By Thelma Chikwanha
HARARE – Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo has expressed fears the party’s escalating and “anarchical” demonstrations are fast reaching a tipping point where they can easily lead to Zimbabwe becoming as ungovernable as what happened during the damaging North Africa and the Middle East uprisings that came to be known as the Arab Spring.
The Arab Spring refers to the waves of chaotic anti-government protests and armed rebellions that hit the region three years ago and quickly spread throughout the countries of the Arab League and surrounding regions, including North Africa.
Zimbabwe has over the past few months witnessed a spate of orchestrated violent demonstrations countrywide, that are stretching the capacity of police as Zanu PF’s factional and succession wars boil over, amid ominous warnings by economic analysts that the ugly infighting could sink the country’s ailing economy and bring it to levels witnessed five years ago during the height of record hyperinflation.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News on Tuesday, Gumbo said the party’s demonstrations and ongoing putsches against sitting provincial chairpersons needed to stop now, not just because they were not synonymous with Zanu PF’s values, but also because they posed the real danger that they could spiral out of control.
“If this is left to go on it could result in something that we cannot contain, like the demonstrations that took place in Tunisia and Egypt,” he said.
He said the ruling party was particularly concerned about the fact that the demonstrations were increasingly becoming violent, a situation he attributed to infiltration of the party by “dangerous elements”.
“We don’t understand where this is coming from. All this shows that there is no discipline in the party. It’s unZanu PF-like. Zanu PF does not behave that way,” Gumbo said adding that, “The party has been infiltrated and compromised as true Zanu PF supporters don’t behave that way. It’s unheard of.”
“What we are seeing is lawlessness and we are aware that there are certain elements in the party fuelling this behaviour. That is how the Arab Spring started,” he added.
As a result, Gumbo called on the police to be on extra guard to control the deteriorating political situation.
“These activities are not only destroying Zanu PF, but are also destroying the government and Cabinet, discrediting our country in the process. There is a danger, if we do not contain the situation, that it can turn into something else.
“It can affect foreign investors who are now developing a-wait-and-see attitude (as a result of the anarchy),” he said.
Gumbo reiterated that the politburo, the party’s supreme governing body, would deliberate on the matter during its meeting tomorrow (Thursday).
“We have to put an end to these demonstrations as we can’t go on like this,” he added.
Political analyst Gladys Hlatswayo also weighed in yesterday saying the chaos and violence being witnessed during the demonstrations were peculiar to Zanu PF.
“This has always been a Zanu PF modus operandi. The only difference now is that the ‘revolution’ is now devouring its own children. When a hyena wants to eat its children, it first accuses them of smelling like goats,” Hlatswayo said.
The Hubert Humphrey Fellow at the University of Minnesota added that, “That’s why (First Lady) Grace (Mugabe) was going around the country, to prepare the ground for these actions.”
Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe director, Mcdonald Lewanika, concurred with Hlatswayo saying that the chaos in Zanu PF was a testament of the deep-seated “democratic deficits” within the party.
“At another level, the chaos shows that the historical political settlement based on divergent interests that has held the party together through the parcelling out of patronage along tribal and factional lines is crumbling as one group seeks to establish total hegemony in the party, without due consideration to the interests of other fractions within the party,” he said.
This situation, Lewanika added, negated the “rules of equilibrium”, as one group pursued a “winner-take-all” approach which was manifesting in the violent demonstrations, and which if left unresolved could lead to the party’s demise as disgruntled elements sought new alliances.
“The chaos invites one to think that (President Robert) Mugabe’s grip on the party is no longer as total and as firm as it used to be, although the reality may actually be that Mugabe is instrumentalising this disorder to cement his control through ensuring that possible alternate leaders to him severely weaken each other politically, leaving him as the sole arbiter of total and undisputed power in Zanu PF,” he said.
Another analyst, Maxwell Saungweme said, “These are true signs of succession not managed properly. The chaos is a clear sign of how poor Mugabe’s legacy will be. This is the beginning of his shambolic legacy. He failed to manage succession and now hangers-on around him are taking advantage of his advanced age to lie and misinform him in a bid to better position their factions to take over”.
Saungweme added that the demonstrations were likely to continue right until after congress. Daily News