Source: Can ZANU-PF survive the tide? | The Financial Gazette September 15, 2016
By Tendai Makaripe
THE ruling ZANU-PF party might have weathered many storms in its 53-year history, but many are skeptical whether it would ride the present challenges.
Before April 1980, when the country attained its independence, ZANU’s challenges were primarily ideological.
Faced with hostile settler regimes, differences among liberation movements, ZANU included, were centred around how they could sustain the war effort.
And upon regaining that freedom, the formative years of independence focussed primarily on delivering real change to the people.
ZANU-PF is today faced with a different kind of storm that is not economic.
That storm has gathered because of President Robert Mugabe’s unclear succession plan.
Aged 92, many ZANU-PF cadres believe the veteran nationalist could be seeing off his final term in office.
While President Mugabe himself has expressed his willingness to continue to lead (provided he has the support of his people), that has done little to douse the succession fires.
The jostling for the top job did not start in 2014 when Joice Mujuru was fired as vice president from ZANU-PF and government for plotting to succeed her boss, unconstitutionally.
Way back in 2004, signs of cracks within the had party had started emerging.
That year brought a new phrase in the party’s lexicon, Tsholotsho Declaration, referring to a surreptitious indaba that had been convened at Dinyane School ahead of the party’s elective congress held in December of the same year.
Half a dozen provincial chairpersons had to be suspended from ZANU-PF for being part of an alleged plot to change the party’s leadership.
In essence, those involved in the meeting had merely attempted to place their favourite horse, Emmerson Mnangagwa, at a vantage position to assume the vacant vice presidency seat left by the late Simon Muzenda.
As documented, ructions in ZANU-PF saw the party instead creating a post for a woman vice presidency to thwart Mnangagwa’s ascendency.
That re-configuration of the party’s constitution and the ensuing rumpus marked the beginning of the ruling party’s present troubles.
Writing back then, nine months after the Tsholotsho debacle, one of the ruling party’s former legislator, Pearson Mbalekwa, said: “It is expected that after a very strong and devastating eddy with a trail of destruction and misery, victims would start to pick up the pieces and begin to rebuild their lives when the dust has settled down and losses counted. But alas! The political hurricane, which I shall term ‘Hurricane Destruction,’ has continued to cause havoc and mayhem and will not subside until every standing natural and man-made structure is destroyed.
“ZANU-PF will never be as coherent as in the past and certainly the die is cast; the wheel of change is turning, the stage is set and the countdown is about to begin towards an advent that will certainly change the face of Zimbabwe politics forever and, initiate a collapse of a system that had started very well, but which has now suddenly abandoned its course and has become afraid of its own shadow as it moves towards oblivion.”
Ten years after Tsholotsho, came the devastating swoop on former vice president, Mujuru, whose ejection from the party was much more vicious than that of 2004.
Dozens of top-ranking officials were either suspended or chucked out of the party for yet another alleged plot to unseat President Mugabe.
Since then things have never really been the same.
Like savannah country elephants that have picked up the first waft of approaching summer rains, the country’s opposition parties are coalescing at the time when cracks in ZANU-PF have widened.
The grouping comprises the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), which has kept ZANU-PF on its toes since 1999 when it announced its entry into politics; the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), fronted by Mujuru; the Tendai Biti-led People’s Democratic Party; the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe fronted by Elton Mangoma; the MDC led by Welshman Ncube; and a host of fringe opposition parties that have mushroomed over the years buoyed by the desire to put an end to ZANU-PF’s 36-year old hold on power.
Stoking the voices of dissent, together with other fringe pressure groups such as the #Tajamuka/Sesijikile, #ThisFlag, #MyZimbabwe and so on, the opposition political parties are piling up new pressure on ZANU-PF.
And the ruling party has every reason to be scared.
The party has also realised that ignoring events taking place in the opposition camp would be at its own peril, especially in the wake of increasing protests and calls for a leadership change.
With ZANU-PF already seeing shadows in the form of enemies from western countries seeking “a regime change”, the party is rallying its troops.
Addressing journalists after last week’s Politburo meeting, ZANU-PF secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, said: “In his (President Mugabe) opening remarks, His Excellency stated that the opposition has forged a coalition aided by some external forces which have become glaringly visible. The opposition has taken to violent protests supported by western powers, who are providing financial aid and that the party should evolve and use its own strategies to counter the violence being perpetrated by the opposition.”
At the Central Committee meeting held last Friday, President Mugabe sang the same song, lacing it with threats and warnings against opposition parties in the coalition carrying out demonstrations.
He said he would unleash full wrath of the law on them if they continue with acts of insolence.
And the tell-tale signs of a ruling party entering the eye of the storm are all but just too glaring.
Government has unleashed the anti-riot police to crush all protests, while it has banned opposition political rallies as well as issuing veiled and blunt threats to all dissenting voices.
That people like MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora opine that coalition leaders are no longer afraid of the colossal ZANU-PF are serious signs that things could be getting out of hand.
“(President) Mugabe must not ever think that we are afraid of his threats. He has threatened the judges, the Human Rights Commission, Tsvangirai and other National Electoral Reforms Agenda leaders. What more harm can he do to Zimbabwe than he has already done? This time he will be defeated. Victory is certain,” said Mwonzora.
Analysts who spoke to the Financial Gazette said the involvement of anti-riot police, who have hogged the limelight for all the wrong reasons, demonstrates the desperation on the part of government.
The anti-riot police have been criticised for beating up peaceful protesters, firing water cannons and teargas at innocent civilians and arresting journalists going about their business.
Political analyst, Vince Musewe, believes that whatever the ruling party will do to suppress dissent would help create the best conditions for a new political order to suppress dissent.
“They are creating the necessary atmosphere for change. Youths are fed up with a government that cannot turn around the economy to create jobs,” he said.
University of Johannesburg research associate, Admire Mare, told the Financial Gazette that the ZANU-PF government remains strong despite infighting within its ranks and the current upheavals witnessed in the country.
“Indeed, we have witnessed some signs of sustained resistance mostly in Harare in recent weeks, but I doubt if they will really shake the ZANU-PF-led government. The protests lack the broader grassroots appeal, which cuts across the rural and urban divide. Despite (the ruling) elite’s lack of cohesion, the apparatus of the State are still intact to repel any would-be demonstrators,” said Mare.
“Going forward, I see the State flexing its muscles a bit more. The theatre of action will not be on the streets, but the courtroom as the judiciary will increasingly come under pressure not to allow demonstrations despite constitutional provisions allowing citizens to embark on peaceful protests,” added Mare.
ZANU-PF’s ability to withstand pressure when it matters most has, so far, been legendary.
The formation of the MDC in 1999 was the party’s greatest litmus test since independence.
The hype surrounding the MDC’s formation and the crippling protests that followed almost saw Tsvangirai taking over the country’s reins.
Political analyst, Alexander Rusero, observed that ZANU-PF cannot be easily deposed of by demonstrations or people taking advantage of the factional battles in the party.
“The protests are a reprieve to factionalists who probably were on the firing line. Now that ZANU-PF faces an external threat, all factions will temporarily close ranks and face the threat. ZANU-PF stalwarts are like baboons, always tearing each other, but regrouping whenever an enemy is identified.
“We have to be genuine with the kind of government we are dealing with. The organic link at which Zimbabwe attained its independence still resonates well with the governance modus operandi.
“Government is prepared for war more than it is prepared to listen to citizen’s grievances, so it will despatch artillery, because it’s the language it knows best and citizens won’t win.
“They may claim victory in the short-term, but in the long run they won’t win,” said Rusero.