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Political highlights of 2014

NOONE ever imagined at the beginning of the year that within 12 months former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Zanu PF stalwarts like Didymus Mutasa, Nicholas Goche or even Dzikamai Mavhaire would be booted out of Zanu PF’s Soviet-style politburo, cabinet and government.

Herbert Moyo

But then again, as they say, even a week is a long time in politics.

When 2014 started many in Zanu PF were still celebrating the controversial, massive July 2013 general elections victory over old nemesis Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party. Back then, Zanu PF had the semblance of a united party.

Unbeknown to those within and outside Zanu PF, many of whom never imagined the party would win a more than two-thirds majority in parliament, there were major surprises in store — informed by the party’s perennial factional politics in the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe — in the run up to and at the party’s December congress, and even after.

The long-simmering tensions between the two main rival factions led by newly-appointed Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his predecessor Mujuru finally erupted in September as the two squared off in a bare-knuckled battle to eventually succeed Mugabe.

Until August, Mujuru appeared a shoe-in to succeed Zanu PF leader Mugabe, who turns 91 in February.

Mnangagwa appeared down and out after last year’s Zanu PF provincial elections which left Mujuru in charge of nine out of the 10 provinces, making her an obvious favourite to take over from Mugabe when he leaves office.

She also had control of other critical structures like the politburo where her allies held key positions, and cabinet.

The Mujuru camp felt cosy after scoring some points in June when they thought they had finally managed to get rid of Information minister Jonathan Moyo after Mugabe publicly attacked Moyo and others at politburo member Nathan Shamuyarira’s funeral on June 7 at the National Heroes Acre, labelling them “weevils” who wanted to destroy Zanu PF from within.

For weeks after Mugabe’s attack the sun once again seemed to be setting on Moyo’s Zanu PF political career. Mutasa even seized on the opportunity to famously suggest that Gamatox (a banned pesticide) be used to destroy the “weevils”.

But alas the tables were soon to turn after Mugabe’s wife, Grace, unexpectedly stormed the local political stage in July after the Women’s League surprisingly nominated her to be their boss. This was to be a precursor to the destruction of the Mujuru camp and a sudden upturn in the fortunes of the Mnangagwa camp.

There was drama which held the nation spellbound as Grace joined forces with the Mnangagwa camp and a group dubbed Generation 40 that includes Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere and Patrick Zhuwao.

The drama of in-fighting wrought by succession issues was not only confined to Zanu PF but also ravaged the opposition MDC-T. The Morgan Tsvangirai-led party formerly split in April when its secretary-general Tendai Biti, deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma and other national executive members broke away. This split was precipitated by Mangoma’s letter in January to Tsvangirai asking him to pass on the leadership baton in the interests of leadership renewal, following the party’s drubbing in last year’s general elections.

In April, Biti at Mandel Training Centre in Harare led a breakaway along with senior party officials who included Sekai Holland, Mangoma, Samuel Nkomo, Julius Magarangoma, Promise Mkhwananzi, Solomon Madzore and Jeffreyson Chitando.

In the ensuing chaos, Biti and Tsvangirai suspended each other as they both claimed to lead the authentic MDC. Biti’s team eventually settled for the name MDC-Renewal. Tsvangirai is now fighting in the courts to have Biti and his group recalled from parliament saying they no longer belong to the MDC-T on whose ticket they made it into parliament.

Biti’s Renewal Team has since formed a coalition with Welshman Ncube’s MDC and their congress is scheduled for 2015.

Tsvangirai’s party held its congress in October and the biggest casualty was former cabinet minister and party organising secretary Nelson Chamisa who shockingly lost the secretary-general’s post to Douglas Mwonzora, then party spokesperson.

However, the congress virtually went unnoticed as the local and international media remained fixated with the goings-on in Zanu PF.

As a prelude to Armageddon for the Mujuru camp, a salary scandal involving parastatal, state enterprise and local authority heads was uncovered and received much media coverage. Jaw-dropping salaries of chief executives linked to Mujuru like retired Public Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) boss Cuthbert Dube and suspended ZBC CEO Happison Muchechetere were exposed in the state media.

Dube was getting an “obscene” basic salary of US$230 000 per month and over US$500 000 including benefits, while Muchechetere raked in a basic monthly salary of more than US$27 000 in addition to monthly allowances for housing at US$3 500 per month, US$2 500 in domestic workers’ wages, US$3 000 for entertainment and a general allowance of US$3 000. He was getting about US$40 000 per month excluding fuel and other benefits, while workers at the insolvent broadcaster went unpaid for seven months.

Mujuru claimed then that the so-called “salarygate” was merely targeted at punishing some individuals on the basis of their affiliations as it turned out those who found themselves on the receiving end like Dube and Muchechetere were believed to be aligned to her faction.

No sooner had this storm died down than the party’s Youth and Women’s League congresses were held in August amid organisational and factional chaos, bringing to the fore the ever-widening fissures and increasingly dirty in-fighting.

It was then that Mugabe provided hints of the turning tide, publicly lambasting Mutasa for the poor organisation of the congresses, accusing Mujuru loyalists of vote-buying and ominously hinting heads would roll at the December congress.

Sensing defeat in August at the Women’s League conference, the Mnangagwa faction pursuaded Oppah Muchinguri to give up her post as Women’s League boss for Grace. The Mujuru faction wanted to propose Olivia Muchena for that post.

When Grace seized the opportunity, very few if any could have anticipated the political storm she was about to unleash as she traversed the length and breadth of the country’s 10 provinces in a so-called “Meet the People Tour” denouncing Mujuru for allegedly plotting Mugabe’s ouster and assassination, corruption, extortion as well as fanning factionalism, among other charges.

Like the feared tsunami, Grace left a trail of destruction in the Mujuru camp as she shot from the hip and spewed bile at virtually all her “Meet the People” rallies. She called Mujuru a demon, witch, thief, factionalist, gossiper and cast aspersions on her morals. She unleashed a vituperative collection of expletives and obscenities which many observers deemed to be beneath the dignity of a First Lady.

Mugabe was to later join in, accusing Mujuru of witchcraft and plotting to assassinate him.

Grace’s vitriol was followed by planned demonstrations by rented crowds, which led to a relentless purge of Mujuru loyalists heading provincial party structures. Grace had advice for Mujuru: Resign or be “baby dumped” at congress.

As fate would have it, then party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo — the only Mujuru high-ranking loyalist to boldly stand behind her despite the onslaught — and former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda were the first to fall in November.

Gumbo was first suspended at a politburo meeting and then expelled. The final blow for the Mujuru faction came with the sacking of Mujuru herself and Mutasa from government this month.

Francis Nhema (Indigenisation and Youth), Dzikamai Mavhaire (Energy) and Nicholas Goche (Labour) all joined Mujuru i n the political scrap yard while this month Mnangagwa finally got the vice presidency which many believe puts him in the driving seat to succeed Mugabe.

Trigger-happy Mugabe was not done as he went to fire seven more ministers as part of an on-going purge targeting officials linked to Mujuru. Those shown the door last Sunday are Flora Buka (Minister of State for Presidential Affairs), Paul Chimedza (Health and Child Care), Sylvester Nguni (Minister of State in former Vice-President Mujuru’s office), Tongai Muzenda (Public Service deputy minister), Petronella Kagonye (Transport deputy minister), Fortune Chasi (Justice deputy minister) and Tendai Savanhu (Lands deputy minister).

An unknown Phelekezela Mphoko was appointed co-vice president ahead of Simon Khaya Moyo, who lost the post because of his allegiance to Mujuru.

The drama may well be far from over as Mujuru and her allies are refusing to quit the party without a fight. Mutasa has since formally requested Sadc to intervene in the Zanu PF infighting.
The Zimbabwean economy was the biggest casualty as company closures and a liquidity crunch continued throughout the year with the Zanu PF government clueless on how to resuscitate the economy.

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