President Robert Mugabe (92) is very old. Inevitably, speculation about the question: “After Mugabe, who?” has become rife in the world of Zimbabwean politics. The answer to this question seems to be shaping in the form of two Zanu PF groups that are positioning their candidates to assume the nonagenarian’s political mantle in the near future. One of the groups is the so-called Generation 40 (G40).
Simukai Tinhu Political Analyst
How a group of young politicians within Zanu PF came to be called G40 is a subject of endless speculation. Professor Jonathan Moyo, the Higher Education minister, has since laid claim to coining the moniker. Rather than referring to a group of young politicians, Moyo claims that when he wrote about G40 in the state-controlled Sunday Mail in 2011, he was using the term in its demographic sense, simply putting forth the argument that a broader spectrum of young people across political persuasion had become a reality that the Zimbabwean polity needed to recognise. The professor denies that such a political grouping exists as a faction within Zanu PF, adding that the ruling party has never known of a faction in its history.
The professor’s denial is not anomalous, nor is it something new, which is why Moyo should not be taken seriously on this matter. Denial of divisions in political organisations is standard practice that predates Zanu PF.
In an attempt to explain the existence of this faction, a number of theories have been proffered. First is the thinking which suggests that G40 is a group that is attempting to aid the ascension of the First Lady Grace Mugabe to her husband’s throne. This argument is difficult to sustain considering her unelectability, something which even Grace herself is very much conscious of.
The second theory is borne out of the G40’s perceived ambitions. The suggestion is that they have a younger candidate. As a result G40, as a group of young politicians, is pushing for Mugabe to continue as president.
Supposedly, Mugabe’s continued leadership of Zanu PF and the nation will assist G40’s cause by allowing them time to consolidate their support base within the party, state bureaucracy and amongst voters.
The third, and probably more plausible theory, is that the young group of politicians are united by their disdain of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ambitions.
Indeed, these theories seem to suggest that there is seamless elite consensus among the members of G40. But this tendency to view the interests of G40 as monolithic can be misleading. Members of G40 should also be understood as having disparate and at times conflicting interests.
Professor Jonathan Moyo
To understand Moyo’s motives, one has to understand his character. Hopefully, this story shared by one of his colleagues at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) might help us get a glimpse of his character, which in turn drives his ambitions.
Reportedly, during his time at UZ, Moyo made many enemies in the university’s department of politics. Even students were not spared in these often purposeless fights.
“He likes to pick fights and he is determined to find a way to win those fights,” said a softly-spoken woman who was a politics department assistant or secretary at the time that the professor taught at the UZ.
Reportedly, for the man of his energy, the fights against students were often long and tiring. As a result, Moyo had to devise a way to quickly settle these fights, as a winner, of course. Allegedly, he bullied the chair of the department of politics, and also the dean of the faculty of social studies, until they gave in to his demand. The demand was that one of the minor politics course or module that he taught, had to be made into a core course.
At the UZ, failing a core course meant that one would not graduate. In other words, this triumph was also an implict threat to students that at some point during the fights, they had to give in, otherwise the consequences would be dire.
Whether this is true or not (there is no reason not to believe the lady who told me the story), the story is parallel to current developments in the professor’s political career. The professor, akin to picking fights at university, has this time picked a fight against Mnangagwa.
As a one-time ally of Mnangagwa, Moyo was reportedly behind what became known as the Tsholotsho Declaration to have him appointed as vice-president in 2004. When this move was thwarted by Mugabe, Mnangagwa was simply slapped on the wrist and given a ministry at the backwaters of politics. However, Moyo, who had been given to think that Mnangagwa was powerful enough to protect him, was kicked out of the party.
As a result, Moyo cannot forgive and forget the fact that the man that he had been working for not only failed to protect him, but is also said to have briefed against the professor when he apologised for his adventure against Mugabe. It is alleged that it was this subterfuge which has fuelled the animosity that today has become all too apparent. Indeed, Moyo can barely conceal his contempt for Mnangwagwa and he has made it clear that he intends to make him a casualty of his politics.
Though he is at the zenith of his power, it would be difficult to say that Moyo has further political ambitions. He is aware that he is not trusted by voters, but most importantly, by political elites that are hesitant to align themselves too closely — a fatal political weakness if one wants to be a leader. Indeed, a part of his inevitable downfall is written in his propensity to make too many enemies and inability to sustain the few political relationships that he has.
Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko
Mphoko was not a name that registered among a huge chunk of the Zimbabwean population, until when, in a surprise move, was appointed vice-president by Mugabe. Many people expected Simon Khaya Moyo, the now out-of-favour Zanu PF spokesperson, to be elevated to the vice-presidency at the 2014 party congress.
Since he ascended to the vice-presidency, Mphoko has attended Grace’s rallies with members of G40, literally making him the Godfather of the young group of politicians. His utterances at those rallies, clearly indicate his disdain for his collegue in the presidium. For example, in May last year, in an apparent dressing down of Pyschomotor minister, Josiah Hungwe, who has on previous occassions described Mnangagwa as son of God, Mphoko embarrased him in front of a crowd of supporters by telling him never to address him as second to Mnangagwa. Also, in February this year, in a direct attack on Mnangagwa, he told supporters that it was not given that a Karanga should be the next president of Zimbabwe.
What motivates his disdain for Mnangagwa is yet to be established. It could just be seen as “sibling rivalrly”. He certainly does not want to feel like the smaller one. In other words, it’s a power thing and it appears that he feels that he is likely to project his power better with the aid of G40.
Few serious political analysts believe that he habours any political ambitions. He is largley unknown across the country and has little elite support base, let alone the backing of the securocrats, whose predilictions and preferences are regarded as crucial in the succession matter. What many seem to agree is that he is part of the war room to scuttle Mnangagwa’s presidency.
Kasukuwere is a political brawler who is known to enjoy picking fights. For a man who relishes the drama of political fights, it seems taking on Mnangagwa, whose power apparently dazzles many young politicians in the ruling party, is the ultimate pick.
Having been a permanent fixture in Mugabe’s cabinet for sometime, the appointment as the Minister of Youth Development, Economic Empowerment and Indigenisation in 2009, confirmed Mugabe’s trust in the political abilities of the youthful minister. Indeed in 2014, Kasukuwere was also appointed national political commissar, a very important position in Zanu PF. Together, with his ministerial position as Local Government minister, it is clear that despite his flaws, Mugabe sees an indispensable young politician and also perhaps, a genetic link between old and new Zanu PF.
Such power can be tempting and many think that by joining G40, Kasukuwere is positioning himself to take over the party in the near future. Indeed, Kasukuwere sees himself as presidential timber. The understanding is that the strategy that he and G40 have adopted is to delay Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to the presidency as much as they can by advocating for Mugabe’s continued rulership. By the next election, it is hoped that through this strategy Mnangagwa will be too old to be a viable candidate and also his political base would also have crumbled with age. Equally, Kasukuwere would have created his own political base such that he will be ready to challenge for the presidency.
Kasukuwere denies interest in the presidency. This might seem like he is having a wobble about presidential ambitions. But in a political party where talk of succession is a taboo, this is understandable.
Zhuwao is the Mugabe’s nephew. Devoid of talent and capacity, the youthful politician owes his political career purely to Mugabe’s patronage.
Zhuwao’s disdain for anyone who might succeed Mugabe is purely motivated by fear of loss of political patronage. It is unlikely that he will retain a cabinet post if the Mnangagwa ascends to the leadership of the party and nation.
With his uncle’s wife in this group, Zhuwao is naturally held captive to G40 by his relationship to Mugabe. He is tied to the stake and he has to stand the course.
First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Grace is the primus inter pares face of G40. It appears that she has made some kind of a special arrangement with the younger politicians. In return for helping her to stop the Mnangagwa presidency, Grace is prepared to assist the young Turks to further their ambitions. Through Bourdieu’s notion of symbolic capital, that is her husband’s political capital, she has given G40 political clout and also legitimacy.
That she detests Mnangagwa’s presidency is no secret. Recently, she accused Mnangagwa of attempting to assassinate her family. She has also accused the vice-president of attempting to push her husband out of power, threatening him, through her ally Sarah Mahoka, with death.
Grace might have recently gone quiet on Mnangagwa and is likely to soften her previously abrasive manner, probably after being talked to by her husband, but she is not going to alter plans to see Mnangagwa flushed out of the presidium.
The interesting question is why is this seemingly innocous group being allowed a free reign over Zanu PF politics. The answer is that Mugabe himself is G40.
Fronted by younger politicians, there is not necessarily a Faustain Pact as such between the nonagenarian and the younger members of the group. It is just an understanding which is communicated to Moyo and Kasukuwere in particular, through his wife, Grace. Though they are allowed free reign and limited space to pursue their ambitions, their real task is to keep Mnangagwa in check and if opportunity permits, to get rid of him.
Two kinds of evidence sustain this suspicion. The first is material: the systematic provision of state funds and goods to the First Lady to donate at rallies organised and attended by G40. The second is the free reign that G40 is given by Mugabe to attack members of Mnangagwa’s political clan and the protection that they are getting from him.
Tinhu a Zimbabwean political analyst based in London.