2016 at a glance

After years of a turbulent relationship, the year 2016 marked the end of the marriage between President Robert Mugabe and war veterans.

Source: 2016 at a glance – NewsDay Zimbabwe December 28, 2016

BY Everson Mushava

For decades, Mugabe and the war veterans — the force behind the strongman’s continued hold on power since 1980 — had been involved in a love-and-hate relationship before it reached a thawing moment in 2016.

First, it was Mugabe’s admission that he was responsible for the deployment of the police that torched the once untouchable veterans of the 1970s liberation struggle in February this year for participating in an illegal gathering.

He blasted Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) chairman, then War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa, for abusing his government position to organise a meeting of the former combatants under the guise that the President wanted to address them.

Mugabe apologised to all the war vets who were caught up in the melee, but said Mutsvangwa deserved it, and later, the outspoken minister lost his ministerial job to his deputy Tshinga Dube.

Mutsvangwa, a fierce critic of G40, a Zanu PF faction opposed to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rise to succeed Mugabe, continued with his influence on the war vets whose defiance of Mugabe escalated.

They war veterans claimed they were stockholders of Zanu PF and should have a say on what happens in the party, but Mugabe said they were mere stakeholders — an affiliate and has no control over the direction of the party.

In July, the war veterans fiercely attacked Mugabe, calling him a dictator, genocidal and urged him to resign, accusing him of running down the country.

They regretted the role they played in the Mgagao Declaration that saw Mugabe take over power at the instigation of the freedom fighters.

At the close of meeting in July, the war vets drafted an infamous communique that was later to characterise their hostile relationship with Mugabe until year-end.

“We are saying this country will only go up when Mugabe steps aside because his management is no-longer respected by anyone, including his own ministers,” war veterans national political commissar Francis Nhando said after the meeting.

“If he announces his retirement date the economy will improve because there is nobody who will invest his money where the future is uncertain. Nobody will lend money to a 92-year-old and if he does not step aside, 2018 will be the most difficult year to campaign for us as war veterans.

“How do you campaign for someone you do not like and who does not like you either. The relationship between us as war veterans and the president has broken down.”

But Mugabe responded by arresting the ZNLWVA spokesperson Douglas Mahiya and secretary general Victor Matemadanda for the infamous communique. They were also accused by G40 of authoring the Blue Ocean document that offered a strategy for Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe, although they denied it.

That however, did not cow the former fighters, who continuously issued statements blasting Mugabe, his wife First Lady Grace Mugabe and ordering him to dump G40. They proposed to remove Mugabe as their patron as they openly showed support for Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe.

Notably, it was the war veterans’ failure to attend this year’s Zanu PF annual conference, the first in history that showed how irretrievable their relationship with Mugabe had gone.

Zanu PF youths, on May 25, held a procession, the One-Million-Man March, in solidarity with Mugabe to counter war veterans’ “insurgency”.

Away from the souring relationship between Mugabe and the war veterans, resentment against the President’s rule rose as the country’s economy continue to take a knock.

A severe cash crisis hit the country way back in May and the long forgotten bank queues resurfaced, companies continued to close, throwing more people in the streets. Service delivery further collapsed and the situation triggered a wave of unrest to pressure Mugabe to resign.

This time, more interesting was the shift of the events from political parties, the traditional political drivers to citizen movements driven through social media. Of importance to note is cleric Evan Mawarire’s #ThisFlag movement that rattled Mugabe’s government to unbearable proportions to the extent of crafting social media laws.

Mawarire released video that mobilised people against Mugabe that gained a huge following forcing a complete shutdown of Harare on July 6.

Mawarire later had to disappoint a multitude of his followers by leaving the country to the United State of America soon after his arrest.

But #Tajamuka remained a thorn in Zanu PF’s flesh, organising regular demonstrations that kept the police on its toes with various other social movements like #Zimbabweyadzoka, and some times, with youths from political parties.

More protests were done in reaction to the government’s move to introduce Statutory 164 of 2016 that banned import of certain good from South Africa.

Not to be outdone, over 13 opposition parties, including MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s and Joice Mujuru’s ZimPF grouped themselves under the banner of National Electoral Reform Agenda to push for electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 general elections. Tsvangirai’s party continued with poll boycott until reforms were made.

Nera’s demonstrations were blocked by the police, only to be given a nod by the courts and some of them turned violent as protestors resist brute force by the police.

The push for Mugabe’s ouster also culminated into coalition talks by political parties. Other opposition partied like Tendai Biti’s People Democratic Party opted for a national transitional authority while other mulled a grand coalition against Mugabe in the 2018 general elections.

A group of opposition parties went to Cape Town, South Africa for coalition talks that were snubbed by Mujuru and Tsvangirai who insisted a due diligence on opposition parties to form a coalition should be done before any deal is signed or the whole project would be infiltrated by Zanu PF and collapse prematurely.

Tsvangirai also revealed that he had cancer of the abdomen and would not cope with the pressure of campaign for the 2018 general elections, thus appointed Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as vice-presidents together with Thokozani Khupe.

The move was welcomed by some MDC-T members, but caused serious frictions in the party with other members opposes to it as the biggest opposition party, like Zanu PF, also battle to deal with the succession issue.

Meanwhile, internal fights within Zanu PF escalated, with Mugabe at several instances having to dose the fires as his minister publicly clashed. Early in the year, it was Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao who clashed over the Indigenisation laws, and later, Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo and Mutsvangwa, with Moyo occasionally using Twitter to attack everyone including Mnangagwa claiming he had captured State institutions in the succession race.

The internal fights by Zanu PF forced it’s embarrassing defeat to Temba Mliswa, an independent candidate, in the Norton by-election in October. The defeat further fuelled the factional rifts in Zanu PF.

Mugabe also revealed that the country lost $15 billion in illicit diamond deals, forcing the citizens to demand his resignation and accountability in the diamond mining.

By year-end, Zanu PF factions squared off in the process of appointment of the Chief Justice to take over from Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku who retires next year.

G40 supported public interviews while Team Lacoste wanted to amend the constitution to allow Mugabe to appoint the CJ, a move G40 claims was a plot by Mnangagwa as Justice minister to try to influence who takes over.

The Zimbabwe Development Fund (Zimdef) scandal where Moyo was accused of siphoning over $430 000 Zimdef funds also turned political, with Mugabe intervening to save Moyo from arrest by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. Moyo adimitted to abusing the Zimdef funds, but turned the matter political calling himself Robin Hood of the legendary English folk tale who stole from the rich to give the poor.

Political analyst Alexander Rusero said in watching the flow of events over the past year or so, it was hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental had happened in Zimbabwe’s history in general and Zanu PF’s history in particular.

“Whilst anyone should never underestimate Zanu PF’s political experience and capabilities as it is a party that has come of age backdating to its formation in 1963.” Rusero said, “It is very frightening and unbelievable to note how the mighty has fallen, and how the party is fractured to the extent of itself risking the indelible tag: fallen no more to rise!”

He said the paroxysm of Zanu PF’s failure and its ineluctable demise is deep-rooted in its “mediocre policies that signal high levels of craft incompetence and craft illiteracy.”

“ No one can dispute that Zanu PF policies are very sound at face value, but the manner of implementation has been a disaster. There has not been a policy that Zanu PF adopted which it did not amend or totally shelve all together, with others never seeing the light of the day in the first place,” Rusero said.

“So it is a paradox, whereas 2017 points to the likelihood of a demise of Zanu PF, it yet does not point to a rise of the opposition given its ego-dominated politics of refusing a coalition, fatigue of trade unions and democratic pressure groups as well as an equally dejected civil society and frustrated bureaucracy.”