UGLY scenes of violence at the recent Zanu PF Women’s League conference where women fought each other for positions have puzzled many, raising fundamental questions of the motivation behind supporting a party that has been described by analysts as a “gravy train” or a “sunset party” or even a “shelf political party”.
Is there something more to Zanu PF that ordinary people are not aware of? What is it that people are clamouring for? Is there something left in that party which everyone there seems to be competing for?
The examination of these questions is necessary as Zimbabweans prepare for the next general election to be held after a constitution-making process to be complete towards the end of next year.
In October 2006 former Information minister and independent Tsholotsho North MP Professor Jonathan Moyo, who has since applied to rejoin Zanu PF, attempted to unravel why some people will never leave the party.
Moyo said: “(President) Mugabe is now a leader of a shelf political party that exists only in name even with those seemingly high numbers in parliament because, in real terms, the hearts and minds of the bulk of its members have ideologically emigrated to a new all-inclusive third way beyond current party boundaries, the so-called third force which in fact is a people’s movement, such that Zanu PF membership is now only for strategic survival purposes in practical and not ideological terms which are temporary.”
Are they really hanging in there for survival purposes?
Academic and former newspaper publisher Ibbo Mandaza says he was baffled by what happened at the Women’s League conference as he could not understand why women fought for positions in a party that now has nothing to offer and no capacity to pursue, articulate or defend its own ideological interests.
He said there were two elements that could possibly explain this –– fear and patronage –– which he pointed out are the two pillars of Zanu PF.
“Violence and fear of violence – because of this people tend to keep quiet. If you make too much noise, you can lose your livelihood –– this includes your farm or businesses – and cars given to you. Because of fear of being exposed to violence, they will not get out,” Mandaza said.
“There is fear of being an outcast and fear of losing their patronage. Zanu PF has survived on patronage. The question we need to ask ourselves is what these people who are fighting for positions are going to get in return – cars, cars, cars and/or a farm or an opportunity to use the state to make money.”
He said a lot of top Zanu PF people or businesspeople aligned to the party have used the state to amass wealth and will continue to support it to protect their businesses.
Moyo concurred when he said: “The rot in Zanu PF smells in government where the cabinet has become no better than a status club in which ministerial positions have no strategic policy value as they have become instruments of patronage to gain personal access to national resources and the illusion of power and influence.”
One Zanu PF politburo member said his party has created this belief that personalities are more important than institutions, laws and even constitutions.
Under this culture, he said leaders owed their existence to political patronage and loyalty to the President.
This, he said allows one to use state or public resources in exchange for support and holding divergent views can be treasonous and punishable through arrests or harassment or relegation into the political wilderness
People like Mandaza know what can happen when one decides to challenge Zanu PF. He is currently embroiled in a land ownership wrangle with a major in the Zimbabwe National Army because he contested last year’s House of Assembly elections under the ticket of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) movement.
About 119 hectares of his land, including a dam under construction, has been acquired by the state and offered to Colleta Muzonzini. Mandaza now faces possible arrest for illegally occupying the piece of land in Mazowe and he has said the move to acquire his land, which he bought, was political.
Mandaza is not the only one whose land has been under threat. Another former publisher and Zanu PF legislator, Kindness Paradza, almost lost his farm in Makonde after he was fired from Zanu PF in 2004.
This, analysts said, was prompted by his criticism of the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act in parliament. But according to Zanu PF, it was because he failed to produce a membership card.
While Moyo almost lost his farm after he was also fired from Zanu PF and cabinet for standing for parliamentary elections as an independent candidate, defying a party decision to reserve the Tsholotsho seat for a female candidate.
Mutumwa Mawere is another business mogul whose fall-out with Zanu PF resulted in him losing his empire after he was specified by the state. According to analysts, Mawere was a front for some Zanu PF bigwigs and Moyo described him in December 2008 in an online publication as a “Zanu PF businessman benefiting from Zanu PF misrule”.
Political analyst Ernest Mudzengi said people, especially those at the top, will not leave Zanu PF because they need to maintain their positions in order to maintain their priviledges.
“These guys fear because their luxury lifestyles are sustained by the positions they hold. Even their businesses will crumble if they leave the party because they are bad business managers who have survived through abuse of state funds and state machinery,” he said.
At Independence in 1980, most if not all had nothing but 29 years later, they are some of the richest people owning most of the land, residential stands and businesses in the country. They owe everything they have to Zanu PF.
While the bigwigs have amassed wealth through corruption, what is in it for ordinary Zanu PF supporters, who seem to worship and idiolise their leader?
How does a portrait of someone so unpopular continue to adorn the walls of so many public places?
Analysts have described Zanu PF as a way of life, a culture that can be referred to as “Zanuism” –– a cult. It seems, like many North Koreans, Zimbabweans have slowly been sucked into the cult of Mugabe.
Even at a time when there was famine, a collapsed economy, hyper-inflation and an extremely poor standard of living, this hero worship could still not be dampened.
The politburo member said in this Zanuism culture, the leaders demand blind followers who do not challenge their authority.
He said Mugabe’s supporters do not realise the extent to which they have been manipulated and exploited.
How many youths were used in rural areas to beat up and torture their own relatives and communities during the election campaigns, without questioning such orders?
“These people are excessively zealous and have unquestioning commitment to their leader and they regard his word –– ideology, beliefs and practices –– as the truth and as law.”
How people think, act and feel is determined by the leadership –– “that’s our Zanu PF culture,” he said.
This was evidenced by the enthusiasm and idolisation of Mugabe at the just ended Zanu PF youth conference, where one could feel the energy and excitement when Mugabe arrived at the venue at the City Sports Centre and when he left, as the youths shouted “Mugabe, Mugabe, Mugabe”.
In December 2007, Moyo, who now wants Mugabe to be life president, wrote: “Because Zanu PF’s irresponsibility has caused it to fail to protect the national interest and because Mugabe is apparently determined to thrive under that failure in pursuit of his personal ambition to be President for life, it is now up to Zimbabweans across the political divide to rise to the challenge by finding a united front to stop Mugabe and his cronies from turning their self-indulgence into a national catastrophe.”
When people like Moyo want to rejoin Zanu PF and have even gone as far as saying Mugabe should be left to die in office, one can not help but wonder what is it that others are not seeing which is in Zanu PF and what is it about Mugabe that makes his followers idolise him like that.