THERE has been fierce infighting in Zanu PF over President Robert Mugabe’s contested succession amid calls by the party’s Youth League to declare him life president.
The party is abuzz with talk of a looming Zanu PF extraordinary congress in December to choose a candidate for next year’s presidential election as there are widespread fears that Mugabe will not have the stamina to stand the rigours of a nationwide campaign.
Zimbabwe Independent news editor Owen Gagare (OG) spoke to Zanu PF spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo (SK) about the party’s succession power struggle and the upcoming elections. Below are excerpts of the interview:
OG: What would you say is the state of Zanu PF at present?
SK: Well, frankly, Zanu PF is a very strong party; very strong in the sense that we are the party with the largest following in terms of membership across the country. Meaning really that, where there is no opposition, as in our case, you cannot compare yourself to nothing.
We naturally being such a massive party are mindful of the fact that there are differences of opinions on some issues and naturally those should never be taken as infighting.
They are part of a democratic process. People must air their views; they must discuss matters. But what of course we shall never promote is violence amongst each other. That we cannot tolerate.
We will never accept violence of any kind. People must learn to discuss matters. People must learn to agree to disagree, and whatever contradictions might arise they must not be antagonistic.
They must be viewed as differences of opinion but still debatable and in the end hopefully come to a consensus. This is what is expected of a party that has been there for many years.
We have gone through a lot of challenges, first from the split itself in 1963 when Zanu was formed after splitting from Zapu, but we never lost focus on the liberation struggle.
We knew at a certain point we would find each other again, which happened of course in 1976 by the formation of the Patriotic Front (PF) which PF became a vehicle for our negotiations at every fora, at Geneva, Malta and Lancaster; we were all under the banner of the PF with the two co-leaders President (Robert) Mugabe and Father Zimbabwe (Joshua Nkomo) …
Unfortunately, after Lancaster, we did not participate in the elections as a PF, but we participated separately, but after the results, we came together to form one government.
Of course, there were difficulties, problems in the early days of our Independence, but we again managed to discuss our differences and finally came up with the Unity Accord of 1987 and we have remained like that since then.
OG: You spoke about the need not to resort to violence, but this is precisely what we are seeing in Zanu PF today. There were clashes in Bulawayo last month, for example. Does this mean Zanu PF is now fragile and weak?
SK: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s weaker; I would only say it doesn’t give the party the good name which we all yearn for. In my view it’s really because of the succession focus. There have been factions within our party which factions should never have been allowed to last this long.
A lot has been said about these factions and really some of us have been of the view that these factions must be eliminated. There is only one Zanu PF with one president and you cannot in that scenario we have factions with their own leaders.
It’s an insult actually to the party. It’s treason, if I may call it, but it has been allowed to mature and hence the problems we face. People owe loyalty to individuals not the party and that is not acceptable.
OG: But why is it happening?
SK: Well, this is the question. Why is it happening? The president has warned on it. I will tell you one thing: we, of the former Zapu, were called by the old man Josh soon after the signing of the Unity Accord.
He called us and said, “Today we have signed the Unity Accord, meaning there is one president, and I don’t want you to belong to any faction. Even if I die, I want you to remain where you are; I want you to remain in Zanu PF and be loyal to one man, that is President Robert Mugabe.”
We have ourselves remained with his word, but we get pained, of course, when we hear some of us being allocated factions.
But, of course, this is mischief by some people who want to destroy the party.
But we cannot and we have said repeatedly to the president that these factions must be eliminated.
I believe he is trying his best. I heard him speak in Marondera that this must stop. But nobody seems to be listening and this creates problems for us.
OG: Perhaps one of the reasons why factionalism is not stopping is because Zanu PF seems to be skirting around the issue of succession. Is it not time to address the succession problem?
SK: Well, this is what I said. It’s obviously something to do with succession. People love power and you know when you love power you can create anything.
But I believe people must realise that we have a constitution, party constitution, which was recently amended at the last congress, where the only person elected at congress is the president.
Members of the central committee are elected at provinces and endorsed, of course, at congress. And it is out of that lot that the president appoints the two vice-presidents. Appoints, underline that, appoints.
People must realise that they are not elected, they are appointed. The president appoints two vice-presidents and members of the politburo from those elected central committee members from provinces.
So I don’t seem to understand why people cannot get that clear. Despite that, people are finding their own ways of building themselves or trying to build themselves. But if you are appointed, how do you build yourself?
OG: Speaking to Zanu PF members, there is a feeling that the president is too old and might not be able to stand in the next election, hence people are positioning themselves.
SK: Well, I don’t know what positioning will mean because by the end of the day people will decide who.
Maybe somebody you have never ever thought of, but it’s up to the people. So people must not position themselves as if they think for the people.
People know who is who and it doesn’t matter if you lose sleep organising this and going to various sources where you think power can come from. What is important is that whatever assignment you are given, just work hard and fulfil it.
The idea of visiting n’angas (witchdoctors) and undermining each other on falsehoods is unfortunate. There are a lot of people in the party that have become specialists in lying and that must stop. Even the president, when you tell him lies, he is bound to take decisions bound on falsehoods, which is dangerous.
OG: Is it taboo for someone to openly declare their presidential ambitions, so that they are considered?
SK: No, it’s not a crime, it’s not a crime at all, but the point is that it is unconstitutional.
We have got a constitution as a party and why not follow the constitution?
Everybody has some kind of ambition, but when you go flat out to say I’m the one, then you are dividing people. Time will come when you are free to sound yourself to the people.
It’s a pity because in this situation, in our situation and generally in Africa we don’t have opportunity to debate issues and justify why you want that position.
That is most unfortunate because people must be able to express themselves. Why do you want to be president? What qualities do you think you have which will make things move?
What really should people look into and say this is the person? But we don’t have opportunities, I don’t know why. But I think eventually we should have a situation where as a party we should be able to debate. And say so and so I think has better qualities because of what they say, as a party, but we seem to be lagging behind, a lot of developed countries do that. I think it’s fair.
OG: Could it be that President Mugabe has cult status in Zanu PF and is such a dominant character that people are afraid to declare their ambitions?
SK: Well, I don’t know, but the point is that we have forums in the party. We can discuss these things and I don’t see who will say, no, no, no, there must not be debate.
OG: No one has ever taken that up?
SK: No, this is the point. This is what I’m saying. I think it’s something which we should consider seriously.
In my view, let those who are aspiring to be president, in closed meetings in our party, tell us what they have to offer. What do they have to offer?
OG: How do you think the succession issue will be solved? It seems as though as long as it’s not solved, factionalism will continue.
SK: It’s difficult to tell. The president has been quite clear that he cannot choose a successor. That will be done by the people at congress, but like I said, the factions are not doing good to the party either.
They are really destroying the party and yet we should not have anything called faction in the party because it means your loyalty now is divided; either you believe in the president or your faction leader and that is dangerous.
OG: Some people have said the president should choose a successor because of his age and also because of the infighting in the party. Is this a feasible idea?
SK: It’s up to the president. I can tell you that he is a very intelligent man. I’m sure he can assess the situation at a given point and decide otherwise. I don’t know, but certainly it is up to him.
OG: Can we say there is no succession plan in Zanu PF?
SK: Not that I know of. But there is a constitution which is guiding us. There could be some people planning; I don’t know, but certainly I’m not aware of any plans.
OG: Some people, including think-tanks, believe Zanu PF’s failure to deal with President Mugabe’s succession is a security threat.
SK: Truly speaking, I think there are so many thoughts about this matter; I wouldn’t know which one is correct. There are many people postulating and saying because of this because of that, but I wouldn’t know. People meet and talk, but you don’t know what they are talking. This is the problem about politics, you only hear after and you are caught unawares.
OG: Some youths such as Kudzanayi Chipanga have called for President Mugabe to be declared a life president. We have also heard the same sentiments from the Women’s League. Is this something Zanu PF is considering?
SK: No, no no, we have never discussed that. As I said, a lot of things are happening; people are talking in different places. We have wings in the party such as the Youth League and Women’s League and they meet and talk.
hear some of the things when they meet. These are perhaps their opinions, but certainly not as a party. We have never discussed that in terms of the central committee or politburo.
OG: Don’t you think you have let people down as the Zanu PF leadership by failing to deal with the succession issue? It seems Zanu PF is expending energy on succession issues rather than solving economic problems
SK: No, as I said, people are speaking and we allow people to speak. All I’m saying is that it’s not a matter we have really tackled adequately as the central committee or politburo.
OG: Is it not time?
SK: Well it is. We have been talking about it at all conferences, but just to say we deplore factionalism and it ends there … I personally would say those who are involved in factionalism, the leadership of these factions, must be exposed and action taken against them.
OG: Given the divisions in the party, how ready is Zanu PF for the general elections next year?
SK: I believe that Zanu PF is ready for elections. The party has sound policies and programmes so we are looking forward to a clean election.
People resonate with our programmes. We had good fortune with the rains so the command agriculture, though not perfect, helped.
The Presidential Agricultural Inputs Scheme has also been well received.
Once people realise that they are benefitting they will give you support. But we must not take the elections for granted, we must continue to engage and listen to the people.
OG: But the Zanu PF government appears not to have a solution to the country’s economic problems. Is that not a factor?
SK: Of course, sanctions have affected us in terms of trade and investment. I met a delegation from the United States State Department yesterday (Monday) and discussed those things. Trade with the US, for example, has dropped dramatically.
In 2012, trade was US$557 million, but it dropped to US$67 million in 2016. Exports decreased from US$16 million in 2012 to US$1,9 million in 2016. The sanctions have really affected us.
But our people have been resilient because in some countries people could have rioted.
OG: But investors have also shunned Zimbabwe because of the high level of corruption. Government officials are demanding bribes from potential investors. Some have pointed to the lack of respect for property rights and so on.
SK: Yes, yes, that is serious, particularly in terms of corruption. Lots of people thrive on corruption, but they are still very free. I’m talking about big fish. They have to be brought to book and brought to book in a serious manner, which will discourage others from participating.
OG: Why are corrupt officials not being arrested?
SK: There are agencies which are supposed to deal with such issues. It’s not enough to say so and so is corrupt; there must be thorough investigations before people are brought to book, but we don’t seem to see that happening.
OG: Is it not because government officials and the politically connected are using their positions to shield themselves?
SK: If you are protected by your position, that is not how it should work. That’s what we are facing and it’s very unfortunate. Corruption is now a major cancer.
OG: You say you are confident. How confident are you of winning an election with a presidential candidate who will be 94?
SK: The point is simple. The constitution is clear, we had elections in 2013 and the next elections are next year.
The president has always stated that as long as he still has the energy and people want him to run, he will act according to the wishes of the people.
OG: We are told there could be an extra-ordinary congress in December to elect the party’s presidential candidate. Is this the case?
SK: There are people who talk and this derives its roots from the factions. This must come to an end.
But if people feel they need another leader, it must be done through a congress, but certainly not do it on factional grounds.