IF at all there was still need for further evidence that Zanu PF elite cohesion — rulers’ ability to maintain loyalty and co-operation of allies within the regime — has collapsed it was provided in abundance by President Robert Mugabe’s latest fallout with co-Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
Despite working together for over 50 years, Mugabe and Mnangagwa last week spectacularly fell out in the aftermath of war veterans’ unprecedented attacks on their patron whom they accused of abandoning ideals of the liberation struggle, misrule and failure in a Mgagao-style communiqué released two weeks ago.
In scenes reminiscent of the post-Tsholotsho debacle, Mugabe threw Mnangagwa to the wolves in public and allowed him to be ruthlessly mauled by G40 attack dogs led by Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene.
Feeling the unbearable heat and in a bid to save his torn political career, Mnangagwa subsequently threw under the bus his fearless allies — the war veterans — who had been ferociously fighting to keep him in the succession race.
Following the arrest of war veterans in a vicious crackdown after their hard-hitting communiqué, the Zanu PF politburo moved on Wednesday to expel the ex-combatants’ leaders from the ruling party. Their leader Chris Mutsvangwa had already been booted out.
The expulsion of Mutsvangwa, militant war veteran leaders like Victor Matematanda, Douglas Mahiya, Francis Nhando and Headman Moyo, and the suspension of Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana as well as the jailing of former Reserve Bank senior official Munyaradzi Kereke, symbolised the intensifying purges of Mnangagwa’s allies. Many others have also been suspended or expelled.
In the aftermath of Zanu PF’s acrimonious December 2014 congress, former vice-president Joice Mujuru and high-profile allies were also expelled en masse.
While this has left Mnangagwa’s camp in disarray, the internal strife has also triggered party disintegration as elite cohesion melts in the intense wrangling heat.
As Steve Levitsky (Harvard University) and Lucan Way (University of Toronto), co-authors of a seminal work on what they call competitive authoritarian regimes, put it: “Ruling parties foster elite cohesion, which is widely viewed as essential to authoritarian stability. Elite cohesion may be defined as rulers’ ability to maintain the loyalty and co-operation of allies within the regime. Where cohesion is high, ministers, allied legislators and local officials routinely support and co-operate with the government. Internal rebellion and defection are rare, and when they occur, they attract few followers. Where cohesion is low, incumbents routinely confront insubordination, rebellion, or defection, which often contributes to authoritarian breakdown.”
The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute refer to this in their interesting report titled Economic Crisis and Prospects of Regime Breakdown in Zimbabwe.
The breakdown of elite cohesion within the Zanu PF liberation aristocracy comes at a time when Zimbabweans are slowly, but surely, waking up from their slumber to speak out on the slow-burn crisis consuming the country and Mugabe’s explosive succession power struggle, with specific focus on pressing social and economic problems. Various political scientists have shown authoritarian regimes, like the Zanu PF one, only fall when elite cohesion collapses — often leading to serious bickering — and masses become agitated demanding change.
Capitalising on growing social unrest and complementing opposition protests, civic groups have of late been taking to the streets to vent their pent-up anger against Mugabe and his regime.
On Wednesday many people — including reporters — were beaten up or injured in Harare after police used brute force to disperse anti-bond notes demonstrations organised by Transform Zimbabwe, Coalition of Unemployed Graduates and Tajamuka/Sesijikile pressure groups.
In recent weeks Tajamuka and #ThisFlag staged civil disobedience protests and a widely observed stay-away, adding further pressure on a bankrupt Mugabe regime which has been struggling to meet its obligations, including paying civil servants.
Government, however, thinks it’s re-engagement with the West and international financial institutions and Chinese bailouts will give it a reprieve, but with the economy remaining on a downward spiral, protests can only get worse, putting further pressure on the entrenched party-military-security apparatus.