WHAT a year in politics 2014 has been! Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and his party set the ball in motion for the high octane drama that left Zimbabweans spellbound all year round. Right on New Year’s Day, Zimbabweans woke up to the news that his wife of just over a year, Elizabeth, had walked out on him because of undisclosed “sensitive personal differences.” The party was to give us more.
Enter Elton Mangoma
From then on, it proverbially never rained for Tsvangirai but poured. Elton Mangoma, the then MDC-T deputy treasurer-general, wrote a damning letter to the beleaguered party leader demanding he stepped down and blaming him for the party’s dismal performance in the 2013 general elections which they lost heavily to the ruling party, ZANU-PF.
This marked the beginning of internecine fights within the main opposition party, resulting in a second split inside a decade.
Then followed the purges of those linked to former MDC-T secretary-general, Tendai Biti, the ringleader of the split.
Not to be outdone, the Biti camp retreated to Mandel Training Centre in Harare and also declared they had fired Tsvangirai and loyalists from the party.
The split of the MDC-T, which was the democratic movement’s second since its inception in 1999, pointed to the growing dissent with Tsvangirai’s leadership of the country’s largest opposition party by his former allies. His portrayed role as the “father” of the opposition movement in the country also came under intense scrutiny. Even more consequential than not is that the split of the MDC-T has not only further eroded its brand as a viable opposition party, but has left many wondering what the future holds for the party. With the next polls slated for 2018, the unspoken question at the back of the minds of many a voter is whether the MDC-T will still be a force to reckon with by then?
Formation of MDC Renewal Team
The MDC Renewal Team is the latest chip off the MDC block. Its emergence gave the clearest indication that all was not well among ZANU-PF’s rivals. Smarting from defeat in last year’s elections at the hands of ZANU-PF, top MDC-T officials who later on were to form the MDC Renewal Team had demanded introspection into what went wrong at the elections. With the realisation that Tsvangirai would not step down, the MDC Renewal Team was then formed with the hope of returning back to the MDC’s founding values — which its new leaders argued Tsvangirai had deviated from to morph the MDC-T into his “personal project”. A few months after its formation, the new political party last month merged with the MDC led by Welshman Ncube, validating its claims that it was committed to finding common ground and working with like-minded forces. Will the grand union last is the key question.
Mwonzora vs Chamisa
The split left the MDC-T broken and needing to restructure. They hastily arranged a congress which itself was reduced to a contest for the position of secretary-general between Douglas Mwonzora and Nelson Chamisa with Tsvangirai retaining the party’s leadership uncontested. The congress was held at City Sports Centre in Harare from October 31 to November 1 with Mwonzora romping to victory amid allegations of voting irregularities. The once seemingly invincible Chamisa was reduced to a mere card carrying member until Tsvangirai fished him from obscurity to appoint him into the national executive of the party last week.
ZANU-PF succession wars
Someone joked at the height of the MDC-T problems in May that they only served as a curtain raiser to what was in the offing in ZANU-PF. He was right. The stage for factional infighting in the ruling party had been set during the provincial elections of November 2013 that were marred by allegations of vote buying and rigging. Then, ZANU-PF was torn between two factions led by Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa. As a precursor to the December congress, ZANU-PF held scandalous youth and women’s league conferences in August where the battle lines were drawn.
The Youth League election, in particular, had all the hallmarks of dirty factional fights. Party bigwigs, for their desire to line the structure with proxies and surrogates, used money to sway the vote in their favour and in the end there was chaos and confusion — the remnants of which stayed with the ruling party right up to congress. After President Robert Mugabe lashed out at the youths and the bigwigs involved in the vote-buying scandal, the women’s conference ended up having to resort to a power sharing agreement, balancing the factional equation. But not before reports of kidnapping were made.
Entry of First Lady Grace Mugabe into politics
The entry into politics by the First Lady popularly known as “Amai” still remains as much a shock to the system as it was the day it was announced in late July at a Women’s League meeting. Seemingly punching above her weight, First Lady Grace Mugabe brought in vigour in the lackluster politics of the ruling party, which has vociferously been marked by years of denials of any factional fights within its ranks. The First Lady fuelled things during her famous “thank you rallies” around the provinces where she let the cat out of the bag and came out guns blazing against Vice President Mujuru. For roughly two weeks, she kept the nation spellbound as she poured out noxious slurs against Mujuru, often making sensational corruption allegations against her and openly declaring that her time in the party was spent.
Many initially dismissed her, but now a member of the powerful ZANU-PF Politburo, Grace’s presence on Zimbabwe’s political landscape has been confirmed for the next five years. If her baby steps into the bloody political waters of ZANU-PF are anything to go by, then she will likely grow in the next coming months into establishing herself as a political force to reckon with. For spectators and onlookers, more juicy revelations are in the offing as the First Lady is a thorn in the backside of her political foes and will keep everyone on their toes.
And boom, an assassination plot on President Mugabe was alleged. Mujuru was said to be the lynchpin. Behind her were several ZANU-PF heavyweight — those of no less stature than Politburo members — Nicholas Goche and Didymus Mutasa (both of whom now lie gravely ill in hospital). Along with Dzikamai Mavhaire, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Olivia Muchena, Munacho Mutezo, Flora Buka and Shamu, these bigwigs failed to get into the Central Committee in elections held two weeks before congress. Their end was nigh!
Purging of ZANU-PF officials
The first casualty of the purge, Temba Mliswa was an easy target because he is temperamental and outspoken. The Mnangagwa faction was going for broke and a demonstration was to be made. A vote of no confidence was passed on him and it was upheld by the Politburo. Spurred by this success, more provincial chairpersons were targeted. Next was Masvingo’s Killian Gwanetsa, then Midland’s Jason Machaya, then Callistus Ndlovu, (although he was later to be re-instated), Ray Kaukonde, Andrew Langa, Amos Midzi, John Mvundura, Luke Mushore — all fell by the wayside. They were soon followed by Rugare Gumbo (then party spokesman), Jabulani Sibanda and Enoch Porusingazi. Sensing danger, some of the Mujuru allies started to cross the divide and seek refuge in the victorious faction. More followed them to the terraces.
Congress and more purges
The ZANU-PF elective congress held a fortnight ago from December 2 to 7 cemented President Mugabe’s control of the revolutionary party. While that was largely expected, it is the aftermath of the congress that has created further uncertainty as several party bigwigs have fallen by the wayside from Cabinet. What will those felled at congress, losing out on seats in the Central Committee, Politburo and Cabinet do next?
Will Mujuru accept her fate of being an ordinary card-carrying member in ZANU-PF for the next five years or she would pull out of the party — resulting in the first major split of the ruling party in modern day times? In an interview with the Washington based Voice of America last week, Mujuru downplayed talk that she was on her way out of the former revolutionary party, as that was the only party that she had been a part of all her life. Another high ranking ZANU-PF bigwig Mutasa is said to be resisting his axing, in a fresh sign that the dust has not yet settled in the aftermath of the congress.
“We refuse to be chucked out of ZANU-PF which some of us have been in for 57 years,” he said. By his own admission, President Mugabe indicated that arrests would be made of those implicated in the assassination plot against his life, in a sign that more heads are still yet to roll. Of interest will be to see which heads will roll after the Christmas and New Year break when President Mugabe returns from his annual leave.
The day following Mujuru’s dismissal, her long time nemesis, Mnangagwa was named co-Vice President along with Phelekezela Mphoko. Mnangagwa was a direct replacement of Mujuru while Mphoko took the job left vacant following the death of John Landa Nkomo. As of now, Mnangagwa is the acting President as the incumbent is on his annual vacation. Zimbabweans and their sense of humour Amid all this, Zimbabweans never lost their sense of humour, forever finding convenient jokes to ease their worries.
Report by Andrew Kunambura and Ray Ndlovu – (Financial Gazette)