ANY idiot can make things look complicated but it usually takes a genius to make them appear simple. This was the situation in the ruling Zanu PF before Information minister Jonathan Moyo was fired last Saturday for flouting party rules on election
Whoever advised President Robert Mugabe not to rush to fire Moyo seems to have provided the masterstroke: he ensured the spin-doctor was given a long rope to hang himself and commit political suicide.
Mugabe did not have to justify his action anymore after he “disappointed” his appointee because Moyo had already technically cashiered himself in a desperate bid to salvage something from the rubble of his shattered political career.
His defiant reaction to accusations that he plotted a palace coup in Tsholotsho could have left him dangerously exposed. Others say he was naïve to hope for reprieve.
Perhaps Moyo knew what he was doing. Napoleon once said leaders are dealers in hope. No matter what their predicament might be, they always put on a brave face and hope, like Mr Micawber, that something will turn up.
Despite “unbearable and torturous ostracisation”, as Moyo himself described his dilemma, he still hung around in Zanu PF in all probability hoping his nose-diving fortunes would change. But in the end, things just collapsed around him with his formal dismissal.
Moyo had no doubt at all what the ramifications of his dismissal would be on Zanu PF. He reminded Zanu PF heavyweights, chairman John Nkomo, Retired General Solomon Mujuru, Dumiso Dabengwa, Obert Mpofu, Cain Mathema and Nathan Shamuyarira, whom he accuses of pushing him out, that he saved the party from collapse.
“I hope that they will be honest enough to appreciate that I am one of the few people who contributed to saving Zanu PF from collapse when they had each and all deserted President Mugabe in 2000,” Moyo said. “I want them to know that I did not join a Zanu PF gravy train in 2000 but jumped onto a sinking ship that was heading for the ground after its captain was left alone by his crew.”
When he was engaged in 2000 as a campaign manager, the ruling party was weak and incoherent. It was struggling to deal with a deepening political and economic crisis after it had been shaken to its foundations by a shock electoral defeat in a constitutional referendum in February 2000.
Facing an uncertain future and a tricky general election after the emergence of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in September 1999, Zanu PF needed urgent renewal. It needed a personality with the character traits of Boxer and Squealer in George Orwell’s terrific satirical novel, Animal Farm. In other words, it needed a hard worker and credible spin-doctor.
It also needed someone who could articulate its policies in a coherent and convincing manner. Most of the ruling party ideologues such as Shamuyarira and Chen Chimutengwende were tired and dangerously out of touch with reality.
Moyo was the answer. He was full of energy, and had the potential to become an influential Sultan of spin, capable of good image management and winning the hearts and minds. When Moyo came in — at least from a Zanu PF point of view — he did not disappoint.
His first mission was to revive Mugabe’s failed totalitarian project — whose key elements included a de facto one-party state, command economy and a virtually closed society — of the 1980s.
In order to achieve that he had to re-engineer the state media in his own image. Resistant journalists were fired wholesale to accommodate stooges who were hostage to his whims and caprices. Overnight, the state-controlled media became his strident megaphones and exclusive propaganda mouthpieces of the ruling party.
To maintain government’s broadcasting monopoly, Moyo introduced the Broadcasting Services Act. Airwaves were saturated with Zanu PF propaganda. Moyo also initiated the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act to deal with the independent press. Dozens of journalists were arrested and three newspapers closed down.
Moyo also played a key role in the society-wide repression which intensified after 2000. Judges and other judicial officers were attacked in public or in anonymous newspaper columns written in highly inflammatory language.
Football teams, beauty pageants, music and donations were used to defend his party and to try to win popular support. He took head-on local and foreign critics of Mugabe, including powerful Western governments. He simply told them to go and hang whatever the substance of their concerns.
In his own words, Moyo defended Mugabe, Zanu PF and government “without fear”.
But what will be the impact of his dismissal on Zanu PF? Ruling party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa said he did not think his departure was consequential.
“Moyo did a lot of work for Zanu PF. He had lots of energy, ran around and worked very hard but nobody is indispensable in our party,” Mutasa said.
“Some people said Zanu PF will never be the same when the likes of (Edgar) Tekere (former secretary-general) and (Enos) Nkala (former Defence, Home Affairs and Finance minister) left. True, it was never the same, but the party went on and became even stronger. Nobody is indispensable.”
Some commentators say Moyo’s departure will have far-reaching effects on the methods of political engagement, but no impact at all on the structural problems the country is facing. The political temperature will go down and there will be more civilised politics, they say.
University of Zimbabwe political analyst Eldred Masunungure said Zanu PF and government would be the poorer without Moyo, but noted his own political prospects were “very bleak” outside the ruling party.
“The Zanu PF old guard no doubt welcomed his departure because they felt that despite the good work he had done, he had become a heavy albatross around the party’s neck, a serious liability,” he said.
“But the Young Turks might think that his dismissal was a major loss to the party. I agree Zanu PF was a sinking ship when Moyo came in. However, it is a clear exaggeration to say he rescued it from collapse.”
He said Moyo’s career could be ruined by his expulsion because Zimbabwe was “evolving into an entrenched two-party system with little or no room for independent politicians”.
“He made a significant contribution, so did others, and Zanu PF allies in and out of the country,” he said.
“The reality is that Zanu PF is stronger now compared to when Moyo came in. But the people who were almost indispensable five years ago, like Moyo, are now dispensable. From that point of view, his dismissal will have a limited impact on the ruling party, although I must say Zanu PF will be very lethargic without him.”