Loughty Dube/ Pindai Dube
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s succession crisis deepened yesterday as war veterans and the Zanu PF Bulawayo leadership clashed over a solidar
ity march by the ex-combatants in support of Mugabe as the party’s candidate in next year’s elections.
War veterans staged the march in defiance of Zanu PF leaders in the region, who include party Vice-President Joseph Msika, chairman John Nkomo, and politburo members Dumiso Dabengwa and Sikhanyiso Ndlovu. The Zanu PF leaders have opposed the ex-combatants’ march, arguing its organiser, war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda had been expelled from the party.
The move which isolates the senior party leader also threatens Zanu PF’s Unity Accord with PF Zapu, which has been the foundation of Mugabe’s current power structure. Mugabe supports Sibanda, also former Zanu PF Bulawayo chairman, whom he brought back into the party through the backdoor, while the Bulawayo leaders are opposed to his influence.
Zanu PF Bulawayo province spokesman, Effort Nkomo, two weeks ago told party supporters that his party will not hold solidarity marches for Mugabe until his candidacy has been approved by congress. The party leadership in Bulawayo initially tried to block the war veterans from marching in the city, but failed yesterday.
“We are a disciplined province,” said Nkomo. “Zanu PF has a system where provinces are called upon to have nominations for any posts that come our way. That communication has not come to us yet, but when it finally does, we will respond accordingly.”
Zanu PF Bulawayo provincial leaders barred the former freedom fighters from using Davis Hall, the party’s provincial headquarters. The war veterans, numbering about 5 000, were forced to congregate at Stanley Square, just a stone’s throw away from Davis Hall.
The barring of the war veterans from using the party headquarters highlights growing divisions in Mugabe’s succession struggle that have turned Bulawayo into a new battleground. To show the growing divisions over Mugabe’s succession, no senior party leaders from the province or the national structures took part in yesterday’s march. Conspicuous by their absence were senior national party leaders Nkomo, Dabengwa, Ndlovu, Cain Mathema and Joshua Malinga.
Sibanda, who led yesterday’s march, has been at loggerheads with senior leaders following his dismissal from the party in 2004 in the wake of the Tsholotsho incident. Sibanda was part of a Zanu PF faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa which was accused of plotting to oust Mugabe. Sibanda’s war veterans executive was dissolved by a committee set up by Mugabe but the former combatant has returned to the helm of the association — and apparently the party — claiming to have been reinstated by Mugabe.
Bulawayo is now divided into two camps with one camp supporting Mugabe’s candidacy while the other camp wants a new candidate to be chosen at a special congress pencilled in for December 12-14. Sibanda has come out in full support of Mugabe’s candidacy while Bulawayo leaders are opposed to this approach.
Some leaders in Bulawayo province have been linked to the Solomon Mujuru faction, which reportedly wants Mugabe removed at congress. Sibanda has been rooting for Mnangagwa in the succession stakes. Zanu PF is facing irreparable damage in Bulawayo where factions are distinct and the fight for control of the province is intense. Party commissar Elliot Manyika said early this week Bulawayo must hold fresh elections to replace the current provisional executive before congress.