ZANU PF could be on the verge of a split as its new kid on the block, President Robert Mugabe’s 49 year-old-wife Grace Mugabe, who has plunged headlong into turbulent and volatile Zanu PF politics, appears to be deepening divisions in the faction-ridden party, amid speculation Mugabe is aiming for a political dynasty in Zimbabwe.
By Elias Mambo
There are fears Grace’s entrance, if not managed correctly, is a recipe for the eventual rupture of the party that has battled factionalism since its formation in 1963.
Armed with a nomination to lead the influential Women’s League, Grace has been criss-crossing the length and breadth of the country since the last fortnight in her “meet-the-people” rallies where she is attacking senior party officials for planning to oust her husband as well as fanning factionalism in the party.
Needless to say her actions are widely seen fanning the flames of factionalism as she has been aligning herself with certain faction and its political bigwigs while viciously attacking others, with Vice-President Joice Mujuru coming under a barrage of thinly-veiled attacks although not mentioned by name.
While Information minister Jonathan Moyo this week tried to claim that Grace was not referring to Mujuru when she spoke about competencies needed to be vice-president at her rally in Gwanda on Monday, it has been self-evident throughout her rallies that she is running a systematic campaign of emotional and angry demonstration for Mujuru and her faction.
Grace has also accused senior party officials from the country’s 10 provinces of riding on Mugabe’s back in order to win elections.
The rallies are supposedly meant to thank Zanu PF officials for nominating her to take over the leadership of the Women’s League but have turned out to be self-serving platforms for her to announce her ambitions for higher office and and build a national support base and profile. This is despite the party politburo making it clear that it was too early to campaign for posts ahead of the party’s congress in December, and those that did so would be dealt with.
In any case Grace’s proposed elevation to head the Women’s League is in brazen violation of the party’s stringent guidelines for those seeking office as announced in July which require one to have been in the structures for 15 consecutive years to become eligible to take over such a position. The Zanu PF Women’s League, in a surprise but well-calculated development, all the same nominated Grace to be their boss at a meeting at her Mazowe farm in August.
Simmering tensions exploded into the public domain when youths booed Grace at her rally in Manicaland much to her chagrin, proving her involvement in politics and her aggressive attacks on senior officials are not uniting the party.
Youth members from Harare openly exchanged blows with those from Manicaland as succession battles rages on, in the process suggesting Grace’s entry into Zanu PF politics could enlarge wounds rather than heal the party. A peeved Grace was to attack the youths and their “sponsors” at the subsequent rally in Gwanda, saying it was shameful for factional bigwigs to buy beer and drugs for the youths so that they would do their bidding.
Many Zanu PF heavyweights have remained in tow at Grace’s rallies ostensibly for fear of being counted as among those opposed to her political project whose ultimate objective remains the subject of speculation.
There is speculation Grace is in fact aiming to ultimately succeed Mugabe hence her targeting of Mujuru and other bigwigs aligned to her camp, among them secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa.
Mujuru, along with Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, has hitherto been considered a favourite to succeed Mugabe. But Mugabe warned earlier this year it is not only these two who have the chance to succeed him.
By openly attacking members of the Mujuru faction, Grace seems to be fighting in the corner of the faction led by Mnangagwa, thereby figuring prominently in Zanu PF’s factional politics.
Zimbabwe Democracy institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya said Grace’s entrance into the Zanu PF political theatre might provoke rebellion at some point. “If it is President Mugabe who has allowed Grace to enter the political arena then he should expect a rebellion within the party,” Ruhanya said.
“Grace has been on a whirlwind tour attacking senior party members and it is clear Mujuru and followers will not allow such political humiliation for too long unless Mugabe intervenes.”
Ruhanya also said Mugabe, 90, has to rein in his wife or risk leaving behind a party torn apart beyond repair or a split.
Another analyst Wellington Zindove, director of Youth Forum Zimbabwe, said Zanu PF is in danger of losing the 2018 elections if Grace is not restrained immediately before she does further damage.
“Grace’s rallies are proving to be even more divisive for the party and this will have an effect on the 2018 general elections where Zanu PF leaders are likely to replay the bhora Musango tactic so as to dispose her,” Zindove said.
“She has proved within a very short space of time that she lacks the political acumen to deal with the raging factionalism and polarity in her party. What she is doing right now is nothing but giving the opposition deadly ammunition in the run up to the 2018 elections.”
With each rally that Grace addresses she has exposed herself as a factional player contrary to the unifying role that she or her handlers suggested she would play, United Kingdom-based analyst Chofamba Sithole said.
“Grace’s remarks during her rallies appear a barely veiled excoriation of certain sections of the ruling party. The fig leaf of neutrality that she has claimed upon her entry into the political fray has shrivelled with each rally she has held, leaving the very concrete view that she is a candidate for some but not all in Zanu PF,” Sithole said.
He said Grace’s involvement in politics had widened cracks in Zanu PF rather than narrow them.
However, another political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said with time party officials who have been at Grace’s mercy may find their voice.
“Even if the leaders in Zanu PF have made many mistakes, are corrupt, have caused violence and all sorts of mayhem, the question is can they be insulted and allow one family to run away with the party?” asked Mukundu.
“The ruling party leaders have surely gone bonkers with many officials, cabinet ministers and thousands of civil servants leaving their desks and work stations to follow the First Lady on her so-called ‘thank you rallies’ at a time when the economy is reeling from an avalanche of problems,” he said.
Factionalism triggers instability and destabilisation
IN an insightful research paper titled, Factionalism in Political Parties: An Analytical Framework for Comparative Studies, scholars Patrick Köllner and Matthias Basedau say factionalism can be very damaging to political parties.
“Generally, factionalism tends to be regarded as a phenomenon belonging to the ‘pathologies of politics’.
“This certainly reflects the views of party leaders and officials for whom the existence of factions poses an open challenge to party management. Indeed, factions can undermine the cohesion and the effectiveness of political parties. Clear-cut dissent within a party and ensuing repression can take parties to the verge of disintegration and beyond.
“Factionalism can also lead to intra-party decisions on personnel that are not based on merit and ability of the people involved but on their factional affiliation. Faction-based dissent can damage a party’s ability to recruit new members, to fight effective campaigns, and to enter coalitions.
“Faction-based intra-party conflict can also lead to blurry and contradictory positions of a party and thus render voters’ decisions more difficult.
Factionalism can impede or block intra-party discussions and issue-oriented debates can be drawn into the vortex of inter-factional power struggles. In some cases, factionalism can even be (made) responsible for corruption within a political party or even within the political system at large. In sum, intra-party factions can damage or weaken the moral authority and integrity of individual parties or the whole party system. Factionalism can destabilise the party system and it can lead to growing cynicism on the part of voters.”
Köllner and Basedau also say factionalism can affect the stability and institutional efficiency of political parties in relation to internal and external responsibilities.
“Factionalism can play a substantial role in terms of determining or at least influencing how political parties perform their society and state-oriented tasks which are vital for the functioning of democratic systems.
“Factionalism can affect the stability and institutionalisation of parties and party systems. In the final analysis, factionalism can impact on the efficiency and legitimacy of political parties and political systems as a whole. This is not to say that factionalism is of crucial importance to how all parties and political systems operate. But as a substantial number of case studies indicate, factionalism can — for better or worse — make a difference.”