ZANU PF is growing increasingly panicky that it could lose the 2023 general election amid fears the current economic implosion is gradually alienating the party from voters, while party bigwigs remain unsettled by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s economic policies, it has emerged.
At a meeting for departmental heads held on Monday last week, Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu said the party would lose the elections unless government urgently addresses the current economic crisis. This comes as senior party officials are spoiling for a vicious turf war with some cabinet ministers whom they accuse of sabotaging the party and economy.
Guns have once again been pointed at Ncube — whose austerity measures, as espoused in Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), are widely blamed by Zanu PF hawks for the deteriorating economy.
Mpofu is one of several Zanu PF heavyweights who were removed from government last year and have occasionally clashed with ministers over policy issues.
Others include former ministers Patrick Chinamasa, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi Simon Khaya Moyo, Mike Bimha and Sydney Sekeramayi.
In October last year, Ncube came under heavy criticism from party officials accusing him of being used by external forces in an effort to destabilise and discredit government programmes when the austerity measures began biting.
The tide subsided after Ncube got strong backing from President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who fished the economics professor from Europe where he was running a consultancy firm, and deployed him as a technocrat with solutions to fix the ailing economy.
But since coming on board as a cabinet minister, Ncube has been treading on political landmines, having introduced sweeping policy changes which have, however, not bore fruits.
Information obtained by the Zimbabwe Independent this week from party insiders and intelligence sources indicates that Mpofu is spearheading the renewed charge and has been chairing no-holds-barred meetings with department heads at the party’s national headquarters every Monday, where officials have openly criticised government’s failing economic policies.
At the October 14 meeting, senior officials resolved to pile pressure on Mnangagwa to ensure that all ministers presiding over economic ministries give regular reports to the central committee, Zanu PF’s principal policy organ when congress is in session. This is in line with the party’s 2014 congress resolution where the central committee was declared superior to government.
An intelligence source, corroborated by off-the-record briefings from officials who attended the meeting, said Mpofu personally expressed fears that Zanu PF would lose the 2023 election if the economy remains in the doldrums.
The sources said some of the top officials suggested that the party should shelve its upcoming programmes which do not seek to address immediate economic challenges as it ran the risk of sending out the wrong signals about the party’s commitment to fulfil its electoral promises. One of the programmes which the officials wanted suspended is tomorrow’s much-hyped anti-sanctions march scheduled for Harare.
Mpofu reportedly told the meeting that Zanu PF runs the risk of losing the elections in the same way that Zambia’s liberation party, the United National Independence Party (Unip) lost a general election in 1991.
“There was an administrative meeting at the Zanu PF national headquarters that was chaired by Obert Mpofu on October 14. The agenda was to discuss the current economic situation.
Mpofu highlighted that Zanu PF risked going the Unip way if government failed to address the challenges. We have also gathered that some of the party officials called for the suspension of some party programmes, starting with the anti-sanctions march set for 25 October,” an intelligence source said.
Unip lost the 1991 Zambian election on the back of economic troubles and increasing international pressure to bring more democracy to Africa. At these elections, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, fronted by the late trade union leader Frederick Chiluba, swept Unip from power in a landslide. In the presidential election, Kaunda was roundly defeated, taking only 24% of the vote to Chiluba’s 75%.
Senior Zanu PF officials said the meeting told the Zimbabwe Independent that the meeting resolved to summon ministers to ask them to report on their policy undertakings.
“We, of course, hold these meetings regularly, but this particular meeting was distinct in that people openly expressed their displeasures at the way in which the economy was being run. The general concern was that ministers are not working for the good of the party, hence they should constantly report to the central committee to avoid confusion,” a senior official said.
“We consider government to be subservient to the party, which is then responsible for articulating these policies to the people. What we are likely going to see from now is a situation where the party will summon some of these ministers, in particular Mthuli Ncube, whose policies seem to work against its interests.”
Contacted for comment, Mpofu confirmed he chaired the meeting, but refused to disclose deliberations that were made.
“I am surprised that you could ask me about that meeting. Why don’t your sources give you more information about it? I chair those meetings, but I am not going to discuss anything with the media. In any case, there is nothing to discuss because nothing of that sort was said,” Mpofu said.
The developments come at a time war veterans at the weekend strongly criticised government for failing the economy.
“The road we have taken now is not the one that as war veterans we envisaged. I am particularly lost and other comrades that I have been talking to are equally lost as to where we are going and they think that the solution lies in working together,”
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association national political commissar Francis Nhando told a local paper at the weekend.