THERE are no permanent friends and enemies in politics, but only permanent interests. This truism is reflected in President Robert Mugabe’s Machiavellian leadership over decades.
By Hazel Ndebele
Events since the 1970s have shown that Mugabe’s politics is driven by one overriding interest — winning, consolidating and retaining power — and expediency even if it means dumping those who helped him to the top.
Mugabe’s springboard into the Zanu leadership was what became known as the Mgagao Declaration, signed by young guerrilla fighters at the main Zanla training camp in Tanzania at the height of the liberation struggle in 1975.
In that document, authored by Zanla combatants and commanders, including former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s husband, the late General Solomon Mujuru, and Wilfred Mhanda, Mugabe was described as an outstanding nationalist leader who “has demonstrated this by defying the rigours of guerrilla life in the jungles of Mozambique … Since we respect him most — we can only talk through Robert Mugabe”.
Mugabe was then elevated to the Zanu leadership at a special congress in Chimoio, Mozambique, in 1977.
The congress formally booted out the party’s founding leader Ndabaningi Sithole.
Fast track events to Independence in 1980 and and after: in 1982, Mugabe dismissed his then coalition partner, the late Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo and a number of Zapu ministers from his cabinet, accusing them of plotting to overthrow the government.
Nkomo’s dismissal effectively ended the government of national unity that was established in 1980 at Zimbabwe’s independence. However, Mugabe and Nkomo later reunited in 1987, an occasion which is now commemorated annually.
These events show that Mugabe has no permanent friends as he does not hesitate to get rid of those who seem to threaten his interests and power.
Ever since Mugabe came into power both as Zanu PF leader and President of Zimbabwe he has shown that his politics is all about protecting his interests even if it means betrayal of those who helped him get into power in the first place.
Mujuru was booted out of Zanu PF in 2014 after being accused, on untested allegations, of plotting Mugabe’s ouster and even assassination in order to pave way for her elevation. Her husband — who helped Mugabe to the top — fell out with him and died in mysterious circumstances in 2011.
The long list of political heavyweights dumped by Mugabe include former Zanu secretary-general Edgar Tekere, party founding member Eddison Zvobgo, former Zanu PF
secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, Joice Mujuru and former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda.
Unsurprisingly, First Lady Grace Mugabe did not take long to learn Mugabe’s Machiavellian political style. She spearheaded the booting out of Mujuru as she castigated her in almost all of the rallies she held in 2014 ahead of the Zanu PF’s acrimonious congress.
Grace continues to show that she is cut from the same cloth as her husband with her politics of deception and purges.
In a dramatic move, last week members of the Women’s League demonstrated against Hurungwe East Member of Parliament Sarah Mahoka and Bulawayo provincial affairs
minister Eunice Sandi-Moyo, her former close allies who have been sidelined. Mahoka previously appeared to be one of the untouchables in Zanu PF, spitting venom at
Grace’s political enemies, like a true lieutenant. With Mahoka by her side, Grace could choose not to launch direct attacks at her enemies when it suited her, leaving
the job to Mahoka, who revelled in the role.
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was at the receiving end of one of her acerbic attacks last year.
“Do not be like a duck which just quacks as its ducklings perish. Please stand up and speak out,” Mahoka lashed out at Mnangagwa while challenging him to open up on his presidential ambitions.
The outspoken Mahoka also accused Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba of promoting factionalism in Zanu PF by advancing Mnangagwa’s succession agenda through the state media.
Fast forward to current events, Mahoka, who appeared ready to do battle for Grace, has been dumped by the wayside.
Mahoka, together with Grace’s deputy, Sandi-Moyo, were dumped by the Women’s League after being accused of undermining the First Lady in public meetings, among other allegations. Ironically, one of the accusations now being used against Mahoka is that of insulting Mnangagwa and challenging Charamba’s work.
Sandi-Moyo pushed hard in 2015 for Zanu PF to adopt a quota system which party insiders said was designed to block Mnangagwa’s ascendancy. The move would have seen Grace being elevated to become vice-president, putting her at an advantage in the race to succeed Mugabe.
The removal of the two suggests that Grace has perfected her husband’s art of using and dumping political allies.
Grace dumped seven youth provincial chairpersons who include Godfrey Tsenengamu and Godwin Gomwe soon after the ouster of Mujuru.
Unexpectedly on Monday this week, Zanu PF members demonstrated against the party’s national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere proving, yet again, that no one is safe in Zanu PF.
Kasukuwere — hitherto close to Grace — was accused of fanning factionalism and planning to topple Mugabe.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the business of using and dumping people is the politics in Zanu PF.
“That is the politics in Zanu PF language. They all know that Mugabe uses people and dumps them. His wife (Grace) understudied him well,” Saungweme said. “Although she is a very poor political apprentice, she has learnt quite a bit from her husband who relies on divide-and-rule politics. This is meant to send and clear message that no one should dare challenge the First Lady in her political ambitions.”
Other party leaders who have been used and dumped by Grace in her short political career include former Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who worked closely with Grace to oust Mujuru in 2014, hoping for a promotion.
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said the ouster of Mahoka and Sandi-Moyo is not a surprising move as Zanu PF is well known for such manoeuvres.
“It is not the first time this has happened. In fact, it is a pattern and it should be a lesson to all Zanu PF members that they should be alert. It dates back from the 1960s whereby there was a saying that ‘Tamba wakachenjera’, which means you have to be wise in the way you go about your day-to-day business in politics,”
Masunungure said. “Zanu PF dumps you when it exhausts your usefulness or when you get perceived as a threat to Mugabe’s hold on power. Grace is now using the same tactics as her husband.”