.
The war veterans were unequivocal that they wanted Mnangagwa declared the most senior Zanu PF member after Mugabe, putting him in good stead for the presidency. The war veterans threatened “bloodshed” if anyone attempted to upset the apple-cart.
“They want to be confrontational now because the message was loud and clear that Mugabe did not intend to hand over power to them,” Mandaza said.
“What is worrying though is the fact that the confrontation will be violent and some of us have been seeing it coming and it has been taking place all along, but now it will be more open. Just listen to what the First Family will say on their return from Singapore.”
Mugabe was expected back home last weekend.
The worsening infighting comes as Zanu PF is buffeted by multifaceted challenges internally and externally. The attendant economic regression; missed election promises of at least two million jobs; a succession conundrum which has permeated and weakened all organs of the party and growing opposition from erstwhile comrades such as Joice Mujuru, who has since joined the opposition, exhibit a party in turmoil.
In order to insulate the party against these ills, it is moving to show high magnitudes of force, ZDI noted.
“The 25th of May procession was thus a way to re-energise the party’s base amid unprecedented weakness. The use of the youth league to organise the march, a departure from the traditional war veterans, as said earlier serves to show the war veterans and broader security forces that the youth league has the potential to deliver another crushing victory for ….Mugabe and Zanu PF during the 2018 election.”
It is crystal clear that Zanu PF is already in the 2018 election mode and thus needs to keep its structures, primarily the youth mobilised.
This also comes amid rising levels of poverty and socio-economic deprivation which has led to rising protest politics from the opposition.