By Tendai Kamhungira
In a development that spells more bad news for the Zanu PF faction rallying behind Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, President Robert Mugabe unilaterally installed Kudzanai Chipanga as the new leader of the party’s key youth league structure.
The surprising pronouncement follows the thuggish removal of Pupurai Togarepi as the former liberation movement’s youth league boss earlier this year, amid claims that he belongs to the Mnangagwa camp — and as Zanu PF’s ugly factional and succession wars continue to escalate.
Chipanga, who was Togarepi’s deputy and has been acting as youth league boss until now, is linked to the party faction going by the moniker Generation 40 (G40), which is rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe.
Togarepi has since revealed that his tiff with Chipanga and other youth league members who are aligned to the G40 started when he refused to support the expulsion of former women’s league spokesperson Monica Mutsvangwa, the wife of war veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa — who is said to be a leading Mnangagwa supporter.
Over the past two years, many senior Zanu PF officials suspected of supporting the embattled VP have either been suspended or expelled from the warring ruling party, as his party enemies work to make sure that he does not have a sniff at the presidency.
Addressing party youths in Harare yesterday, Mugabe — battling to contain swelling public anger against him — also launched a savage attack against the judiciary, in a move that was widely interpreted as trying to force judges from allowing demonstrations to take place, which have unnerved his government.
The attack evoked bad memories from 2001 when the government purged white judges from the Bench, including the then chief justice Anthony Gubbay, for ruling against Zimbabwe’s chaotic land reform programme.
Speaking a few hours after he arrived back in the country from Dubai, where he had spent three days amid swirling rumours regarding his health, Mugabe told the gathered Zanu PF youths that courts were being negligent by allowing demonstrations to go ahead.
“Of course, we can’t allow them (the opposition) to continue with these violent demonstrations unimpeded. Enough is enough,” he thundered.
The rant came as police invoked Statutory Instrument 101A last Thursday, banning demonstrations in central Harare for two weeks, and on the eve of a mega demonstration planned by 18 opposition parties to press for much-needed electoral reforms ahead of Zimbabwe’s eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
A week earlier, the High Court had allowed the same 18 parties to hold their demonstration, which was ruthlessly crushed by the stretched police.
Even after the High Court had ruled that the protest march could go ahead, riot police — backed by armoured trucks and water cannons — indiscriminately fired volleys of teargas at all and sundry, battering and chasing groups of determined opposition supporters.
Mugabe assured the Zanu PF youths yesterday that there would not be any Arab Spring in Zimbabwe.
“I am happy that the ministry of ICT and Courier Services is drafting a law to guide the proper use of social media. Our youths should learn from youths in China, Cuba and Russia that economic success stories have resulted from proper and constructive use of ICT. Social media should never be used negatively,” he said.
Mugabe, in power since 1980 when Zimbabwe gained its independence from Britain, is facing the biggest challenge to his 36-year rule which critics say has been catastrophic.
Zimbabwe is currently deep in the throes of a debilitating economic crisis which has given rise to waves of protests and riots by ordinary citizens who blame public sector corruption and the government’s policies for the current rot.
In July, riots broke out at the border town of Beitbridge when angry traders protested against the government’s ill-advised decision to ban the importation of basic consumer goods.
More than 70 people were arrested in the aftermath of those riots which destroyed property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, including the burning of a warehouse belonging to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.
The riots later spread to Harare where police once again used force to break a demonstration called by commuter omnibus drivers and touts to protest too many police roadblocks on the roads, which they claimed had become extortionate.
Mugabe is also struggling to key his Zanu PF party together as infighting has created ructions which saw the war veterans serving him with divorce papers in July.
War vets have been one of Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s strongest pillars of support over the past five decades, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian in power in the hotly-disputed 2000 and 2008 elections which were both marred by serious violence and the murder of hundreds of opposition supporters.
Meanwhile, Mugabe had joked with Zanu PF supporters at the Harare International Airport earlier that he had once again “resurrected”, following rumours of his supposed death.
“Yes, I was dead, it’s true I was dead. I resurrected as I always do. Once I get back to my country, I am real,” Mugabe said, soon after touching down at the airport. This followed crass reports on social media and discredited websites that he had died.
Mugabe’s meeting with Zanu PF youths yesterday also came at a time that long-suffering Zimbabweans have been savaging the ruling party’s worsening tendencies to resort to thuggery, excuses, insults and character assassination in its desperate bid to remain in power.
Analysts and opposition parties have also implored Mugabe and his party to work hard to fix their mess, instead of intimidating, battering and blaming critics for their misrule of the past 36 years.
Over the past few weeks, Mugabe’s panicking government has been resorting more and more to its coercive apparatus against dissenting voices, while sycophantic State media has cranked up its propaganda and smear blitz campaigns against Zanu PF critics.
Amid all this, disgruntled war veterans have warned Mugabe of worsening civil unrest in the country if Zanu PF bigwigs continue with their mindless bloodletting, as well as their current crackdown on dissenting voices, including former freedom fighters.
Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News last week, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, Victor Matemadanda, also told bluntly accused Mugabe of having “failed the nation”.
His criticism of Mugabe followed the nonagenarian’s fierce attack on war veterans in June — when he threatened to deal severely with the disenchanted ex-combatants who stand accused of plotting to stampede the 92-year-old out of power and working to elevate Mnangagwa to the highest political office in the land. Daily News