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Revolution devours its children

IT was Sturmabteilung (Hitler’s Storm-troopers) commander, Ernst Rohm, who famously said revolutions usually devour their own children.


This was prophetic as he was later to become a victim of the “night of the long knives” in 1934 when he was executed on Hitler’s orders as he had become a serious potential rival.

But it is actually Jacques Mallet du Pan, an 18th century French journalist, who is credited with coining the expression.

These days we are hearing a lot about it due to dramatic events within Zanu PF as infighting, turmoil and purges envelope the party ahead of its congress next week.

The raging flames of internal strife have claimed the scalps of so many. The roll call is long: Rugare Gumbo, Callisto Gwanetsa, John Mvundura, Ray Kaukonde, Luke Mushore, Themba Mliswa, Jason Machaya, Andrew Langa, Amos Midzi, Nicholas Goche, Lazarus Dokora, Webster Shamu, Sylvester Nguni, Tendai Savanhu, Dzikamai Mavhaire, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Walter Mzembi, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, David Butau, Didymus Mutasa and, of course, Joice Mujuru herself, among others.

These are the names of Zanu PF children, some who fought the liberation struggle and contributed so much to the country’s development, being consumed by the vicious succession battle characterised by raw ambition, betrayal and massive clear-out.

Crystal-glazing into Zanu PF to see how events might pan out is rather difficult, particularly given the complexities of the party’s history and events on the political landscape. It is even difficult to know who will be Mugabe’s deputies even though insiders say it’s going to be Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.

There are a lot of issues to consider in the Zanu PF succession matrix: history, political context, factionalism, regions, ethnicity and long-standing feuds, as well as personal quarrels. It’s a volatile mix of issues.

But what is clear, though, is Mugabe is the puppet-master behind the scenes.

Although he is now losing control, his residual influence allows him to run rings around his rivals using the same script different cast.

Mugabe has been uneasy with Mujuru since after he imposed her through a constitutional coup in 2004 to block Mnangagwa then. Two years down the line they fell out when the late retired army commander General Solomon thwarted Mugabe’s plans at the 2006 Goromonzi conference to extend his term by two years from 2008 to 2010 outside an election.

Then followed the epic battle between Mugabe and Gen. Mujuru which forced an extraordinary congress in December 2007. While Mugabe managed to hang onto his position by a thread under serious challenge, the die was cast.

Edgar Tekere’s 2007 memoirs exacerbated the situation.

Now Mujuru is being cut to size for breaking Robert Greene’s Law 1 in The 48 Laws of Power: Never outdo, or threaten, the master. Mugabe is using Law 15 which says “crush your enemy totally”.

Greene says all great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed. If one ember is left flickering, no matter how dimly it smoulders, a fire will eventually reignite. More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation: The enemy might recover, and seek revenge. So crush him/her, not only in body but in spirit. Hence, Mugabe’s ruthless actions.

We are witnessing history in motion, not least echoes of the French revolution. Revolutions do eat their children indeed; flash back to Robespierre and even Trotsky.

But to quote historian and journalist Erik Durschmied: “Revolutions are waged and decided in the minds of individuals, their cutting edge is words, not swords”.

Hopefully Mugabe and his allies will remember this.

At congress they must not forget the moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril.

Zanu PF is devouring its own children and thus faces serious vulnerability going forward. We have not seen the last of this. After Mugabe all hell might break loose.

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