By Nelson Chenga and Andrew Kunambura
The ruling ZANU-PF party failed to produce resolutions at its recent conference as fears mounted that members would sharply disagree due to escalating internal fissures, which could have uncontrollably boiled over in the event of conflicting views on any declaration.
As highlighted by the Financial Gazette last week, the decision was apparently made to prevent the party from a potential split, which could have ensued from resolutions pitting one faction against the other.
Last week’s conference was held against the background of agitation by the ZANU-PF Women’s League for a quota allowing one of its members to occupy the presidium.
The move, which was supported by a group of young Turks code-named Generation 40, or G40, was seen by others as a blatant attempt to torpedo Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s chances to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
The Women’s League, which was the only organ given the chance to outline its own resolutions to the conference, made the issue or representation in the presidium, consisting of the party’s president and his two deputies — very clear.
Eunice Sandi-Moyo, who read the resolutions, said: “The Women’s League also resolved that there be an amendment to the (party) constitution so that one of the two vice presidents must be a woman in 2016.”
Sandi-Moyo is the deputy chair of the Women’s League.
There was isolated applause to this resolution, with many delegates remaining stone-faced.
This apparently gave President Mugabe, who had earlier warned of a possible split of the party due to worsening factional battles, a cue on the potential danger of the conference adopting any resolution, particularly around contentious issues like the demand by the Women’s League.
The Financial Gazette had highlighted last week that President Mugabe only had three options at his disposal in the face of pressure from the Women’s League, imploring on the male-dominated ZANU-PF to adopt a quota system.
As predicted by this paper, the veteran politician settled for the first option which is to defer debate on the contentious Women’s League resolution and others to the party’s elective congress, due in 2019.
The second option, which would have further divided the party, was to give in to the demands by appointing one of the Women’s League’s members as the national chairman of ZANU-PF — a position which is currently vacant.
An equally divisive option was to demote one of his deputies to the national chairmanship to make way for a female vice president.
Given the fluid situation in ZANU-PF, the other two options would have been a risky adventure, fraught with intended and unintended consequences.
The only resolution made by the conference was that President Mugabe, the party’s first secretary and president, remained ZANU-PF’s sole candidate for the 2018 general elections.
Clearly, the conference glossed over internal rumpus that had seen dozens of its members either expelled or suspended since the party’s December 2014 congress.
Each of the key organs of the party — the Women’s League, youths and war veterans — had catalogues of resolutions through which they hoped to push their agendas. But, by the end of the conference, it was only the Women’s League that managed to table its resolutions.
The youths and war veterans’ hopes of influencing the meeting to make changes to leadership positions were drowned in President Mugabe’s rebukes and declaration that there would be no leadership changes until 2019, the next scheduled slot for the party’s elective national congress.
This could also have answered the Women’s League’s agitation for representation at the top level of the party.
But the factional fights appear to have worsened hardly a week after the conference, with Mashonaland West expelling war veterans leader, Chris Mutsvangwa, and recommending to the Politburo his recall from Parliament, and, consequently Cabinet where he is Minister of War Veterans.
Mutsvangwa’s wife, Monica, had been banished from the party by the Women’s League a few days before the conference.
Reports suggested some youths in Bulawayo had been booted out of the party. Ever since the party began purging cadres aligned to sacked vice president Joice Mujuru last year, ZANU-PF has been on a non-stop purging spree that has seen close to 200 key functionaries unceremoniously sidelined.
Most of these were reportedly aligned to Mujuru, but the latest purges have targeted Mnangagwa’s loyalists. President Mugabe’s hard-hitting remarks seem therefore, to have achieved very little to appease the demon of factionalism in ZANU-PF.
The same Victoria Falls conference delegates that cheered him as he went through his long address calling for unity and an end to factional fights immediately went back to their pre-conference mode of confrontation and political skulduggery.
President Mugabe appeared to have sought to balance the interests of opposing factions in his opening and closing remarks when he attacked the antagonistic camps that have emerged since the December 2014 congress.
In his opening speech, President Mugabe lashed out at G40.
While admitting that he was alive to all internal machinations, President Mugabe then said he would not entertain calls for leadership renewal, stating that those he appointed into office would continue until the next congress due in 2019.
Months leading to the indaba had seen rounds of suspensions and counter-suspensions and even violence in the party.
“I said, only when the congress is due, when terms of office bearers expire, and (then) we open the system to all those itching for positions to contest; yet before we even go to congress, they are already saying this one should be removed from his position so that they can prematurely satisfy their ambitions. Tinoti pasi navo (we say to down with them). Let them be reminded that congress happens only after five years and in between it is only the Central Committee, which represents the congress, not this conference,” he charged.
“Zvino tine tumwe twakaoma misoro tunongoramba tuchiti ava vanhu va (Vice President Phelekezela) Mphoko, ava ndeva Mnangagwa. Hatidi kuzvinzwa futi izvozvo. Zvino kana vakaramba vachidaro tinovanyamura nekuti vanoda kuuraya party.
(There are some amongst us who mischievously continue saying some people belong to Mphoko and others belong to Mnangagwa. We don’t want that. If they continue doing that, we will pluck them out because they want to destroy the party),” he said to applause from delegates.
Tables, however, suddenly turned as he talked tough against G40 enemies, most notable the war veterans and service chiefs.
“The war wasn’t won by the gun alone,” President Mugabe said on Saturday in remarks that should have been music to the ears of G40 promoters.
“They (war veterans) should always recognise that they are like the other people, they have made sacrifices, yes, but they are not the only ones; some at home made sacrifices because they were arrested and killed,” he said.
In a salvo many thought was directed at Chris Mutsvangwa, who has been at loggerheads with G40 — and one which probably spurred Mashonaland West province to recommend that the sharp-tongued Minister be expelled from the party, President Mugabe said: “You say you went to war, where is your record? Be humble like (Buhera South legislator, Joseph) Chinotimba.”
In a parting shot, he also had a word of advice in the wake of the openly vindictive behaviour of ZANU-PF members who have expelled each other, even at the slightest provocation.
“Don’t be unnecessarily harsh even to a person who has committed an offence. Even though that person would have committed an offence, they should listen to what others are saying . . . this is a people’s party and your insolence will make things worse for you,” he pleaded.
Analysts this week said the conference never resolved any of the nagging political questions of the day, especially considering the fact that it ended without any resolution.
Leaving everything wide open, they say, was a recipe for confusion both within the party and country.
“The case of Mutsvangwa, which came only a few hours after the conference, is a clear sign that the unity that was publicly displayed at the conference was cosmetic. Things are back to that pre-conference period where infighting was the order of the day. This is certainly going to worsen as we progress towards the 2018 general elections,” said political commentator, Rashweat Mukundu.
“As such, one could be forgiven to expect more confusion and a lot of fighting,” he added.
The ruling party’s internal political instability has so adversely affected the country’s economy that the nation goes into 2016 bruised and battered following months of political shenanigans by ZANU-PF functionaries.
While 2015 has been slow, tough and painful for the majority of the country’s 13 million citizens as they watched in amazement the goings on in the ruling party, 2016 promises to be even tougher for a nation that has, since dollarisation in February 2009, fed on nothing but hope.
On the economic front, which is fundamentally influenced by politics of the day, Zimbabweans, having survived the world’s worse hyperinflation yet to afflict any country in the 21st Century, had hoped to return to normalcy by adopting a basket of hard currencies that mainly included the United States dollar, the British pound, the South African rand and the Botswana pula.
But since 2009, that return has been largely intangible with all economic fundamentals seemingly conspiring to keep the nation stuck in the doldrums.
Entering 2016 on the back of a late summer cropping season, the agro-based Zimbabwe economy has already started on the back foot.
An El Nino weather phenomenon is expected to seriously affect crop harvests across a country that experienced another devastating crop failure during the 2014/15 summer cropping season.
With 70 percent of the country’s citizens largely dependent on agriculture, another disaster in the sector would increase pressure for a government which is also entering 2016 with a US$150 million budget deficit.
On the international front, the world’s second largest economy, China, to which Zimbabwe had set its sights for salvation, has slowed.
Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner, South Africa, has developed a cold that has resulted in its currency drastically falling in value so much that the rand has almost dropped out of Zimbabwe’s basket of currencies.
International mineral prices have further plunged to an all time low, affecting the country’s exports. And all this afflicting a nation that seems at loggerheads with itself, politically, does not augur well for its future. Financial Gazette