Retrogressive politics of Zanu PF factionalism

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There is now a growing trend in Zanu PF which if not nipped in the bud sooner rather than later will drive not only the once formidable party, but the entire Zimbabwean nation down the precipice.

Alexander Rusero Political Analyst

It is the now dominating retrogressive politics of factionalism and demonisation which seem acceptable or rather an indicator that at least Zanu PF’s centre of power no longer holds. Amid this growing trend, key to the longevity and potractedness of the crisis in Zanu PF, has been the medieval thinking that party leadership is infallible and only answerable to God.

Such thinking has systematically demonstrated that the cat could not be kept in the bag for long when in the early 1980s the party’s secretary-general Edgar Tekere differed with his erstwhile comrades over the establishment of a one-party state. After being expelled from the party, he went on to form the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (Zum) that contested against Zanu PF in the 1990 general elections.
Given the now seemingly endless squabbles of the opposition politics and the limited chances of a grand coalition that can unseat Zanu PF, factions within the ruling party are greatly convinced that whichever clique prevails now has leverage in the future. Whereas the linchpin of Zanu PF’s power has always been the security, the critical power broker has remained mum on the unfolding crisis.

The last potion of 2014 witnessed pungent scheming within Zanu PF which can be pointed to as the genesis of the ongoing factional dynamics. Mugabe’s wife Grace took the leading role in denigrating and humiliating the party and the government’s vice-president Joice Mujuru right to the subsequent humiliating removal and later expulsion as both vice-president of the party and of the State.

On April 3 2015, a state-controlled daily summarised Mujuru’s alleged sensational charges as follows: “The grounds for Joice Mujuru’s expulsion from Zanu PF include but not limited to the following; plotting to unconstitutionally remove the president and first secretary of the party from office; orchestrating the ‘bhora musango’, orchestrating factionalism in the party thereby causing divisions, abusing party structures to create a competing centre of power; engaging in behaviour unbecoming of a vice president and second secretary of the party; systematically collaborating and colluding with the enemy in a manner that undermines the party and risked bringing it into disrepute; engaging in activities that smack of corruption, engaging in criminal abuse of office, impugning, maligning and undermining the party and the president and providing leadership to the regime change agenda and fifth column politics within Zanu PF”.

To this day Mujuru has never been brought before trial which either exhibits a smokescreen charge sheet that was aimed at justifying and sanitising her rather unjustified expulsion or of a party whose leadership exalts benevolence to one of its own. Given the growing fears in political circles towards the People First project — a political outfit allegedly led by Mujuru, the former proves more subtle than the latter.

Mujuru’s demotion and expulsion within the party was accompanied by a similar fate for many other senior members, including other war heroes, typical of a revolution that was now devouring its own.

Yet the systematic language and verbal abuse used towards the time of her expulsion by her anti-factional crusade sowed seeds of destruction threatening the last thread still holding the party together. Ridicule and denigration are uncharacteristic outfits typical of a party that won resoundingly in the last election.

Whereas Mugabe has in the past been known for instilling discipline and order in the party, it is now apparent that the current factional wars characterised by excess demonisation are just but a juggernaut which even Mugabe himself cannot control.

That Mugabe has failed to extinguish factional fires rattling his party and putting to halt the ruling party’s major focus on governance and service delivery is not perplexing but rather pathetic. Zimbabwe has been reduced to be the only country in the region that does not stop campaigning after an election. There is no break in between victory and the next election.

But for all that is happening, Mugabe does not have anyone to blame for he allowed unnecessary personal glorification. Had Mugabe created a conducive environment in his party that allowed genuine introspection and positive criticism nothing close to the current seething crisis could have happened.

Zimbabwe under Zanu PF rule and Mugabe’s watch invented a retrogressive liberation war legacy of patriotic history. According to this line of thought, one was either a patriot or a sell out. So you were either Zanu PF or thus a super patriot or anti Zanu PF and therefore a sell-out. The strategy has been used to denigrate any political outfit that stands a critical voice to Zanu PF rule.

At the burial of firebrand Zipra commander Lookout Masuku in Bulawayo at the height of the Gukurahundi massacres in April 1986, the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo or Father Zimbabwe as he is affectionately known — then enemy of Mugabe — once bemoaned Zanu PF’s political modus operandi of hate when he said: “We are enveloped in the politics of hate. The amount of hate that is being preached today in this country is frightful. What Zimbabwe fought for was peace, progress, love, respect, justice, equality, not the opposite. We have created fear on the minds of some in our country. We have made them feel unwanted and unsafe.

“No country can live by slogans, pasi (down) with this pasi that. When you are ruling you should never say pasi to anyone. Even if there is something with someone you must try to uplift him, not oppress him. We cannot condemn other people then do things even worse than they did.”

Sadly Nkomo’s voice was that of a loner in the wilderness.

Public rants exhibited between War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa and Presidential spokesperson George Charamba was unbecoming for a winning party. Neither did the description of some war veterans as drunkards by the party’s political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere. In other words the public fights in Zanu PF are nowhere a convincing pointer of a party that clinched a whooping two-thirds majority in Parliament.

But it is not much about the disintegration of Zanu PF that matters. What matters is that the very same party given a mandate has nothing to show for that victory. It is either the party officials, who happen to be government ministers or top bureaucrats, are on holiday or scolding and denigrating each other.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s ship continues to sink in a terrifying way. Drought is looming and starvation is inevitable. Unemployment has risen to levels where it is now a security threat. There is tense and anger evidenced by the recent skirmishes between commuter omnibus rank marshals and municipal police. The country cannot afford to crash and burn whilst Zanu PF, like village herd boys, are in a useless mudslinging spree against each other. It is now war of all against all and Mugabe for us all.

By so doing, the party officials are fast demonstrating that they do not care about the people whatsoever but about themselves. The party is fast being converted to personal rule of kleptocrats. Kleptocrats are on record of implementing highly inefficient policies, expropriating citizens’ wealth and use the proceeds for their own glorification or consumption.

Kleptocrats use the divide and rule tactic to perpetuate their perennial stay in power. As such factional fights in Zanu PF are typical of kleptocratic creation. For Mugabe who has fought so hard to assert an enduring legacy of an African statesman to be classified a kleptocrat is not only painful but succumbing to historical defeat of his own making.

Examples of kleptocratic regimes include Uganda under Idi Amin, Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko, Liberia under Charles Taylor and the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos. This is no group Mugabe would certainly desire to be associated with. There is not much time.

The right thing would be to craft a dignified and desirable exit plan, only possible through succession and a triumphal stepping down, not hitting another campaign trail as already agitated by certain selfish protagonists in his party.

Rusero is a PhD candidate at Rhodes University. — arusero@yahoo.com

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