The Zanu PF politburo on Monday endorsed the presidium that was nominated by the party’s 10 provinces ahead of the fifth party congress that opened on Wednesday.
The nominations will now be confirmed at the congress. This weekend the nation will be exposed to the unedifying picture of a party of Cold War comrades all being forced to agree unanimously to a line-up that few of them actually wanted.
The resignation of Manicaland provincial chair Basil Nyabadza illustrates the extent of this dichotomy.
This is how these denizens of a discredited past have run this country and would want Zimbabwe to be administered in the next five years; where the will of the people is subjugated to protect the camaraderie of patronage.
Didymus Mutasa was actually right in pointing to procedural manipulation which saw all 10 provinces endorsing Simon Khaya Moyo as chairman when most of them had planned on supporting somebody else.
But the prospect of President Mugabe unleashing his not inconsiderable powers of denunciation against those that declined to toe the party line –– meaning his line –– was too ghastly to contemplate for many a delegate. Manicaland, Mashonaland Central and Masvingo all retreated from their original positions and instead backed the dubious claim that the national chairman as well as a second secretary had to hail from Matabeleland.
Whenever Mugabe is asked about the succession in television interviews, he invariably points to the process within the former ruling party that gives to congress the ultimate say in who will succeed him. This, he likes to claim, is the will of the people in action.
We saw that process shattered in Harare recently when two party factions were at each other’s throats over the Harare provincial chairmanship, with the winning candidate coming last. It was democracy Zanu PF-style!
It is little wonder that the national voters’ roll, over which party apparatchiks preside, is in such a mess.
But there is a further issue at stake here. Having exposed the nation to this exercise in crude political control, where dissident voices are silenced, nobody seems to have asked what Mugabe will do with his next five-year term. What policies will he pursue to improve the nation’s health?
At present, it seems, his only salient policy is to keep the MDC out of office. He formed the government of national unity, not because he thought it would be a good thing to unite the country, but because electoral defeat and an increasingly anxious Sadc made it mandatory.
Just like the MDC, Mugabe had to retain the region’s goodwill to stay alive politically. But that doesn’t mean he can’t continue to pursue policies aimed at keeping his grip on power. Strutting upon the international stage in Denmark next week is one.
Keeping up appearances is designed to impress friends and foes alike. As the directive to the state media to proclaim all his titles at every mention of his name suggests, this is a ruler in desperate need of recognition.
What is there for Zanu PF to claim as a priority area once its new presidium is in place? Agriculture cannot prosper so long as farms continue to be seized and property stolen. And, related to this, there will be no investment until there is security of property. That will impact on manufacturing.
Zimbabweans in the Diaspora will not return home until there is peace and security. Any suggestion of a return to the Zimbabwe dollar will scupper their return and generally damage confidence.
Other facets of repression including media-regulation will further damage the internal consensus as well as hurt international relations. Mugabe has nothing to offer here. He will quickly learn in Denmark next week that insincerity on the GPA front and retention of a repressive apparatus will not win him the lifting of sanctions he so desperately wants.
The president has few options left. He has a diminishing audience for his revolutionary rhetoric. The younger generation doesn’t buy his blandishments. How can voters be persuaded the US is “the enemy” when it keeps the country fed?
This is why the current rearguard action in the state media against the MDC-T is not going to help Mugabe’s electoral prospects. Very simply, Zanu PF has run out of anything useful to say. Everyone except a handful of hardliners wants regime change.
How can a leader who has presided over unprecedented economic collapse and is still trying to block change contribute to the nation’s recovery?
Where he can be useful is in restraining the military and other instruments of reactionary control from getting in the way of the change juggernaut.
That would improve his image and help the country to get out of the abyss he has dug for it.