By Tabani Moyo
THERE is something telling about resolutions made by Zanu PF politburo and central committee to disband District Coordinating Committees (DCCs) last month. Before being dissolved, DCCs linked provincial structures with the district structures. The DCC polls were keenly contested within the party, as they were linked to the succession race.
Zanu PF has passed up several opportunities to fully address the issue of succession of party leader President Robert Mugabe. It is quite unfortunate that instead of addressing the core crisis, that of leadership renewal, the party has often resorted to sanctioning those who make their presidential ambitions public.
In disbanding the DCC structures, Mugabe has again put the lid on succession politics within the party and engendered an environment of fear, especially for Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s faction that was on the ascendancy after winning in most provinces against candidates aligned to rival, Vice-President Joice Mujuru. The message is thus clear: as long as Mugabe is alive, the succession debate should never be placed on Zanu PF agenda.
Contrary to assertions by the party that DCCs are not wanted as they were divisive as proven by the controversy that haunted the elections, Mugabe himself, who has been at the helm of the party for far too long, is also a major stumbling block.
This DCC furore leaves Zanu PF with a false sense of security in the short-term, but the bottom line is the party is failing, or rather reluctant to renew its leadership, and that is a recipe for disaster as Mugabe is aging.
With the disbandment of the DCCs, the party structures will become voiceless. Zanu PF has adopted a top-down command structure as opposed to the ideal situation of a bottom-up approach. Leadership-related questions will not be tolerated. A case in point is when Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba said Retired Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri would succeed Mugabe at a memorial service for General Constantine Chiwenga’s brother.
Zanu PF political commissar Webster Shamu was quick to shoot down Nyikayaramba’s sentiments insisting that “the joke was not funny and should never be repeated”.
This is sad given that even Shamu himself may actually want someone “young” to lead the party. He expressed this view almost a decade ago, which saw him being pushed into political oblivion for a while.
The disbandment of DCCs confirms that Mugabe has become Zanu PF himself. This is well illustrated by the Tsholotsho debacle of 2004. Some senior Zanu PF politicians allegedly used the cover of a prize-giving ceremony at Dinyane School in Tsholotsho to discuss a succession plan that would have shaken up the presidium. Six of the party’s 10 provincial chairpersons were in favour of the succession plan, but were later suspended.
Instead of the party’s leadership holding a serious meeting on why its senior members were nicodemously discussing succession issues, Mugabe came out guns blazing. Within a few weeks of the Tsholotsho meeting, the six chairpersons had been suspended and some of the people involved were strongly warned for trying to stage a “palace coup”.
This structural decay was confirmed in the manner senior party members confided in the US government that they wanted the party leadership renewed, according to WikiLeaks. Many senior members of the party expressed reservations about Mugabe carrying on as leader, and also cited his advanced age and deteriorating health.
Again the party did not convene a serious meeting to deliberate the succession issue that had been confided in the US government — one of Zanu PF’s “enemies” following so-called targeted sanctions. Instead, Mugabe has used the WikiLeaks disclosures to strengthen his hand by creating an environment that is divisive, through ignoring this brazen act of “betrayal” as a way of creating uncertainty over the fate of the culprits.
In the first round of the 2008 presidential elections, the party structures showed Mugabe their vote of no confidence in his leadership, taking the polls as a window of opportunity to resolve the outstanding issue of succession. Zanu PF MPs and councillors campaigned for themselves and urged their supporters to make a “wise decision” over the presidency, hence the “bhora musango” (anyone but Mugabe) strategy when it came to the presidential poll. Hence, Mugabe lost the first round of voting to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Instead of serious introspection, Mugabe keeps reminding the party leadership in politburo and central committee meetings that they erred by not campaigning for him, as if to say without him the party is history.
No doubt the disbanding of the DCCs is yet another blunder by Zanu PF as far as the succession question is concerned as it targets symptoms rather than causes of the disease. What is clear, although no-one in Zanu PF will say it loudly or publicly, is that party members are certain that Mugabe’s reign is drawing to a close and sooner rather than later the succession issue would be resolved. By then it could be too late as Zanu PF will realise the folly of tying its survival to an individual and dissolving structures to serve that person.
This is an important lesson to other parties in the country: the sooner they start resolving issues of leadership renewal, the better for their political parties’ survival.
Tabani Moyo is a journalist based in Harare. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org