By Fungi Kwaramba and Mugove Tafirenyika
The palpable excitement by warring Zanu PF bigwigs ahead of the party’s Masvingo conference turned out to be much ado about nothing, after President Robert Mugabe once again cunningly resisted factional expectations that he would finally show his hand on his bitterly-contested succession.
For weeks ahead of the gathering, the party’s two major factions — Team Lacoste which is rallying behind Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the Generation 40 (G40) group which is rabidly opposed to the VP succeeding Mugabe — had huffed and puffed in a desperate endeavour to win the nonagenarian’s public backing.
But it all proved to be in vain, with Mugabe once again virtually affirming the growing national suspicion that his is a presidency for life — a reality that many leading lights in both Team Lacoste and the G40 resignedly admitted to in private briefings with the Daily News on Sunday yesterday.
Instead, and by most accounts, Mugabe contrived to blow a gasket on Friday, savaging his brawling lieutenants, while slyly moving to finger some of his top aides in alleged plots to hound him out of power — as the ruling party’s tribal, factional and succession wars continue to burn hot.
Officially opening the Zanu PF annual conference, Mugabe made a thinly-disguised dig at Team Lacoste, saying the party’s leadership was not won through plotting the arrest of opponents, but through elections.
The G40 have over the past few months alleged that the Mnangagwa camp is abusing key State institutions, including lapdog State media, to irregularly grab power in the former liberation movement.
“Hukuru muparty hunouya nekusarudzwa…hahuuye nokuti tosunga uyu tipindewo isusu (the leadership of the party comes through elections and not through plotting the arrest of fellow members,” Mugabe thundered.
In October this year, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) torched a political storm in Zanu PF after it swooped on Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo and his deputy Godfrey Gandawa during a hotly-contested graft probe.
Moyo, who party insiders say is a key member of the G40, not only accused Team Lacoste and key players at Zacc of waging a factionally-driven war against him and other alleged G40 kingpins, he also threatened to sue Mnangagwa and many other senior government officials.
But, in typical Mugabe style, the nonagenarian also moved to attack the G40 for their alleged indiscipline and for abusing social media to attack fellow party officials.
“To the party leadership, we do not run matters of the party through Twitter or Facebook,” he said, as he sought to balance his criticism and in the process consolidate his own position.
“Yes, the situation in the party is very bad, but some of us had a sneaking feeling that what you guys in the media had billed as a decisive conference for the two factions would, as usual, come to nothing because Gushungo (Mugabe) is a grandmaster at handling things at such big public gatherings,” a senior Zanu PF official said.
But there was a flutter of excitement late yesterday — at the end of the conference — when youths, a section of war veterans and the influential women’s league passed resolutions pushing for the election of the party’s vice presidents as well as the immediate appointment of a woman VP; moves that insiders say would shut the door on Mnangagwa’s higher ambitions if they are implemented.
The youth league also formally moved for Mugabe, who turns a very mature 93 in February next year, to be declared life president — which would again mean that those angling to take over the reins from the nonagenarian would have to wait for their opportunity much longer.
Women’s league deputy chair, Eunice Sandi Moyo, told the gathering that they were concerned that their resolutions which had been put forward in 2015, that a woman should become one of the party’s two VPs in 2016, had not been enforced.
“We want to urge Zanu PF to look at the resolutions that we made in Victoria Falls,” she said.
But although in his closing remarks Mugabe described the resolutions that were presented by various thematic committees as well-considered, he deftly side-stepped them, appealing to the warring party’s factions to unite.
But it wasn’t just the ruling party’s factions which were left disappointed at the close of the conference yesterday, long-suffering ordinary Zimbabweans were also left in the lurch as both Mugabe and Zanu PF did not meaningfully address issues related to the country’s dying economy.
Political analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday said it would have been “atypical” if Mugabe had chosen one faction over the other.
“The current situation where there are factions fighting each other below him means that there isn’t a faction fighting him directly, so the fighting serves him well,” said former civic leader, McDonald Lewanika.
Academic Ibbo Mandaza said Mugabe had repeatedly displayed “tendencies that are consistent with someone who doesn’t want a successor”.
“He is officially the Zanu PF candidate for 2018 and that suits the G40 faction which he heads, but in the final analysis all that is happening is that he wants to die in office,” he said.
But Mugabe — the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the country gained its independence from Britain in April 1980 — is facing the biggest challenge to his 36-year rule.
The increasingly fail nonagenarian and Zanu PF are battling growing unrest among the country’s restive populace, which blames his government for presiding over the country’s dying economy and the deepening rot in the former regional breadbasket.
Ahead of the conference, Zanu PF’s ugly ructions had taken another ominous turn after Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao — who is Mugabe’s nephew — told the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, that he had received death threats related to his recent public criticism of Mnangagwa and his supporters.
This was not the first time that a Cabinet minister has received death threats over the past two years, and as Zanu PF’s seemingly unstoppable ructions have become more intractable.
Earlier this year, Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane found a bullet in his hotel room in Harare, where he was staying. The bullet had been placed on a headboard in the room.
The deadly fights within the warring Zanu PF also took a similarly ominous turn last year after Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha received an AK47 bullet and a threatening message telling him to step down or risk suffering the same fatal fate that befell the late Zanu PF political commissar, Elliot Manyika, who died in a suspicious car accident in 2008. Daily News