IT has now become ritual; whenever Zanu PF goes to in-house elections, be they primary polls or those associated with lower structures at district and provincial levels or congress, all hell breaks loose — internal strife, inevitably linked to President Robert Mugabe’s volatile succession race, explodes.
Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Muleya
Dramatic events always follow and the succession debate intensifies amid renewed infighting.
These have become enduring features of the raging power struggle within Zanu PF which has the potential to destabilise the country whenever Mugabe goes, particularly if he is incapacitated or dies suddenly.
Given that Zanu PF is not only the ruling party but also that it has been in power for 34 years without a break and is deeply institutionalised, events within the party, whose 90-year-old leader has been in charge offering toxic management for 37 years, often unleash seismic waves through and around the local political landscape.
Zimbabwe feels the impact of upheavals within Zanu PF even though its octopus-like grip and influence on national politics and institutions is diminishing.
That is why Zimbabweans, including those who don’t belong or support it, often concern themselves with its affairs.
Of late there has been the characteristic and recurring mayhem in the party due to the youth and women’s conferences held last month ahead of the party’s elective congress in December.
The political stakes are high and as a result rival factions, led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, are at each other’s throats.
After fierce clashes, characterised by accusations of vote-buying and fraud during the youth and women’s conferences as well as vicious fights concomitant to Grace Mugabe’s unexpected plunge into politics, the Zanu PF politburo met on Wednesday to tackle the situation.
Insiders say it was a no-holds-barred meeting where warring factions squared off brutally, showing the centre is no longer holding firmly.
At some point things will fall apart unless the succession issue is resolved timely — an unlikely prospect given that Mugabe is almost certainly staying on in December, guaranteeing his handlangers’ squabbling will continue ad infinitum.
While Zanu PF factional leaders and their followers are busy fighting each other, the real issue has become clouded.
The problem is not Mujuru or Mnangagwa per se, but that Mugabe has overstayed his welcome without helping to sort out the succession issue.
Over the years the Zanu PF and national constitutions should have been made clearer on what happens after Mugabe, but they have been left with grey areas which pose a threat to the nation’s stability.
While Mugabe benefits from these legislative grey patches and his divide-and-rule approach, the power-mongering has put Zimbabwe’s stability at risk.
Zanu PF’s failure to deal with the contentious issue is a recipe for conflict. At some point, the party and by extension Zimbabwe will have to face the reality Mugabe is only a mere mortal.
That moment is surely coming through the dictatorship of time and mortality, perhaps sooner than we think — only God knows when, but Zanu PF seems to be unprepared for the contingency.
How will Zanu PF deal with Mugabe’s departure given the vague provisions of its own constitution and the national one, over and above its somewhat byzantine party structure?
It is not unthinkable there will be turmoil in Zanu PF, which might spill into national politics once Mugabe goes, given the instability which followed the deaths of Joshua Nkomo, Simon Muzenda, Joseph Msika and John Nkomo.
Mugabe won’t be there at some point to use his power and influence to sort out the mess he would have left behind.
Zanu PF leaders, and indeed other interested parties, must think and look beyond Mugabe to best save Zimbabwe and their own interests.