2016: Another barren year

Source: 2016: Another barren year | The Financial Gazette December 22, 2016

THE pernicious politics of attrition continued both within the ruling ZANU-PF party and in the opposition, making sure that another year ended with Zimbabweans having no sense of direction as to where the country could be heading.
The year was dominated by the internecine succession fights in ZANU-PF, which continue to claim more scalps as members, who know that their real chances of succeeding President Robert Mugabe are next to nothing, appear to have made up their minds that if they cannot get it, then no one else should, so to them the best scenario is for the incumbent to continue even when it is becoming increasingly clear that age is no longer on his side.
The highlight of these succession fights in ZANU-PF was the fall-out between President Mugabe and the war veterans after a section of the former liberation war fighters organised a solidarity march in support of his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa, understood to be the leader of one of the two factions that are battling to manage the succession of President Mugabe, had come under open fire from a junior party member, Sarah Mahoka, who accused him of doing nothing to douse claims that he wants to take over from the incumbent.
This was in addition to claims by the former freedom fighters that they were not being accorded the respect they deserve.
February 18, 2016 marked a turning point in relations between President Mugabe and the war veterans — until now his tried and tested battle-axes — after police employed tear smoke and water cannons to violently disperse the rambunctious gang that had gathered for the protest march in Harare.
Although a conciliatory President Mugabe later organised an indaba with the war veterans in Harare in early April, the pertinent issues that the war veterans had raised — such as unequivocal position on the succession matter — were brushed aside as the meeting ended up focusing mainly on their welfare issues.
The war veterans’ “rebellion” continued in other forms, resulting in the dismissal of their chairman, Christopher Mutsvangwa, from both ZANU-PF and government, where he was the minister of war veterans affairs.
The apogee of the fall-out was the issuance, by the war veterans, of a bilious communiqué, in which they had no kind words for the party’s leadership.
Because of this communiqué, some leaders of the war veterans movement were arrested on charges of undermining the office of the President, but their case latter fizzled out.
President Mugabe was to meet the estranged war veterans again in November, but the relationship with a section of the former liberation war fighters has largely remained strained.
Mutsvangwa’s July recall from government and his expulsion from ZANU-PF resulted in a by-election being called for in his Norton constituency.
ZANU-PF was to suffer an embarrassment after the October contest was won by Temba Mliswa, a former ZANU-PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman and Hurungwe West legislator, who was dismissed in 2014 as a result of the succession-related fights in the ruling party.

On May 25, what started as a cruel joke to many Zimbabweans came to pass when the ZANU-PF Youth League held what was dubbed a “One Million Man March” in solidarity with President Mugabe.
The march appeared designed to send a message to President Mugabe’s detractors, both within and outside ZANU-PF, that the incumbent should rule for life.
President Mugabe’s succession headache has also been entangled with cases of alleged corruption including one in which Higher Education Minister, Jonathan Moyo, is accused of misusing more than US$400 000 from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund.
Moyo is believed to be a member of the Generation (G40) faction, which is opposed to the Team Lacoste faction, understood to be pushing for Mnangagwa to succeed President Mugabe.
In what was supposed to be a sincere explanation during his annual birthday interview in February, President Mugabe revealed that about US$15 billion in diamond revenue from the Marange gems could have been lost to smuggling and other corrupt activities.
Although the President revealed this while trying to justify government’s moves to consolidate all diamond-mining operations in the country under State control, this caused outrage among Zimbabweans who blamed this wanton looting on the political elite. This was not helped by the fact that despite this shocking revelation, no steps were ever taken to trace the footsteps of the alleged looters.
The year has come to an end with the ZANU-PF succession fights having extended to the judiciary where factions of the ruling party are reportedly jostling to influence the choice of who becomes the country’s next Chief Justice as the incumbent, Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, goes into retirement.
The year also saw Local Government Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, who is ZANU-PF’s political commissar, continuing a crusade against opposition-led local authorities, with Harare mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni being suspended twice in a move that the opposition alleged was part of the ruling party’s attempt to wrestle control of cities in which they have dominance.
In July, Kasukuwere successfully railroaded through Parliament an amendment to the Local Government Act to give himself powers to suspended or dismiss elected councillors and mayors.
What started in April as a harmless social media platform movement turned out to be more than an addled threat when on July 6 #ThisFlag, a protest group led by Evan Mawarire — a pastor — successfully mobilised people to stay away from work, leading to a complete shutdown of cities, a development that took government by surprise. This was the most successful protest Zimbabwe had seen in many years.
Other subsequent protests, by the National Electoral Reform Agenda — a loose coalition of opposition political parties — as well as various political and other pressure groups on issues such as electoral reforms and the then impending issuance of bond notes among other issues had various levels of success, with some of them being outright dismal failures.
The most violent protest was held in the border town of Beitbridge where a warehouse belong to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority was burnt down by protestors after government suddenly banned the importation of a number of basic goods after it implemented Statutory 64 of 2016, an import restriction law.
The main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, continued with its policy of boycotting by-elections as a form of protest against what it sees as an uneven electoral field, a policy that has seen its numbers in Parliament dwindling over the years.
While it is taking a break from fighting with ZANU-PF, the MDC-T had its own internal issues to deal with.
After a lot of speculation about his visibly deteriorating health, in June, Tsvangirai revealed that he was suffering from cancer of the colon and that he was undergoing treatment at a South African hospital.
As a party that — just like ZANU-PF — the MDC-T has its own unresolved succession issues, hence news of Tsvangirai’s ill health caused a lot of anguish among its supporters.
Tsvangirai responded to these worries by elevating Elias Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa to be his co-vice presidents in addition to his long-standing deputy, Thokozani Khupe.

Instead of assuaging the fears of the party’s membership, the appointments caused more friction, with some of the party’s members taking Tsvangirai to court over these appointments.
What appeared to have miffed most senior MDC-T members was that Chamisa’s appointment made him senior to those whom he had lost the ballot at the party’s 2014 congress, causing even more friction in the party.
However, despite its own shortcomings as a democratic party, the MDC-T enjoyed high numbers of former members returning after defecting to other parties.
Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), a movement led by former vice president Joice Mujuru, morphed into a fully-fledged political party, taking under its wings hundreds of former ZANU-PF members who were dismissed for being linked to Mujuru’s putative plot to unseat President Mugabe as well as disgruntled war veterans and other members of society seeking a middle of the road party between the two extremes of ZANU-PF and MDC-T.
Rallies that Mujuru’s party held in various centres around the country attracted decent crowds, a development that led political analysts to believe that ZPF had the potential to be a viable political force in future elections.
Political violence targeting members of ZPF increased, as the party appeared to draw its support from hitherto ZANU-PF strongholds.
Together with the MDC-T, ZPF led the demand for tangible electoral reforms, among other changes.
As the year ended, the two parties together with others were still toying with the idea of forming a grand coalition to give them a better chance to upstage ZANU-PF from power at the next elections.