President Mugabe’s vitriolic attacks on Information minister Jonathan Moyo at a politburo meeting as first reported by this paper, and on subsequent occasions, have had the nation talking as Zimbabweans struggle to understand the genesis of the latest fallout between the two.
Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja
After dressing down Moyo in the politburo, Mugabe did not let up but cranked up the hostilities, denouncing Moyo at the late Nathan Shamuyarira’s home and later — as if for good measure — at his burial at the National Heroes Acre.
Since then the nation, as reflected in the media, has been agog with speculation over Moyo’s fate for, despite giving the impression he is a changed man in his fresh tenure as Information minister, many have not forgiven him for past transgressions and remain unconvinced despite his surprise charm offensive.
While it would appear Moyo will stay put despite the humiliation by Mugabe, what has been lost in national discourse is the root cause of Mugabe’s shock outbursts which have all the hallmarks of a deeper underlying problem. Succession.
As long as the succession issue remains unresolved and a taboo within the party, the rumour mongering, backstabbing, decampaigning, abuse of state media, clandestine meetings, poll rigging and general “weevil”-like activity will continue.
By attacking Moyo Mugabe could be dispensing precious energy on a red herring. Granted Moyo is hardly an angel as illustrated in an article elsewhere in this issue as he has crafted draconian media laws, stepped on other ministers’ and Zanu PF bigwigs’ toes and exhibited chameleonic traits, among other oft-cited flaws.
And it is certainly wrong for Moyo to use his media vantage to lay into colleagues, or those whose opinions differ from his.
But his actions are informed by the internecine power struggle raging within the party, as Mugabe (90) shows no inkling of passing on the leadership baton. Back in 2003, Mugabe hinted in an interview with ZBC that he would quit by 2008, but did not.
In 2005 he was quoted by the Herald in an interview with Indonesia’s Jarkata Post newspaper saying: “I have said it before that when my term ends I will retire. I still have to do three years . . . but it is my intention to retire,” adding, “I will never groom a successor”.
What he has instead “groomed” is a power struggle largely fought behind the scenes, but increasingly playing out in the state media. There is belief this is music to Mugabe’s ears as he has allegedly perfected divide-and-rule tactics fuelling factionalism in the party, by switching support among the presidential contenders.
There is thus the potential for a messy transition when Mugabe eventually goes, one way or the other, as has been the case recently in countries such as Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria, with dire consequence for the country’s and Zanu PF’s stability.
Of course Mugabe has the opportunity to lay the succession issue to rest at the party’s congress come December. Unfortunately indications are that he will pass up that chance and it will be-business-as-usual. He claims he has “unfinished business” despite 34 years of rule!
We shall see.