By Clemence Manyukwe
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe is under pressure to rein in party factions tearing apart ZANU-PF’s rule book in a bid to clear the way for their preferred candidates in the event that it becomes necessary to gun for the highest office in the land.
With the ZANU-PF leader’s attention fixed on securing his legacy, the divisive jockeying for positions at the provincial level has shifted focus from the national interest to sectional interests, which are at variance with what President Mugabe would want to achieve between now and the next elections in 2018.
The party squabbles have been a major distraction for the party, which is battling to revive the country’s economy. Since winning the July 31 elections, ZANU-PF had set its top priority as economic revival after company closures left over 90 percent of working age citizens on the streets.
Hunger has been stalking rural communities with 2,2 million people in urgent need of food aid until the next harvest in April. To turnaround the country’s economic fortunes, analysts reason that peace should prevail in ZANU-PF, as the sole governing authority, than the ongoing fallout.
Interestingly, the public media which normally papers over the cracks in ZANU-PF has invited itself, willingly or unwillingly, into the imbroglio, signalling that the gloves are indeed off.
The State-run daily Herald has been making comments that seem to cast aspersions on certain members of the Presidium, comprising President Mugabe, Vice President Joice Mujuru and national party chairperson, Simon Khaya-Moyo.
Its columnist, Nathaniel Manheru — a nom de plume for a senior official in the civil service — has been decrying what he sees as double-standards by the party’s leadership.
But the vitriol spewed by the public media is just a microcosm of the intense infighting that has erupted in ZANU-PF ahead of its elective congress next year.
For the past two or so weeks, government business has been on autopilot as ZANU-PF heavyweights shifted their attention to the provinces, which is where the succession question is likely to be sponsored and settled.
President Mugabe has previously said he will not handpick a successor, insisting it would be up to the people of Zimbabwe to decide who should take-over from him.
With the incumbent now in the twilight of his political career, factions are already putting in place the building blocks leading up to the top office.
As part of the building blocks, the factions would want their proxies to occupy strategic positions in the provinces from where they can influence the choice of an heir apparent at the opportune moment.
And as can be expected in any game of politics, the end now justifies the means.
In a bid to eclipse their rivals, factions are aiming to land influential positions in the provincial structure by any means necessary, which has given rise to allegations of rampant vote buying and the imposition of candidates, in disregard of ZANU-PF’s constitution.
President Mugabe is therefore seen putting his foot down to restore order in the provinces where weekend elections were reduced to a dog’s breakfast.
As factionalism took centre stage, the party failed to hold provincial leadership polls in eight of the 10 provinces, including in President Mugabe’s home province of Mashonaland West.
In one of the only two provinces to conduct the polls, voting had to be aborted because of infighting.
The latest infighting comes a year after President Mugabe stated that if he was to leave the political stage, ZANU-PF would disintegrate and lose polls as people fight each other. ZANU-PF is choosing its provincial leaders ahead of its congress held every five years, where the party’s leadership is chosen.
The next congress is due next year.
The current polls are critical in that those chosen would preside over nominations for the party’s national leadership for consideration at the next elective congress, the last one before the 2018 polls that President Mugabe is widely believed not to contest.
ZANU-PF is said to be split into two factions, one loyal to Vice President Joice Mujuru and the other one rooting for Justice Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
While both Mujuru and Mnangagwa deny leading the factions, a number of senior ZANU-PF officials, including President Mugabe have previously confirmed the existence of the factions.
After most of the provinces failed to hold polls at the weekend, some Politburo members now want the elections to be deferred indefinitely to allow the party’s leadership to put in place a committee that would preside over the polls.
In Manicaland, the elections had to be aborted. But even though a date is still to be set for a rerun, indications are that John Mvundura, the current chair, would be elected to lead the province.
Senator Monica Mutsvangwa had to withdraw from the race and compiled a dossier, claiming the electoral playing field was not even.
But the party’s secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, dismissed Mutsvangwa’s assertions yesterday saying she was not supposed to have challenged Mvundura in the first place.
“She disregarded all the things that were planned by the leadership and she was humiliated by people in Manicaland. She should not have sought to participate in the first place,” said Mutasa.
Mutasa also dismissed claims in the State media that he had jumped the gun by writing a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda stating that Munyaradzi Kereke’s Bikita West seat should be declared vacant.
The prevarication over the Kereke issue has also exposed the infighting in ZANU-PF whereby one of the camps is baying for his blood while the other is frustrating attempts to expel him from the party.
“Crazy people are also found at The Herald; how can a person occupying my position just do something from his head,” remarked Mutasa about the Kereke issue.
In Mashonaland East, elections were postponed from last week to the coming weekend. Ray Kaukonde, the provincial chairman, looks set to retain his position.
In Mashonaland West, four people — outgoing provincial chairman John Mafa, Phillip Chiyangwa, Nimrod Chiminya and Hurungwe West lawmaker Temba Mliswa — are eyeing the top post.
In Mashonaland Central, the incumbent Dickson Mafios is expected to be challenged by one Mushore.
In Midlands, the results of the weekend elections were still to be announced at the time of going to print although indications are that the party’s current chairperson, Jaison Machaya could be dethroned by Larry Mavima, the chairperson of the Midlands Development Association.
Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association president, Jabulani Sibanda said the current infighting is a result of people who are hungry for power and do not follow the party constitution and those who believe that they are better positioned to take over from President Mugabe are day dreaming.
“When you read the Bible, you will believe that Aaron was better placed to take over from Moses. But God had other plans,” Sibanda said.
“If there are people who believe that they are presidents of factions, they must know that you can’t step into someone’s shoes with your shoes on.” The Financial Gazette