Owen Gagare/Andrew Kunambura
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s 2023 election campaign, which has been underway since the Zanu PF Esigodini Conference in 2018, is increasingly coming under scrutiny within government, the ruling party and security establishments, amid growing concerns that he has failed to inspire an economic turnaround and has been captured by powerful and corrupt cartels bleeding the country.
In briefings this week, senior Zanu PF and government officials also revealed the post-coup administration was in disarray because of Mnangagwa’s alleged failure to ensure there was equitable distribution of the “patronage” cake, hence the ongoing power struggles in the party.
Zanu PF was plunged into turmoil last week following the suspension of deputy youth league secretary Lewis Matutu and political commissar Godfrey Tsenengamu after they accused Mnangagwa’s allies and Zanu PF benefactors — Sakunda Holdings boss Kuda Tagwirei, Green Fuel boss Billy Rautennach and Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe president Tafadzwa Musarara — of corruption.
The politburo also demoted youth league boss Pupurai Togarepi for showing solidarity with the suspended youths. The decision, however, divided the party as some officials believed the youths had raised genuine issues, which need to be addressed, given the toll that corruption was taking on the economy.
Party officials also believe Mnangagwa has been captured Gupta-style by Tagwirei, whom they say is the major beneficiary of the November 2017 coup, which toppled former president Robert Mugabe. The Gupta scandal rocked South Africa during the last years of former president Jacob Zuma’s presidency. It involved three wealthy Indian brothers, Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh Gupta, who, using their closeness to the presidency, were accused of seizing control of the state apparatus while enriching themselves.
According to findings of the state capture commission of inquiry, the Guptas used their ties to Zuma and, with the help of leading international firms like KPMG, McKinsey and SAP, drained the national treasury of as much as US$7 billion. Following the inquiry, Zuma was forced to resign. McKinsey offered an extraordinary public apology for its role in the scandal, while the Guptas fled to Dubai.
Sakunda has been implicated in alleged abuse of funds under the controversial command agriculture scheme amid claims that there are no records and accountability of how close to US$3 billion was disbursed under the scheme.
“There is serious soul-searching and candid talk within the party. People are asking if the coup promises are being fulfilled and, sadly, Mnangagwa has failed to deliver. Corruption is increasing, but as you know corruption in itself is not a problem in Zanu PF, but the problem is that only a few individuals are being allowed on the gravy train,” an official said.
“There is concern that the economy is worse off than it was in 2017 and there is a genuine worry that Mnangagwa has been captured. There is also anger that a three or four-man kleptocracy has been created following the coup. Unlike during the Mugabe era when the cake was shared amongst many such that those far away from the centre would get crumbs, Mnangagwa has opened the door only to his family and a few individuals.
“That is why the likes of (Chris) Mutsvangwa (Mnangagwa’s former advisor) are angry. Besides Mnangagwa’s failure, he is angry the president’s cartels have shut him out of the energy sector and that is a grievance shared by many.”
Mutsvangwa, in an interview with our sister paper The Standard last weekend, revealed that problems arose in Zanu PF mainly because of fights for control of strategic national resources which are now concentrated in just a few hands.
However, the party’s acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa this week took a swipe at Mutsvangwa alleging sour grapes.“I have heard him (Mutsvangwa) say that, but I am not privy to that competition for a resource. The fact that it’s a competition; you cannot say its corruption. Let’s define corruption correctly. If he (Mutsvangwa) has evidence, he must go to Zacc (the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission). If he thinks that whatever happens in that fight for the resource is corruption, he must go to Zacc and report it. He will be a key witness. In this case he mentions the pipeline, but I don’t understand what the issue is.
It’s like hitting at your rivals. He has no reason to tarnish those who are competing against him and label them corrupt either because you have lost the tender or failed to get a deal,” Chinamasa said.
Pressure on Mnangagwa
The ruling party officials said the growing concerns had resulted in Mnangagwa’s position coming under scrutiny, with many processes already underway to pile pressure on him ahead of the party’s 2022 elective congress.
Although the number one resolution at the Esigodini Conference was the “Reaffirmation of President Mnangagwa as the Party’s Presidential Candidate for 2023 Elections”, the Zimbabwe Independent was told there are discussions at various levels focussing on Mnangagwa’s viability as a candidate, given his failure to inspire an economic turnaround and his association with cartels. The 18th Zanu PF conference in Goromonzi last year also affirmed the President as the party’s sole candidate in 2023, but the position is gradually changing, insiders said.
“Besides the question of whether Mnangagwa should be allowed to contest the 2023 elections, there are also questions about whether he should actually be allowed to complete his term, which has been disastrous so far,” a senior party official said.
At a press conference yesterday, Zanu PF youth secretary for information and publicity, Yeukai Simbanegavi, said party youths were ready to defend Mnangagwa “at all cost”.
“One of the main issues discussed here is the issues of discipline. We have emphasised that as the youth league, we need to be very disciplined and we also need to be defending the party and the revolution as well as our President, Comrade ED Mnangagwa at all cost and without fail,” she said.
Simbanegavi said the youths supported the politburo decision to suspend Matutu and Tsenengamu. She also said they strongly supported his 2023 bid.
Chinamasa also insisted that Mnangagwa would still be the party’s candidate in the 2023 polls. “There is no faction at the moment. We have taken a position as a party to say in 2023 our candidate is President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Why we are doing that is to kill any divisions within our party,” he said.
Party sources, however, said despite efforts to mask divisions, discontent had cascaded to the military and other security organisations.
As reported by the Zimbabwe Independent last week, army commanders have deployed intelligence personnel into communities to, among other things, gather intelligence, assess the national mood and gauge Mnangagwa’s popularity. These include members of the Special Air Services based at Inkomo Barracks and military intelligence personnel based at Kabrit.
Military sources said the deployment, which is apolitical and not a military operation was not for purposes of executing a November 2017-style coup, but to understand better the situation obtaining on the ground for scenario mapping and planning. Following last week’s story, Zimbabwe National Army national spokesperson Alphios Makotore issued a statement saying the army was apolitical.
“The Zimbabwe National Army is apolitical and its roles and duties are clearly specified in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and amplified in the Defence Forces Policy. The army is a professional national institution that is guided by the country’s constitution. When it deploys, the nation is accordingly informed. There is therefore no secrecy on its deployments,” Makotore said in the statement.
According to sources, there are three options which are currently being weighed in the party, government and outside government.
The first option, which is in line with the proposed Sadc-driven mediation by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, is to nudge Mnangagwa into an agreement with MDC leader Nelson Chamisa which may result in a government of national unity.
“This is why the suspended youths are pushing a multi-party and multi-interest youth conference on Friday next week. This could kick-start the process,” an official said.
There are, however, concerns that an inclusive government may present the same problems as those experienced between 2009 and 2013, when there was lack of unity and cohesion in state operations. The other option is that Mnangagwa should not be re-elected at the party’s 2022 congress while others believe he should step down even before his tenure is completed to allow for someone else, preferably Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga to complete the term. Those against Chiwenga’s rise believe he is also captured by the Sakunda boss, whose company had given him vehicles to monitor the command agriculture programme.
Tagwirei also bought Chiwenga another vehicle for personal use.“Besides, in terms of the governance system, nothing much would have changed under Chiwenga,” an official said.
The third option, which is not popular in Zanu PF, but is being discussed by neutrals and in diplomatic circles, is that a National Transitional Authority (NTA) takes over and prepares the groundwork for elections.
The NTA would oversee a number of electoral, constitutional and political reforms for an agreed period before a general election is held. However, sources indicated that many Zanu PF officials are against the idea as it would result in the loss of power and also leave the preparations for elections out of the party’s hands.