LIKE viewers of South African television soap opera Generations, local and international audiences will be treated to a new cast of the ruling Zanu PF after President Robert Mugabe made good on his promises to demote several party stalwarts to ordinary card carrying members.
There is now a new-look party and government shorn of the likes of Joice Mujuru, Didymus Mutasa, Webster Shamu, Nicholas Goche, Francis Nhema, Munacho Mutezo, Olivia Muchena, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa and Dzikamai Mavhaire, who had all become enduring features on the Zimbabwean political landscape before being fired on Monday.
But they were shown the exit door by Mugabe on yet to be substantiated allegations of plotting the ouster and assassination of the 90-year-old veteran leader.
Mugabe used his new-found powers to replace Mujuru with her long-time rival Mnangagwa who was Justice Minister. Phelekezela Mphoko came in as the second Vice-President after winning his own war for the post with former party national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo who was regarded by many as the front-runner for the post.
Moyo’s former post was abolished and the latter was demoted to the less-glamorous post of spokesperson, previously held by the expelled Rugare Gumbo.
Mugabe had hinted at the demotions of Mujuru and others last Saturday, saying apart from those already fired from the party like Gumbo and Jabulani Sibanda, the rest would be stripped of their posts and reduced to “ordinary card-carrying party members”.
And so now the new-look cabinet, central committee and politburo are in place, but just like the new-look Generations which has come in for heavy criticism after partying ways with the actors and actresses that viewers had come to love over the years, the reconstructed Zanu PF may be a weaker force having dispensed with its veterans.
These were politicians, who despite their dismal economic performance under Mugabe, possessed the skills and expertise to see off the threat posed by the opposition MDC and survive targeted measures imposed by the international community.
Other high-profile casualties of the congress include Lazarus Dokora, Sylvester Nguni, Angeline Masuku, Flora Bhuka, Tendai Savanhu and Kudakwashe Bhasikiti.
Nine provincial chairpersons namely; Amos Midzi (Harare), Andrew Langa (Matabeleland South), Callisto Gwanetsa (Masvingo), Jason Machaya (Midlands), John Mvundura (Manicaland), Callistus Ndlovu (Bulawayo), Temba Mliswa (Mashonaland West ), Luke Mushore (Mashonaland Central) and Ray Kaukonde (Mashonaland East) were also axed in the run up to the elections.
In addition, several officials in the party’s provincial executive committees were suspended while some members of the Women’s League and Youth League suffered the same fate, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many.
These were casualties of the protracted Zanu PF succession fights pitting a faction led by Mujuru and newly-appointed Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Although the Mujuru faction appeared to be on the ascendancy for many years after managing to seize control of most structures of the party including the politburo, central committee and provinces, the Mnangagwa faction got a massive shot in the arm when First Lady Grace Mugabe abruptly entered the political scene and sided with Mnangagwa.
Grace embarked on countrywide tours and held meetings where she savaged Mujuru and her allies, resulting in the camp falling into disarray.
Mugabe, who in recent weeks has been openly attacking Mujuru, has all but confirmed he was behind his wife’s demolition job after she joined the political fray, accusing her of, among other things, incompetence, corruption and even witchcraft.
While officials linked to the Mnangagwa faction are celebrating victory, purged officials, including the expelled former spokesperson Gumbo, told the Zimbabwe Independent Zanu PF had emerged weaker from the congress.
“You cannot eliminate so many people and remain strong. The party is definitely weaker after congress,” Gumbo said last week.
Political commentator Dumisani Nkomo concurred with Gumbo saying Mugabe’s purges will have a profound negative impact on the stability and strength of the party. “Mugabe thinks he has resolved factionalism by jettisoning Mujuru and her allies, but that leaves Zanu PF generally weaker and more undemocratic, moreso with the constitutional amendments that give Mugabe unfettered powers to appoint senior party officials, he said.”
Nkomo said Mujuru and her allies, accused by Mugabe of working with the MDC formations, could create more problems for Zanu PF if they are “brave enough” to jump ship and join forces with the opposition. — Staff Writer.