PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has on at least two occasions publicly accused Zanu PF of working against him.
At a healing and reconciliation workshop for winning and losing Zanu PF primary election contestants before the July 30 general elections, Mnangagwa claimed there was plot to impeach him. He claimed to have received this information from the intelligence services.
The second incident on this followed the July 30 elections. Addressing victorious Zanu PF parliamentary candidates Mnangagwa accused some MPs of attempting to sabotage his presidential bid by not campaigning for him.
When the president speaks, people generally listen and the question that naturally arises from his serious claims of a plot of impeachment and sabotage is: who in Zanu PF is behind the plot? If there is indeed a plot as he claims, that impeachment and sabotage would not be an end in itself, but a means to the end of seizing power.
Given his public comments, Mnangagwa cannot be allowed to complain, as he has, that detractors are peddling malicious rumours of escalating tensions between him and his deputy Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga. He is the one who has publicly claimed the existence of a nefarious plot and the audience of his claims is rightly speculating as to what and who he was talking about.
More questions arise in light of remarks by deputy chief secretary George Charamba following the Bulawayo bombing where he claimed that the deadly incident was an expression of “unresolved leadership issues”. Again, these are words spoken by Mnangagwa’s own spokesperson.
If there is an unresolved leadership issue in Zanu PF, then it follows that there are players in that contestation for power. So who are they? If those players are willing to throw a bomb, as alleged by Charamba, then what would otherwise be an unimportant internal Zanu PF squabble immediately rises to a national political and security issue that must be examined without fear or favour.
This internal contest for power, referred to by both Mnangagwa and Charamba, became evident with Mnangagwa’s dismal performance in the July 30 presidential election where he crossed the 50% plus 1 mark by less than 1% of the popular vote. This must be contrasted with the impressive, even if disputed, performance of Zanu PF parliamentary candidates seized a two-thirds majority.
Mnangagwa cannot claim credit for Zanu PF’s dominance in parliament because he could not have won votes for Zanu PF parliamentary candidates that he could not win for himself. There are a number of constituencies where Mnangagwa trailed Zanu PF parliamentary candidates or lost outright. His fears of impeachment are therefore not unfounded as he clearly is not the political power behind the Zanu PF domination of parliament.
Coming back to the individual(s) behind the alleged plot to impeach Mnangagwa: The star of the November 2017 coup show was then Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantino Chiwenga. It was Chiwenga who risked his career and life by deploying the army without the authorisation of then president Robert Mugabe. Mnangagwa, by his own admission, had already ran away.
Therefore, the factual historical position that must inform political analysis is that Chiwenga and the military elevated Mnangagwa to the presidency. Without the military there is no way Mnangagwa would have constitutionally emerged as president. This position is accepted in Zanu PF and it is the reason for Mnangagwa’s political insecurity. There is a power that proved greater than Mugabe and that power remains greater than him.
Mnangagwa’s insecurity was recently put on public display when the Zanu PF Youth League and Masvingo Provincial Coordinating Committee passed resolutions declaring him the 2023 candidate. Three months after an election, one would think Zanu PF has more pressing issues to attend to. Why would a politically secure president engineer resolutions declaring him candidate for an election that is five years away?
The resolutions declaring Mnangagwa the 2023 candidate are not the random praise of overzealous party faithful, but a response to power-seeking manoeuvres within Zanu PF and the security apparatus.
Since the coup, chatter within Zanu PF has alluded to a gentleman’s agreement where Mnangagwa had agreed to stand for one term and then hand over to his deputy. This arrangement has been widely reported in the media.
It is on the strength of the agreement that Chiwenga traded his military fatigues for a suit and tie to familiarise himself with the workings of government and statecraft. There is no other plausible reason why an influential and powerful general would leave the prestige of leading the defence forces to occupy the powerless vice-president position.
The events of the past weeks indicate that something has gone terribly wrong and there is now serious trouble in the post-coup paradise.
The hiring of Acie Lumumba (paid US$40 000 by Mnangagwa’s adviser Chris Mutsvangwa) to attack Sakunda Holdings as well as create a basis for the suspension of Reserve Bank executives is the clearest sign that factions have returned to Zanu PF. Mutsvangwa went on to tell The Standard newspaper that Chiwenga was using Deputy Minister of Defence Victor Matemadanda to remove him from his position at the helm of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association.
The question is why Chiwenga would bother himself with fighting Mutsvangwa, a man who holds no power and out of government in the streets after losing in the elections. If Chiwenga is indeed behind Mutsvangwa’s troubles, then the target of that attack is not Mutsvangwa himself but the person Mutsvangwa is working for; the same person who sent him to pay Lumumba US$40 000 to attack business interests linked to the retired general.
There are no prizes for guessing who Mutsvangwa is working for, the same principal his wife is working for — Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa knows he remains vulnerable to the forces which brought him to power because nothing has changed in the way in which power is negotiated in Zimbabwe. The same forces that took violent action when Mugabe lost power in 2008 is the same power that took action when Mnangagwa was fired in November 2017 to remove the leader they had defended for decades. That force remains in place and its power is not diminished. The critical political question is where the interests of that security apparatus are best served. The answer is not hard to find.
Letters by military commanders seeking to avoid a public appearance at the Motlanthe commission paint a very clear picture. They were not consulted and felt exposed otherwise they would have had no reason avoid a public appearance. Furthermore, their testimony was consistent in absolving Chiwenga of any operational involvement in the August 1 military operation in Harare’s central business district.
All this, terrifying as it is, is good for Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa’s present insecurities must bring him to anawareness as to the need for reform. Power belongs to the people and must come from the people. He did not get his power from the people in November 2017 and now finds himself watching over his shoulder as he now seeks to neutralise the force which brought him to power.
It is clear we have not seen the last of this political drama.
Kudzayi is former editor of the Sunday Mail.