Tendai Kamhungira and Andrew Kunambura 3 October 2017
HARARE – Zanu PF could be headed for a devastating split ahead of the
tricky 2018 synchronised elections, laden with tribal rumblings among
party faithfuls belonging to minority Shona tribes, the Daily News can
Indicative of the noxious fallout between hitherto comrades-in-arms in
Zanu PF was Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s uncharacteristic weekend
speech, daring his nemesis in the ruling party.
The 75-year-old vice president stepped out of character on Saturday to hit
out at his critics in the deeply-divided party, in sweeping remarks that
did not appear to spare President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace.
The first couple has made it abundantly clear that they want a
root-and-branch shake-up of Masvingo province to uproot dissenting voices
campaigning for a change of guard at State House in favour of Mnangagwa.
Masvingo – along with the Midlands province – are bedrocks of support for
the Team Lacoste faction, which is rallying behind a Mnangagwa presidency.
Addressing party supporters in Gutu on Saturday, Mnangagwa clearly broke
ranks with the powers-that-be in Zanu PF by coming out of his shell, and
leaping to the defence of his allies who have been sanctioned for trying
to create two centres of power in the ruling party.
In his address at the late Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai
Mahofa’s memorial service, the embattled vice president urged his
supporters in Masvingo to stand by one of their own and never be swayed by
“People of Masvingo should not be intimidated. You should continue doing
what we have been doing because there is nothing wrong with supporting one
of your own. The province deserves respect,” said Mnangagwa, while
speaking in a veiled tone.
“Let me tell you a little story but one which is big to those that can
discern. It is the province of Masvingo which asked the party leadership
to declare Mai Mahofa a national hero. It is only those you work closely
with who can bear witnesses for you, not those from other provinces, so
stay with your people so that tomorrow, they will bear witnesses for you,”
This is the first time that Mnangagwa has made such an open declaration of
war against the rival Generation 40 (G40) faction ever since his name
started featuring in succession debates more than two decades ago.
Masvingo, just like his own home province, Midlands, is dominated by the
Karanga ethnic groups which Mnangagwa identifies with.
Both provinces are rallying behind Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe, although
there are pockets of resistance from G40 proponents in the two regions.
Having been described as a calculative character who keeps cards to his
chest, Mnangagwa’s weekend statements have placed the ball squarely in
Mugabe’s court and many are waiting how he will react to his deputy’s
Analysts were almost unanimous yesterday that with none of the factions
fighting to succeed Mugabe willing to make concessions, Zanu PF could be
headed towards a calamitous split.
Before his death in October last year, one of the country’s iconic
revolutionaries, Cephas Msipa, predicted a possible breakaway by
disgruntled Zanu PF members unless Mugabe decisively deals with the
Msipa, who was a key player in the Unity Accord negotiations between Zanu
PF and PF Zapu in 1987, said factionalism linked to succession was
rendering the party dysfunctional.
Political scientist Ibbo Mandaza believes there is no turning back now in
“The fallout is now complete,” declared Mandaza.
“It might be that he (Mnangagwa) has dismissed himself. Mnangagwa could
not take more of the salvos targeting him. The attacks aimed at him in
Bindura (at a Zanu PF rally last month) were too much and then recently he
was described as a traitor after the order of Judas Iscariot. He probably
feels that enough is enough. He has been under pressure from his
supporters who have been demanding that he stands up and be counted and
now he has gone for broke. It could be the beginning of a real split. This
signals a clean break,” said Mandaza.
Mandaza said while Mnangagwa cannot be blamed for his stance, it was
unfortunate that he has decided to go ethnic.
“One cannot blame him for that (speaking out). What is unfortunate is that
he has decided to take an ethnic stand. It cannot be doubted that Mugabe
has always promoted the interests of his Zezuru ethnicity, but you cannot
answer ethnicity with ethnicity. He needed to have taken a completely
national approach. If you say Masvingo is sovereign, then you are
answering perceived tribalism with assertive tribalism,” Mandaza said.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said Mnangagwa could have realised
that by keeping quiet he might go down in the same way his predecessor
Joice Mujuru did.
The former vice president was dismissed from Zanu PF in December 2014
after an unrelenting onslaught triggered by the first lady in September of
the same year.
Mujuru had tried to hold her peace against the verbal tirade and when she
started to return fire with fire, it just made the situation untenable for
Her downfall also cost the political careers of several of her acolytes,
through outright dismissals and suspensions for varying periods.
“That he (Mnangagwa) is now speaking out show cheekiness and the valour
that’s required to stand up to Mugabe and his wife. This is a new
beginning to an interminable, drama-filled succession tussle in Zanu PF. I
think it’s time that the real Mnangagwa rise up and speak out, and he is
doing just that,” said Saungweme.
“He has to continue, otherwise he loses his supporters from war veterans
and (other allies) who have been systematically been purged by G40
machinations. His speaking out will perturb Mugabe, but it’s necessary for
both implosion of Zanu PF and progress for the country. If we had a solid
opposition, they would capitalise on this to wrestle power from Zanu PF,”
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said Mnangagwa will obviously not be a
pushover owing to his support base in the civil service.
“Unlike Mujuru who was an easy push over, ED (Mnangagwa) has deeper roots
in the State machinery that is civil service and security and will not be
an easy pushover. What will settle matters is a decisive move by Mugabe to
dismiss ED and right now I doubt. Bid his time . . . raise the cost of
dismissal for Mugabe hence talk of another bhora musango,” Mukundu said.
The Daily News reported recently that Mugabe already has a lot of homework
to do ahead of next year’s decisive polls after it emerged that allies of
Mnangagwa have hatched an improved version of the 2008 Bhora Musango
strategy to shipwreck his re-election bid.
This came after relations in the ruling party had become strained
following the suspected poisoning of Mnangagwa in August by his alleged
rivals who are desperate to destroy his prospects of succeeding Mugabe
Since the alleged poisoning of Mnangagwa, Mugabe and his wife, Grace, have
accused the Midlands and Masvingo provinces of fanning tribalism and
spreading hate through false claims of witchcraft.
The first family was said to have been hurt by allegations that Mnangagwa
ate ice cream from their dairy firm, which was laced with poison.
But the 75-year-old has issued a statement denying that he ate ice cream
at the Gwanda interface rally where the alleged poison incident is said to
Fresh attempts to depose the leadership of the Zimbabwe National
Liberation War Veterans Association – the central piece Mnangagwa’s
jig-saw puzzle – have inflamed the discord.
In 2008, in a rebellion which is said to have been led by officials loyal
to Mujuru and her late husband Solomon – and which came to be known as
Bhora Musango – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mugabe and Zanu PF hands
down in that year’s historic, albeit hotly-disputed polls.
In that election, Mujuru’s supporters voted for their Members of
Parliament but sabotaged the Zanu PF leader.
However, the results of the elections were withheld for six long weeks by
stunned authorities, amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and
fraud, which were later revealed by former Zanu PF bigwigs.
In the ensuing sham presidential run-off, which authorities claimed was
needed to determine the winner, Zanu PF apparatchiks engaged in a
murderous orgy of violence in which hundreds of Tsvangirai’s supporters
were killed in cold blood, forcing the former prime minister in the
inclusive government to withdraw from the discredited race altogether.
Mugabe went on to stand in a widely-condemned one-man race in which he
declared himself the winner.
However, the Southern African Development Community and the rest of the
international community would have none of it, forcing Mugabe to share
power with Tsvangirai for five years to prevent the country from imploding
Mukundu said what is happening in the ruling party was a sign that the
Zanu PF factional fights will only be over until one of the factions is
“As things stand, Lacoste is fighting back and until Mugabe dismisses ED
from the party, then we must expect a continued push back by Lacoste,” he
Political analyst Vivid Gwede warned that if he tries to be defiant,
Mnangagwa would run the succession race with a big limp since Mugabe holds
the advantage of being the appointing authority both in government and in
“So while he is attacked directly by the first family, he can only box
their shadow by attacking G40. His allies, including in the army, are
appointees and any extra-legal challenge to Mugabe’s power can be
“But Mugabe is equally hamstrung for now because he cannot anything
drastic that completely side-lines Mnangagwa and his allies before the
elections otherwise the sabotage campaign Bhora Mudziva can become full
swing. Yet, if Mnangagwa and his allies allow themselves to be shepherded
into the post-election season, they will be most likely dead men walking
politically and since it has started ticking, Mnangagwa and his allies
most likely know of this time bomb,” he said.
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono said Mnangagwa has no other choice but to
fight to avoid being drowned by the G40 faction.
“He will survive and be triumphant if he has the security sector with him,
but that sector is not homogenous. This is a turning point because ED has
never talked back publicly; it’s a realisation that his fate is sealed if
he doesn’t stand up for himself and his supporters. It’s not a closed case
yet, but it is now a long throw for him unless he turns up the heat with
University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masunungure said
Mnangagwa’s bravery was probably informed by the fact that Mugabe was
unlikely to sanction wholesale purging of top leadership as it would
compromise its chances of winning next year’s general elections.
“The reality is that Zanu PF is faction ridden from top to bottom and this
time the situation is more complex than it was in 2014 when Mujuru was
expelled,” Masunungure explained.
“I do not see Mugabe punishing Mnangagwa severely at this time. He will
have to be extremely judicious in dealing with him given that we are going
into elections in seven to ten months. You don’t want to rock the boat at
this critical stage and Mnangagwa is alive to this fact, remember he has
been Mugabe’s election agent in the last two controversial general
elections,” he said.