It is predictable Mugabe and his party will incoherently babble on about land, indigenisation, sanctions and elections but will not tackle the issue of leadership renewal in the moribund organisation. The issue has now become a controversial and divisive dimension of the country’s turbulent politics.
Given Zanu PF’s history and role in Zimbabwean politics and Mugabe’s ironfisted rule over three decades, his succession is no longer just a Zanu PF internal matter but a critical issue affecting the country’s body politic and the future of the nation.
Zimbabwe’s future, for better or worse, is intertwined with how Zanu PF will resolve Mugabe’s succession in the context of its current dynamics and the country’s evolving political processes and changing landscape. If the explosive issue is handled carefully and resolved peacefully, it would help to smoothly steer Zimbabwe’s transition from the current dictatorship to democracy. However, if the issue is handled badly, Zanu PF could implode and its internal conflict would then spill over into national politics with dire consequences.
Put simply, Zimbabwe’s political future is now in many ways tied to the resolution of Mugabe’s succession. Mugabe’s history and legacy as a ruler for an entire generation without a break impacts on the country’s prospects.
This is particularly so when considering how Mugabe gained, consolidated and retained power through ruthless manoeuvring and internal repression. His methods and measures of exercising power have defined the political culture and landscape, and significantly poisoned the environment.
Although he has managed to superficially hold together his party — plagued by simmering regional and ethnic tensions — the stirrings of incessant infighting and consequently inevitable disintegration after his departure, either by death or retirement (which is a difficult proposition), are evident. Zanu PF is dogged by factionalism and internal strife, mainly stemming from Mugabe’s refusal to retire or define his succession plan. Efforts to contain this issue by appointing deceptive succession committees have not helped.
After years of gradual decline, the party
has now virtually collapsed into the state and is being propped up by state structures, including the army. Without the military and other state structures, Zanu PF would neither be able to effectively keep itself cohesive nor function.
There can be no gainsaying that the party would have long ago lost power without the support of the army. It is clear Mugabe has conflated civil and military relations in government to enable him to retain control and run the country aided and abetted by a clique of securocrats whose brazen and partisan interference in civilian politics constitutes a serious danger to democracy.
So Zanu PF when it fails to tackle Mugabe’s succession issue at its congresses and conferences or whatever platforms, is only succeeding in escalating its low-intensity conflict and accelerating its decline. Whether the party likes it or not, Mugabe will eventually go. Time is now overdue for them to resolve the issue.
It would be sad for Zimbabwe to be engulfed in internal conflict simply because of Mugabe and his party’s failure to put their house in order. Instead of Zanu PF officials calling Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to resign over WikiLeaks, they should surely be engaged in a more serious debate about the need for Mugabe to either retire or if he doesn’t want to retire, to spell out his succession plan.
Zanu PF officials must have the courage of their convictions to openly discuss Mugabe’s succession. Otherwise, we will now be left with no option but to believe the party’s former MP and war veteran Margaret Dongo’s unkind observation that Zanu PF officials are “Mugabe’s wives”.