2018 Elections: Factionalism, Tribalism in Zanu PF structures

By Tau Tawengwa

“….Saka iniwo ndakatumwaa ne magamatox. Magamatox akati nyaya yaVaChamisa ndochaiyo… magamatox ndo aizikanwa seZANU, akabva akaita imwe chikamu chonzi G40… gamatox 40 iri, raiti kuti toda munhu ane 40 years kuti atonge, zvino 40 years dzaka bata VaChamisa….”

Tau Tawengwa
Tau Tawengwa

(“….And I too was sent by the Gamatox faction. The Gamatox faction say that Chamisa is the real deal… the Gamatox faction is what was really known as ZANU, and then it evolved into what became known as the G40 faction… the Gamatox-40 faction said they wanted people who are 40 years and below, and now here is Mr. Chamisa who is 40 years old….”)

These were the utterances made by Zimbabwe People First Opposition leader Kudakwashe Bhaskiti during an MDC-Alliance rally which took place in Chiweshe on Sunday 25 March 2018.

Many opposition leaders addressed that sizeable and largely youthful crowd before Nelson Chamisa took to the podium.

Some of the leaders who attended that rally are: Mr. Tendai Biti, Retired Brigadier General Mutambara and Professor Welshman Ncube.

All in all, the entire event- particularly Mr. Bhaskiti’s soliloquy- was a depiction of what should be taken as a serious political warning by  ZANU-PF if that party wants achieve the electoral victory that it envisages.

I will explain why in this article.

The strategy of the MDC-Alliance 

After the 2013 elections, many of us thought that the Zimbabwean opposition was politically dead, and that it wouldn’t resurrect. This was especially true after the post-2013 MDC-T split which saw Mr Tendai Biti and Mr Elton Mangoma forming their own political parties.

However, not long after that, ZANU-PF’s internal factional wars gave a lifeline to what was an all but dead opposition.

After its 2014 congress ZANU-PF’s former Vice President Dr Joice Mujuru and many of her supporters including Kudakwashe Bhaskiti were fired from the party.

Immediately after that, Dr Joice Mujuru formed her own party, and straightaway engaged in coalition talks with Dr Morgan Tsvangirai. As a result, in December 2016, opposition parties met in Cape Town South Africa and that is where the outline of the current MDC-Alliance coalition was made.

Many analysts mistakenly overlooked that Cape Town indaba as simply another meaningless talk-shop where the guests would be treated to good food and endless pina coladas.

Yet, there are three pivotal themes that emerged out of those Cape-Town deliberations that are manifesting in the MDC-Alliance’s campaigns today.

The first thing is the principle of wielding the strongest candidate at every level- that is, at presidential, constituency and ward levels.

If the opposition had not made the decision to unite, then its candidates would have been scattered and this would have split the opposition vote at ward, constituency and Presidential levels.

A splintered opposition was never going to stand a chance against a united ZANU-PF.

For that reason, the coalition talks in Cape Town were a well-funded, and calculated effort to patch the rifts between the opposition parties and to ensure that come 2018, they would yield their strongest presidential candidate and also strong candidates at constituency and ward levels.

They have now achieved that goal and furthermore, having recognized how divisive primary elections were within their ranks in the past, they decided not to have primary elections in the MDC-Alliance.

The second theme that emerged out of the Cape Town talks is the principle that democratic political formations must contain diverse leaders from diverse races, tribes, classes, professions and regions.

Such a diverse group of leaders will strategically represent the coalition at presidential, constituency and ward levels.

That is why today, at every single MDC-Alliance rally they allow professors, lawyers, youths, a retired brigadier general ,pastors, women, farmers and even former ZANU-PF leaders to address the audience.

The goal is to create the impression that the coalition represents every Zimbabwean, across regional, professional, and political lines and this ultimately creates a strong impression of cohesion and solidarity in the MDC-Alliance.

Finally, The Cape-Town meetings of 2016, and 2017 took cognizance of the bloodletting that has occurred in ZANU-PF through factionalism. First it was the 2014 “Gamatox” purges, followed by the recent “G-40” purges.

While it is true that only 11 MPs were expelled from ZANU-PF since November 2017, there has, however, been an ongoing silent and secretive campaign conducted by political certain opportunists and saboteurs within ZANU-PF structures aimed at frustrating sitting parliamentarians by de-campaigning them and labelling them as ‘members of G-40.”

As a result of this campaign of sabotage within ZANU-PF, the MDC-Alliance has deliberately packaged a political message that is intended to entice voters that have been frustrated and purged during the “Gamatox” and “G-40” purges.

That is a pivotal part of the opposition’s 2018 campaign strategy and it is directed at grass-root ZANU-PF supporters. It is a strategy that is currently working.

That is the reason why we hear Kudakwashe Bhaskiti today saying that “Gamatox” became “Gamatox-40” and that “Gamatox-40” has put its weight behind a 40 year old Chamisa. That message is not random- it is well-calculated and intentional.

ZANU-PF Factionalism, Tribalism 

Personally, I give credit to President Emmerson Mnangagwa. For the last few months it has been refreshing and encouraging to see Zimbabwe represented at Davos, and at other business platforms such as the CEO Forum. I, for one, am excited that Zimbabwe has re-opened for business.

Also to his credit, at the ZANU-PF extraordinary congress in December 2017, President Mnangagwa stated that “my presidency should not be perceived as the rise in fortunes of a region, or a tribe or a totem, no. My presidency is about a united ZANU-PF, a national party with a national outlook.”

He went further to say that “let us reassert discipline, order and harmony in the party, and put behind us victimization and witch-hunting of the past.”

In light of these statements, one wonders why there are ongoing silent purges in ZANU-PF, particularly at cell, district and provincial levels.

According to reports, several ZANU-PF members have been denied the opportunity to submit their CVs by provincial officials on the basis that they were “Mugabe’s people.”

If ZANU-PF is sincere in its calls for unity then it should expeditiously stop the machinations of mischievous malcontents who have been persisting in their short-sighted and divisive chicanery.

The danger of tribalism is that it catalyses conflict, often of a bloody nature in the African context. It must be stopped wherever it rears its head.

One example occurred recently in Epworth, where a clique aligned to certain ZANU-PF individuals who are eyeing that constituency reportedly pelted the sitting MP with stones while she was addressing a local government meeting.

The allegation is that her ZANU-PF rivals are orchestrating violence against her in attempt to frustrate her into not contesting in the primary elections.

Furthermore, in other parts of Harare and in other provinces, there are reports that certain youth league leaders are conniving with saboteurs to frustrate sitting MPs and Senators into not contesting in the party’s primary elections.

Of course, if the surge of tribalism persists in ZANU-PF, then the consequences are likely to reflect at the 2018 polls.

Tribalism and factionalism does not only cause division in a political party.

These twin evils also cause frustration and apathy among a supporters, and in ZANU-PF’s case, this is true at provincial, district, branch and cell levels.

It’s simple maths. Zimbabwe has 10 provinces and 59 districts. Let’s make a low estimate and assume that as a result of these acts of tribalism, factionalism frustration among party members occurs, and 5000 votes in each district are lost to apathy or to protest on Election Day.  

That amounts to 295000 votes countrywide- a sizeable number that is too big to ignore.

You see, given these reported incidents of sabotage aimed at frustrating candidates in ZANU-PF, the opposition MDC-Alliance is deliberately putting the likes of Kudakwashe Bhaskiti forward at its rallies in attempt to lure frustrated ZANU-PF grass-root supporters and convince them to vote for the opposition.

So far, that strategy is working.

If ZANU-PF wants to win in a truly free and fair election in 2018, then that party would need to expeditiously arrest the surge of tribalism and factionalism that is currently decimating its lower structures.

Furthermore, in the interests of national cohesion, and long term peace then tribalism and regionalism should be shunned irrespective of which political outfit it emerges in.

Tau Tawengwa is a doctoral candidate, political analyst and published author based in Harare. www.zimrays.org   [email protected] 

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