This episode has inevitably been code-named Tsholotsho II, after the first abortive attempt which thereafter claimed the political scalp of Jonathan Moyo and some provincial chairpersons of Zanu PF.
Five years after, the failure to fully exorcise the ghost of the first Tsholotsho debacle has created contours of dissonance in the eminent year of Zanu PF’s test of resilience. On such a holy day as Christmas, it is alleged that a potential breakaway group met in the Midlands capital to embrace an “unholy” agenda.
The name that is being linked to the incarnation of this sacred agenda, which in 2005 was assumed to have been permanently quelled, is that of the recently re-admitted Moyo. Given the proximate days of his readmission, I wonder if within such a restricted timeframe he could have already crafted a notorious cleavage from his controversial political past in Zanu PF.
Anyway, Moyo is quoted as having vehemently denied the allegations of this Christmas tryst and has in fact blamed the rumour mill on MDC-T’s abstract menu. Whether this is false or true, I however want to dwell on the possibilities and the converse of the eventuality of a breakaway party coming from within Zanu PF, especially at such a time in the political era of Zimbabwe. For whoever may harbour any such thoughts, there are distinct considerations that need to form the underlying foundations of analysis and process.
I personally believe that given the current political circumstances, there is no practical possibility of an effective opposition political party coming out of the structures of Zanu PF. It defies political logic and thus has no reasonable space in any wise discharge of political strategy.
Historically, we have seen the Zimbabwe Unity Movement led by the former Zanu PF strongman — Edgar Tekere. Inasmuch as this was not defined in the totality of a breakaway, it was a one-man step-out venture planted out of the top hierarchy of the party. We have recently seen a similar exploit from Simba Makoni.
His initial expression was that of a mass breakaway from Zanu PF supported by assumed heavyweights. In the end what we saw was a lonely journey that Makoni had to walk, uneventfully accompanied by an out-of-favour Dumiso Dabengwa.
The mass breakaway did not take shape. To-date there has never been a strong political force directly created out of Zanu PF either en masse or by individual walkouts. What then would change this time around, if this Christmas debacle ever happened?
Zanu PF breakaway hopefuls must be aware of the strongman compulsion that grips the party’s politics today. The party has made the grave mistake of creating a “demi-god” out of its leader, Robert Mugabe.
They have uplifted him from normal human mortality into a realm that even mystifies his personhood. As such, many have considered him to be a life beyond the party. The party’s brand has therefore been carried by his person and his self-actualised, larger-than-life political stature. This is indicated by the combative regalia that the party adopted bearing his face and name in places that would otherwise be proverbially censurable.
His legacy in the party has attracted no challengers to his position mainly due to this beyond-measure elevation. In this regard, what Zanu PF is and will ever be (in the foreseeable future) is what Mugabe is or will be. There cannot be a separation of his person and the lifeblood of the party.
In such a circumstance any breakaway group has the monumental task of working against this divisive creation of a president whose personal totality is the institution of the party.
There is no way one can stand on Zanu PF ideals and yet have the unimagined luxury of subtracting Mugabe. Whoever is under Mugabe in Zanu PF will not survive a political battle (within and outside of the party) that sets them against him.
The danger of creating superhuman leaders for political parties is that they will exhibit a compulsion that may not be successfully challenged by those within the party or those that were once strongly within. If Zanu PF wasn’t personality driven, then a breakaway would have been easy to execute. However, given the current scenario, the master who was created seems to have capacity to pulverise whichever “son” or “daughter” aspires to stand against him, within the party or without.
Secondly there is the notion of the questionable capacity of Zanu PF members to fully transform to being anything else that is not Zanu PF. I think the indoctrination that seems set in Zanu PF really creates marked loyalty which will be difficult to break from in totality. In this regard, it becomes difficult to break away and re-brand mindsets and paradigms from the heart and mind of Zanu PF.
What may be possible is a breakaway group that still remains Zanu PF by conduct, characteristic, worldview, operation and mindset yet differ just in name, location or regalia. There is very limited capacity to create an essentially unique political culture from people and groups that will have come out of Zanu PF. Some may declare such possibilities by word, but the deed may deeply connect to functional motherhood. Once a son or daughter of Zanu PF it becomes insurmountable to convince Zimbabweans that one can be anything else which is not the party.
Thirdly, the fragility that currently grips Zanu PF will never entertain a breakaway. Against conventional thought, where the weaknesses, squabblings and power struggles detected in Zanu PF seem to point towards the break-up of the party, in essence this is what unites it.
There is no one in Zanu PF who wants to be known as the one who finally caused the disintegration of the party.
There are fears for one’s security and fears of being historically misaligned. Zanu PF operates as a single machinery that is whipped into line even against natural trends and demands.
This single unit of purpose seems to be laced by silent commitment to rise together or fall together. In fact in moments of weaknesses, there is greater policing within the party to identify those that may want to mutiny against the ship. Internal vigilance is greatest in times of weaknesses.
This is the reason why the first Tsholotsho debacle was quickly crushed. It was the inevitable nature of the internal cohesion propounded by the eagerness to avoid the eminence of a collapse.
In that regard, whenever Zanu PF is at its weakest point, there is a greater pull towards the centre and a whipping into line of those who may give their backs to this centre.
Zanu PF is more dangerous to its members in its moment of weakness than in its moment of strength. Therefore the party will never break up in moments such as now, where it is faced by internal strife and pressure.
Makoni made the grave mistake of thinking that some heavyweights would join him based on the position of weakness that was in the party.
However he was surprised when the “comrades” failed to follow him out of the party. Given this extent, whoever walks out of Zanu PF in its current moments of challenges, again may find himself on a very lonely journey.
In light of the breakaway from the supposed Gweru meeting there is no reasonable grounds to assume that such action will either happen or if it does will cause sizable impact to Zanu PF.
The salvation of Zimbabwe’s opposition politics will not necessarily come from a Zanu PF breakaway; rather it has to be from other forces external to the party.
If for sure Moyo is really involved, then this time the professor’s experiments will blow him up together with the laboratory, creating no future potential for either his own political existence or that of such clumsy experiments.
lTrevor Maisiri is the co-founder and executive director of the African Reform Institute, which is a political leadership development organisation which also functions as a political “think-tank”.
By Trevor Maisiri