By Chido Makunike
IN recent months we have had more insight into the state of Zanu PF than we have had for a long time. Previously the ruling party has been able to tightly control the g
oings-on within it and how much of the public gets to know of them. This time the party has been a virtual open-book.
Part of the reason for this is the great dissension over the process of deciding who gets to have an opportunity to have a position in the party. It is understood that such positions are the key to many other things, and so the jockeying for them has been fierce. This is particularly so in a declining economy where ruling party politics in particular is one of the few growth industries.
Obviously the plums of ministerial or diplomatic positions depend on one’s party standing. Whether you are given or get to keep a choice farm depends on your standing in the party. A party position can give you immunity from prosecution for criminal acts, at least until you get on the wrong side of the system. There are business opportunities galore in being a top ruling party member, although if and when you fall out of favour all the shortcuts you were allowed to get away with will be used against you. So forget about the good of the country, the fact of the matter is that a top position in Zanu PF can be very good for one’s pocket!
At a time that the party and its president have so effectively decimated the rest of the economy, this is why the recent party congress and primary elections have been such a vicious feeding frenzy. The economic environment in Zimbabwe is bleak at the moment. For many of the party’s old guard retiring on a pension to almost certain penury is no longer an attractive option in an era of triple-digit inflation. So they use whatever influence they can to hang on to their positions and the many associated benefits. And yet there are hordes of aggressive, impatient and hungry young new-comers who want their chance at the feeding trough.
The clash between the old guard and the mafikizolos is therefore not about ideology, of which Zanu PF no longer has any. Nor is it about differing methodologies of arresting Zimbabwe’s long, steep slide and finally getting the country to move forward. No, it is purely and simply about an increasing number of party fat-cats competing for rapidly dwindling resources. It is a vicious, primal fight for the survival of the fittest. The infighting in Zanu PF has been every bit as brutal as the fascinating wildlife features we are shown in various banking halls to try to get us to forget that we are getting slow, sullen, indifferent service.
In many constituencies there were hardly any primaries to talk about. With few exceptions, if there was a big enough party fat-cat standing in a particular constituency, competitors and voters were cheated out of a fair contest in various blatant ways. There were a suspicious number of single-candidate constituencies, as well as last-minute “withdrawals”. In many constituencies the voters didn’t have the faintest idea who the last-minute candidate they had been bequeathed by the party was.
The cantankerous Jonathan Moyo has become quite a hot potato for President Mugabe and Zanu PF. Moyo was catapulted to his party and government positions by Mugabe in a way that made him feel that he was not subject to the unwritten code that other functionaries understood very well. He became a loose cannon, too big for his boots as a result. But as long as he remained personally useful and loyal to Mugabe, it really didn’t matter how many powerful toes Moyo stepped on. Now that things have turned against him, Moyo is humiliated and incredulous at his fate.
“This can’t really be happening to me, I just don’t believe it; I was so powerful and in Mugabe’s good books just yesterday!” the cry-baby whines almost everyday in the Chronicle and Herald.
Someone else who had been properly groomed through the party structures, who had paid his dues before wielding such vast power would have understood how the game was played. You enjoy your power and its perks while you can, and all the evidence suggests that Moyo has materially benefited tremendously from his few years of being Mugabe’s propagandist.
But when the party’s top brass decide to cut you down to size, you don’t fight and insult them. What you do is humbly tuck your tail between your legs and then roll over and play dead. This way they may allow you to hold onto some small position, or at least keep your farm or other perk of patronage. Moyo being purely Mugabe’s protégé, rather than an organic product of Zanu PF, does not have a clue as to how the game is played, hence his morbid daily public self-crucifixion.
And interestingly, the Mugabe who has always seemed to have absolute control over the party, who was so triumphant after the recent party congress, seems to have no real clue as to how to keep the infighting in check.
Before one would have thought his silence at the insults being hurled between mafikizolo Moyo and heavy-weights like party chairman John Nkomo were part of his usual strategy of divide-and-rule. But now one gets the sense of events that have just unravelled beyond his control.
Apart from the element of all the party top brass trying to safeguard their interests, there is also a keen realisation that Mugabe’s days are definitely numbered. Wherever you will be positioned in the power structure when Mugabe’s day comes will make a big difference to whether you get to keep that position or farm and continue to enjoy immunity for whatever ill-deeds you may have committed and got away with so far. The stakes are very high.
For me the deep fissures in Zanu PF that have been so evident are not a sign of a party in renewal mode. They are instead the signs of a long-festering cancer that has become so advanced that it can no longer be managed or contained. In other words, Zanu PF yaora, no matter how ruthlessly effective they remain at holding on to power by hook or by crook.
*Makunike is regular Zimbabwe Independent columnist.