Robert Mugabe flies into factional storm

LOCAL artiste Jah Prayzah may have composed his popular ballad, Mudhara vachauya, to simply highlight challenges associated with long-distance relationships between many Zimbabweans and their loved ones in the Diaspora, but if one chose to give a political spin to that song, which talks of a man who is assuring his loved one not to worry because he would soon come back home from abroad, its message would underscore the expectant mood in the country, in general, and the ruling ZANU-PF party, in particular, as President Robert Mugabe’s return looms.
Most likely to fly straight home anytime soon from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he is attending the African Union’s 28th ordinary summit, President Mugabe will touch down at the Harare International Airport to the same old Zimbabwe, where political squabbles within his ZANU-PF party and government have become overheated over the 92-year-old’s succession plan.

In power since the southern African nation gained independence 37 years ago in 1980 following a protracted and bloody bush war against the late Ian Smith’s regime, President Mugabe — who turns 93 on February 21 — has, for years, kept the world guessing as to who could be his possible successor during or after his lifetime.

This has led to serious ructions within his 54-year old party.

At the party’s December conference in the country’s ancient city of Masvingo the party’s youths declared that the nonagenarian should rule for life.

And when their dear leader touches down in Harare, they will rush to deliver a new message to him that they are ready to take up arms against a coterie of his erstwhile colleagues in the form of veterans of the 1970s guerilla war for independence, who are insisting that he hands over the baton stick to the most senior person in the party, who happens to be one of his deputies, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

It will not only be the youths who will be scrambling to report back to the President, but his lieutenants as well.

They have been up to some really serious mischief while he was away since late December last year on a month-long holiday abroad.

They have been exchanging salvos at every opportune time as the factional fighting in the ruling party continues unabated, despite the President himself pleading for ceasefire.
Like some little lads who have been up to some mischief and eager to be the first to report on the others to their parents on their arrival back home, there undoubtedly shall be a scramble at the airport as many in both party and government try to outrun each other to squeal on one another.

Among those who have been really naughty during President Mugabe’s absence were two former workmates at the ministry of information, George Charamba and Jonathan Moyo.

What the former, who has been publishing articles in the Herald under the pseudonym, Nathaniel Manheru, thought was “friendly advice” — albeit laced with prickly venom — to the latter to stop pursuing the succession issue because it was a futile exercise, attracted sharp vitriol from Moyo, who told off Charamba in one of the most crude way that left many including War Veterans Minister, Tshinga Dube, perplexed.

In response to Charamba’s “advice” Moyo went ballistic on his favourite turf: Twitter.
“What a useless statement from a useless idiot with a useless message from his useless Stalinist handlers who are ignorant of the magic of elections,” thundered Moyo and in the process unmasking Charamba as the face behind Nathaniel Manheru.

 

For the two fellas, January is proving to be their favourite month for sparring, especially a few days before the President returns.

Around the same time last year the two were at eat other’s throats throwing up tantrums over the same succession issue.

“One tragedy of these little fellas, and I call them little fellas, they confuse media skills with social skills. They think you can scale up a political ladder by twitting; who think when you manipulate one or two headlines you have a social base for launching your stupid ambitions, they will come to grief, get it from me. I am not speaking as a permanent secretary, but as President Mugabe’s press secretary,” said Charamba in a radio interview with ZiFM in January last year.

But the bottom line is: Will the shrewd veteran politician act out of his usual ordinary way?
Analysts are divided over the issue.

But some are convinced that it shall be the same old story of the President not taking sides and simply turning a blind eye to the now full scale open warfare in his party and government while, like a caring parent, delivering his usual words of caution in the process.

“President Mugabe has proved reluctant to decisively deal with the factional issues in his party, which evidences the fact that he is aware of his own political constraints and increased loss of grip, in both party and government,” said political commentator, Otto Saki.

“He missed several opportunities to unite his party and the open disagreements are not going to abet. He will continue to provide a figment of control and responsibility. Dismissing or disciplining any of the faction members will stand to weaken him further,” Saki concluded.

Since 2004, the emotive issue of who will succeed him whenever he decides to retire from active politics has been the coal that has fired the factionalism furnace whose pressure has been dangerously building up.

In 2014 the pressure chamber first breached and thrust out of the party the country and ZANU-PF’s first female vice president, Joice Mujuru.

Crude shenanigans within the party saw Mujuru and over 200 cadres either being suspended for varying number of years or dismissed altogether, like in the case of Mujuru, Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Guumbo, to name just a few of some of the party’s former top names.

This was the era of the weevils and gammatox, the names given to the two factions linked to Mnangagwa and Mujuru respectively.

More than two years after that decisive moment when President Mugabe for the first time practically tried to act on factionalism, notwithstanding that he opted to side with one of the factions, the veteran leader is now confronted by a much trickier situation.
“The best decision to make is for him to resolve the fact that, within and without his party, it appears he is now viewed as the singular greatest liability and threat to party, State and nation’s progression. That is a very unfortunate indictment, but unavoidable as the continued demystification of his person and power, leaves him at the mercy of uncouth political novices across factions in his party, preparing for political life after him,” opined Saki.

Mnangagwa is none the wiser on the novices’ crude machinations after being photographed holding a huge mug with the words: “I’m the boss” written on it.

Long before he had put his mug down following his New Year’s eve toast, the picture had gone round the world countless times jolting his rivals into frenzy.

His attempts to duck enemy missiles being propelled by the connotations of the “I’m the boss” words on the mug were a little late to stop the damage.

“Against the background of many utterances and activities, all of them unsolicited but claiming or seeking association with my person, my family and or my position both in ZANU-PF and in government, I want to make it clear that there are elements on the loose who talk and act as if they support me and or the party, ZANU-PF, when in fact they are being handled and managed from elsewhere by hostile forces,” Mnangagwa was quoted as having said.

But his woes go beyond the mug scandal. His archrivals are rubbing their hands in anticipation as they hope that his other shenanigans, such as his controversial interview with a British publication would create more trouble for the 75-year-old politician, who has been fondly known as Ngwena (crocodile) in ZANU-PF circles.

 

The wide-ranging interview with the New Statesman magazine has torched ragging debate in the ruling party with some of the statements made by Mnangagwa being viewed as anti-Zezuru, which happens to be President Mugabe’s tribe.

Undoubtedly, the real boss President Mugabe, as Mnangagwa confessed following the mug fiasco, has already been fully briefed of all these goings on and, as usual, probably enjoying himself.

However, as former United States president, Bill Clinton once said: “When times are tough and people are frustrated and angry and hurting and uncertain, the politics of constant conflict may be good, but what is good politics does not necessarily work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation.”
The politics currently playing out in Zimbabwe might precisely be the kind that Clinton referred to, but, unfortunately, cooperation seems to be the last thing factions in ZANU-PF are prepared to do.

Antagonists are geared for the winner-take-all state of affairs.

Political scientist, Ibbo Mandaza believes that there is now a likelihood that President Mugabe would call for a special congress to finally get rid of Mnangagwa.

“I can’t see him (President Mugabe) leaving things to chance. He will now do anything to get rid of Emmerson,” said Mandaza.
The ruling party’s youths have already sounded the war drums having since called for a special congress, failure which they have said they are prepared to plunge the country into civil war if President Mugabe is not allowed to rule till he dies, a demand that pitched the ruling party’s factional wars at a much higher level.

But University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, does not see the President drifting an iota from his usual modus operandi.

“It’s highly unlikely that he will act any differently, because things are working in his favour. As long as there are divisions in the party it works to his advantage. He is not too worried that is why he is relaxed wherever he is on holiday. There is absolutely no basis for him to act any differently when things are working in his favour,” said Masunungure. – FinGaz

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