THIS week Derek Matyszak looks at the power struggles in the Matabeleland provinces in a report titled The Mortal Remains: Succession and the Zanu PF Body Politic, which was produced by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Research Advocacy Unit (Rau) though written by Derek Matyszak.
The report unpacks the unfolding Zanu PF power struggles and President Robert Mugabe’s succession drama, focusing on the national and party constitutions, the movers and shakers and the internal dynamics attendant to the process.
With Mugabe having turned 90 in February 2013 and thus possibly considering not standing in the next presidential elections in 2018, and Zanu PF’s “elective” congress (held every five years) due in December, the provincial executive elections (Pec) elections at the end of last year could be seen as an overture for an impending succession battle.
Zanu PF repeatedly denied that the chaos around the polls had anything to do with factionalism or the succession issue, stating that this perception was a media creation. Although the disavowal was contradicted by Mugabe’s denunciation of factionalism after the polls, the fissures which were evident during the process did not always fit the allegiances pre-conceived by the press and could not always be slotted neatly into an Emmerson Mnangagwa/Joice Mujuru analysis.
An examination of the factionalism in the provinces and the manner in which conflict between the groups has been approached is instructive for present purposes. Given the chronic nature of the factionalism in some provinces and the convoluted nature of the intrigues, plots and counter plots, it is only possible to provide an outline of each here.
Byo and Matabeleland provinces
In Bulawayo metropolitan province, as the central and most important Matabeleland province, Pec and provincial co-ordinating committees (PCCs) have played an important role in the choice of the “Zapu” vice-president for Zanu PF, and with that post currently vacant, the chairpersonship of the Pec in the province has assumed even greater importance.
Battles over the position became acute after December 2008 when Isaac Dakamela assumed the position of provincial chairperson. The circumstances around Dakamela’s turbulent incumbency are edifying.
Within a matter of months of assuming office, Dakamela faced a vote of no confidence from the district co-ordinating committees (DCCs), with allegations of corruption and mismanagement levelled against his executive.
Dakamela survived the attempted ouster with the help of Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, the politburo member “in charge” of Bulawayo province. This was a pattern which was to repeat itself several times in the years ahead.
In July 2010, Dakamela was suspended by politburo members from the province citing the theft of meat and groceries meant for Zanu PF’s 2009 congress.
When Ndlovu reversed the suspension, following an apology from Dakamela, PCC members began boycotting meetings headed by Dakamela. Dakamela in turn barred district chairpersons from attending meetings when he learned that they intended to raise the issue of his leadership.
Then, in November 2010, Bulawayo politburo members petitioned Vice-President John Nkomo, and party chairman Simon Khaya Moyo, to intervene to resolve the question of Dakamela’s chairmanship.
These events took place against disputed appointments to fill seven vacancies in the central committee.
An initial list submitted by the province, apparently comprising supporters of provincial heavyweight Obert Mpofu (then reported as being a Mujuru ally) was rejected by the politburo at the instigation of Nkomo. When Dakamela and Ndlovu submitted a fresh list of Nkomo-aligned nominees, the list was again rejected, this time by Khaya Moyo.
Despite the ouster attempts, Dakamela remained in office. However, by 2012, Dakamela had fallen out of favour with the party youth, who repeatedly accused him of blocking their attempts, under the guise of Zanu PF’s “indigenisation” policies, to take over properties in the province. Aware that calling a PCC meeting would result in his removal, Dakamela simply refused to convene the body.
The meeting finally took place without him and resolved that he be suspended, a decision Dakamela refused to recognise. Ndolvu again sought to rescue Dakamela and reverse his suspension, claiming that only the politburo had the authority to suspend a chairman.
Party national political commissar Webster Shamu also visited the province likewise asserting that the PCC had no power to suspend Dakamela, and seeking to lift the suspension. He failed to do so in the face of stiff resistance from senior party officials in the province. Killian Sibanda was installed by the PCC as acting chairperson, and Shamu agreed that Sibanda would remain as such until the Dakamela issue was finalised.
Sibanda continued in this position, becoming substantive chairperson after elections in December 2012, until the party youth also became disaffected with his leadership. Resultant divisions within the party resulted in physical clashes between rival groups in March 2013.
The politburo thus decided to dispatch a “probe team” to Bulawayo to investigate “personality challenges” there.
The team, comprising Khaya Moyo, Shamu and Didymus Mutasa, deposed Sibanda as chairperson and appointed him as deputy to Callistus Ndlovu, a reported Khaya Moyo supporter. Callistus Ndlovu proceeded to “co-opt” 50 members into the PCC including Dakamela, and went on to win the controversial Pec elections at the end of 2013.
As noted above, intense conflict between opposing groups resulted in the abandonment of the first attempt to hold the polls.
Two aspects of these events are worthy of comment: one relating to the supposed factional loyalties of the protagonists, the other to the manner in which the disputes were resolved.
The turmoil in Bulawayo immediately after the 2009 congress appears to have been a three-way struggle for influence between the late vice-president John Nkomo, Mpofu and Khaya Moyo, rather than part of a simple Mujuru/Mnangagwa dyad.
Hence, the dispute over the seven central committee vacancies referred to above resulted in the initial list being rejected by Nkomo as comprising Mpofu-affiliates, and the subsequent list rejected by Khaya Moyo as comprising Nkomo-affiliates.
The list of Nkomo candidates had been drawn up by Dakamela and Ndlovu, thus seemingly placing the two in Nkomo’s camp, but not clearly establishing any loyalty with regard to the Mujuru/Mnangagwa rivalry, as the affiliation of Nkomo in regard to Mujuru or Mnangagwa was not easily ascertained.
Recall that it was reportedly the late retired General Solomon Mujuru who manoeuvred Nkomo into the post of party chairman in 2004, thus placing him in pole position for ascendancy to the vice-presidency.
Yet when that position became vacant in 2009, ahead of the congress, his appointment as such supposedly was supported by the Mnangagwa group and opposed by that of Mujuru. This might suggest that Nkomo, and thus Dakamela, were Mnangagwa-aligned — an impression strengthened by the support given to Dakamela by the controversial Jabulani Sibanda.
Jabulani Sibanda, since his removal after the Tsholotsho meeting, has consistently been reported as supporting Mnangagwa. Yet there was seemingly marked tension between Dakamela supporter, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, and Jabulani Sibanda.
However, the probe team which descended on Bulawayo in 2013 comprised solely of Mujuru acolytes. Since they deposed the Mnangagwa-aligned Killian Sibanda and his replacement Callistus Ndlovu almost immediately brought Dakamela back into the fold of the provincial executive, both Dakamela and Sikhanyiso Ndlovu could be regarded as Mujuru-aligned, notwithstanding Dakamela’s support from Jabulani Sibanda, and the latter’s antipathy for Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.
This characterisation of alignments is, however, contradicted by other reports in the very same newspaper which suggests this configuration. When reporting upon Nkomo/Mpofu rivalry in a different province, Matabeleland North, Dakamela is referred to as a “close Mpofu-ally” who by then was seen as having switched allegiance to Mnangagwa.
The alignment of Mpofu is similarly confused. While allegedly at daggers drawn with John Nkomo, Mpofu reportedly worked in alliance (for influence in Matabeleland North) with Jonathan Moyo and Jacob Mudenda, both casualties of Tsholotsho and assumed to be in the Mnangagwa-camp.
But, very shortly before this, Mpofu, initially supported by Mujuru in 2009 for the post of party chairman, was reported to be part of the Mujuru-configuration.
However, in 2012, Mnangagwa made an appearance at a large “graduation and birthday party” for Mpofu in Bulawayo, standing in for the “conspicuously absent” party chairman, Khaya Moyo. Supposed arch-enemy, Nkomo, gave a eulogistic address praising Mpofu. Khaya Moyo had now apparently replaced Nkomo as Mpofu’s rival in the struggle for influence in the Matabeleland provinces.
The press explained this by postulating that Mpofu had played a key role to Mujuru’s advantage in thwarting the Tsholotsho plotters, and felt that insufficient appreciation for his efforts had been shown by Mujuru, causing him to switch allegiance. By 2013, Mpofu was being reported as aligned to Mnangagwa.
The election for the post of provincial chair saw Callistus Ndlovu seeking to retain the post against challenges from his deputy, Killian Sibanda and Douglas Ndlovu. Once again, the poll was disputed with Killian Sibanda claiming that 70% of voters were unable to cast a ballot due to their names not appearing on the voters’ roll.
The picture which emerges from factionalism in Bulawayo is thus more one of shifting and cross-allegiances in response to ephemeral political expediencies than one of fierce loyalty to either supposed Mnangagwa or Mujuru factions.
Nonetheless, a leitmotif emerges of chairpersons being propped up or imposed by the Mujuru-dominated politburo in the face of resistance from party structures and politburo members in the province. Desultory attempts to use the party constitution as a starting point to resolve tensions by either opposing side falter in the face of sheer political muscle brought to bear, despite a 2012 party resolution not to impose leaders on party structures.
It is also worth noting that the advantages of incumbency are such that the sitting chairpersons, initially appointed rather than democratically elected, on two occasions went on to win provincial polls, despite the two being from opposing camps, and the elections taking place only a year apart from each other. The Mujuru-aligned politburo ultimately succeeded in (unconstitutionally) imposing its will upon the Bulawayo PCC on all occasions.
Mpofu’s influence in the region was reflected in the easy victory of his protégé Richard Moyo as chair of Matabeleland North, Mpofu’s home province. In Matabeleland South, ahead of the poll, the “probe team” had seconded two former chairpersons to prop up Andrew Langa.
Langa, seen as a Mujuru supporter, retained the position of chairperson following the provincial elections.