ONLY days after the much-hyped Zanu PF congress and contrary to assertions by party leader President Robert Mugabe and wife, Grace, that it had dealt a mortal blow to raging factionalism within the party by smoking out those aligned to fired vice-president Joice Mujuru, fresh fissures appear to have emerged overnight.
Party bigwigs, who in the last few weeks fought from the same corner to thwart Mujuru’s presidential ambitions, are now at each other’s throats.
The battle is once again being openly fought on familiar turf, the state media, which has been a weapon of choice in exposing alleged scandals involving Mujuru and her loyalists, including a purported plot to oust Mugabe by methods including “the Laurent Kabila way” (assassination).
Psychomotor minister and Zanu PF politburo member, Josaya Hungwe, a close Mnangagwa ally, was viciously attacked on Tuesday on the front page of the state daily Herald for “hero-worshiping” the vice-president last Saturday at a bash to celebrate his appointment in his home area of Zvishavane.
In the story, Hungwe was said to have sparked outrage for likening Mnangagwa to Jesus Christ as “such hero-worshipping had the danger of creating an alternative centre of power in Zanu PF which the party’s just-ended 6th National People’s Congress rectified by killing factionalism”.
Hungwe’s remarks were also condemned in the Herald — which is controlled from Mugabe’s Munhumutapa offices — as having the potential of creating another centre of power in the party and implying that “VP Mnangagwa was above the one who appointed him”.
In a sustained onslaught in the run-up to the congress held on December 2-7, Mujuru was accused of having created an alternative centre of power rivalling that of the party leader, thus conveniently justifying amendments to the party constitution — widely deemed illegal — which gave Mugabe more powers including to handpicking the presidium comprising himself and two vice-presidents.
Mujuru and Mnangagwa have for over a decade been locked in a bitter battle to succeed 90-year-old Mugabe.
On Monday Zanu PF ordered its 10 provinces not to suspend officials, after the Manicaland and Bulawayo provincial committees adopted motions to suspend or oust officials last weekend, especially those suspected of being sympathetic towards Mujuru.
This is a clear sign that simmering factional infighting fuelled by the unresolved question of Mugabe’s succession is far from over and if anything, could well intensify.
On Wednesday, the privately-owned Daily News suggested as much in an article headlined Zanu PF sharks turn on each other, in which those aligned to the Mnangagwa faction were said to be locked in a nasty and escalating fight for the spoils of their victory over Mujuru. Some members of the camp are said to feel they were inadequately rewarded for their role in Mujuru’s ouster.
The so-called “Gang of Four”, comprising party heavyweight Oppah Muchinguri, Jonathan Moyo, Patrick Zhuwao and Saviour Kasukuwere, is said to be seeking more power in the party after working closely with Grace during her countrywide tour in which she scurrilously lambasted Mujuru, demanding her immediate resignation. Grace accused Mujuru of — among other shortcomings — corruption, extortion, shady mining deals, incompetence and gossip.
And last week, fissures in Zanu PF were evident when small groups of party heavyweights were seen huddled up, holding private meetings ahead of an extraordinary central committee meeting at the party headquarters.
Moyo, Kasukuwere, Zhuwao and a few other Youth League executive members could be seen whispering among each other, while Mnangagwa’s loyalists, Larry Mavima, July Moyo, Edison Chakanyuka and Joram Gumbo also met privately as they awaited Mugabe’s arrival.
Although Zanu PF has two main factions led by Mnangagwa and Mujuru, there are other groups within factions, including a pro-Mugabe clique, the military element allegedly led by Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga, who is said to harbour presidential ambitions, and a youthful group referred to as Generation 40 allegedly fronted by Information minister Jonathan Moyo, Water minister Kasukuwere and politburo member Zhuwao.
But in the build-up to the just-ended congress, Zanu PF sub-groups teamed up with Grace and the Mnangagwa faction to form an alliance that booted out Mujuru.
Political analyst and University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said actions that preceded the congress did not end factionalism in Zanu PF.
“Factionalism is inevitable in any functioning organisation,” Masunungure said.
“Eliminating factionalism is ideal, but it cannot be done, especially if there is a leadership crisis,” Masunungure said adding: “We saw a unity of purpose to push out Mujuru, but those groups are now re-organising themselves since their common agenda has been fulfilled, but their missions remain different.”
He also said factionalism could only be mitigated, but not completely eradicated because a defeated faction can jump ship, join the victorious one or regroup.
Another analyst Dumisani Nkomo said the factions in Zanu PF united for the mission to remove Mujuru whose camp controlled most of the provinces.
“Mujuru had spread tentacles in the party and government so the factions had to group in order to dislodge her,” Nkomo said. “But now that Mujuru and her faction are gone, there is likely to be a power struggle as the smaller factions want to take over influential positions in the party and government.”
Bulawayo-based analyst Godwin Phiri, warned factionalism in Zanu PF would linger on as long as Mugabe’s succession remains unresolved.
“If only Mugabe can resolve the succession issue by naming his successor then this would kill factionalism,” Phiri said.
“At the moment, Mugabe keeps everyone guessing and what happened to Mujuru can also happen to Mnangagwa, so each group will fight till the end in order to strategically position itself for take-over.”