Zimbabwe is currently gripped by political uncertainty, partly as a result of Zanu PF internal strife which has been going on for a long time, with senior officials battling to succeed Mugabe. Senior Zanu PF officials are now beginning to ask who is behind the rival factions and what their policies and programmes are.
Senior party officials, led by Zanu PF politburo member and strategist Jonathan Moyo, are now bringing a new dimension to the debate. The Zanu PF infighting is intertwined with the fate of the country, given Mugabe and his party’s institutionalisation and their lengthy period in power.
Since Independence most African states have experienced different forms of political conflict rooted in both internal and external factors. Usually, conflict generated by leadership succession is over control of the state and involves who governs. It does not usually envisage the creation of a new state and ideological and policy shift. Such power struggles usually centres on control of levers of the state and access to state resources.
Put differently, political succession, as in the case of Zanu PF, is an attempt to capture the state by factions using their positions in power at the expense of their rivals. The major objective is to take over the leadership of the party and the state to control access to power and resources, while establishing a patronage network to sustain factional interests.
Moyo, no longer linked to any of the major two Zanu PF factions led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, is leading the debate within the party on factionalism and succession.
Besides, Mujuru and Mnangagwa, State Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi has also been mentioned as a possible successor to Mugabe. The name of Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga is also being raised although some say those outside party structures have no chance.
A new group comprising young turks described as Generation 40 (G40) has also emerged on the scene trying to influence the succession battle.
Moyo, now a Mugabe diehard, is trying to shift the debate from personalities and their record in the liberation struggle to their leadership qualities, policies and programmes as Zanu PF officials begin to question the suitability of their faction leaders to rule.
“When all is said and done, the most critical failure of the nationalist movement in Zimbabwe today is the rise of factionalism to its current shocking levels,” Moyo wrote early last week.
“While this has been bad enough, what has made it particularly worse is that the type of factionalism which has taken root within our nationalist movement is content-free in ideological and policy terms. This is terrible because when factionalism has no ideological or policy content it means it is only a personal project of an individual with no public or national purpose of value and invariably ends up becoming private, tribal or regional.”
Showing the debate has shifted, Moyo continued: “This explains why all media reports of alleged Zanu PF factions always mention the names of some fancied individuals who purportedly lead the factions in question without ever saying what the named individuals or the factions they allegedly lead stand for or represent.”
Moyo said the younger generation should be “vigilant against being trapped by content-free factionalists in pursuit of patronage which of late is being peddled under the cover of succession politics”.
“Our youth who now make up at least 70% of the electorate and who are therefore in a position to peacefully and democratically shape their future through the ballot — thanks to the heroes of our independence — should understand that succession is not about individuals and is certainly not about age but about ideas, ideologies, policy programmes and generations,” he said.
“There’s absolutely no point in supporting factions led by individuals who have not shown that they are able to use their brains to articulate national ideas that seek to secure Zimbabwe’s revolution to improve the lot of our people. In other words, our youth must understand that it is far better to support policies than personalities.”
In the past Moyo has written articles urging leadership renewal and openness on the succession debate.
“Why is it that some comrades in the nationalist movement in general and Zanu PF in particular seem to be afraid of change when it is a fact of everyday life and is thus essential to the survival of any living thing whether biological, social, economic or political?” he asked last year.
Political analysts say Zanu PF factions have not done much to explain what they stand for unlike Mugabe.
Harare based political analyst Charles Mangongera said leaders aspiring to take over from Mugabe have failed to state what they stand for because of the political dynamics in Zanu PF in which personalities take precedence over policies. Mangongera said people could only assume what each of the factional leaders stand for based on their personalities and past. “Based on that, Mnangagwa comes out as a hardliner and if he takes power he is likely to lead a commandist sort of economy,” said Mangongera. “He is the kind that may clamp down on the media and civil society and given his background in the security sector. He is likely to severely curtail certain freedoms,” said Magongera.”
“Mujuru comes across as a moderate, who would try to strike a balance between Zanu PF’s ideals as a liberation party and the need for a progressive party. Because the Mujuru family is business-orientated, she is likely to pursue a pro-business approach to attract investment and move the economy forward.
On Sekeramayi, Mangongera said: “I’m afraid I don’t understand what Sekeramayi stands for. His quietness suggests he is a shrewd and calculative character. I doubt if he has strong democratic credentials. He speaks very little and is difficult to understand. The only political statement I saw him making was shedding of tears when General Solomon Mujuru died last year!”
Zanu PF insiders say Mnangagwa’s strength lies in his vast experience having worked in key ministries, mainly security, since Independence. As a former aide to Mugabe, Mnangagwa is generally trusted and knowledgeable and has strong connections with the security establishment although his image has been tarnished by accusations of human rights abuses against him.
Mujuru is also experienced having participated in the liberation struggle from a tender age and been in government since 1980. However, questions marks remain over their vision and competence.