Mugove Tafirenyika 29 June 2017
HARARE – As President Robert Mugabe prepares for the make-or-break
elections next year, in which the opposition could contest as a coalition,
the Zanu PF leader faces a dilemma as to whether he should completely
ditch the war veterans who are increasingly getting outspoken about his
leadership or lean towards the youths for his 2018 re-election bid.
Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, is
currently meeting Zanu PF youths through what has been called youths
interface rallies, which are essentially some form of dress rehearsals for
his 2018 campaign, with the next meeting scheduled for tomorrow in
The rallies have been a show of force by the increasingly influential Zanu
PF youth league which is emerging as an alternative to Mugabe’s bid to
retain office in next year’s watershed elections, riding on the frosty
relations between the veteran politician and the disaffected war veterans.
War veterans have always been the fulcrum of Mugabe’s power-retention
machinery since the emergence of the opposition MDC as a credible
challenge to his rule at the turn of the millennium.
Political analysts told the Daily News that next year’s elections could be
decided by the youth vote, hence Mugabe is leaving no stone unturned to
lure the youths on his side.
Piers Pigou, a senior consultant for southern Africa at the International
Crisis Group, said Mugabe was aware of what was at stake in 2018 and would
pitch his bid based on the support of the youths.
“I suspect the door will be left open for those war veterans who can
commit to a Zanu PF victory as well as accommodating a greater role for
youth formations in the election mobilisation strategy.
“When I say youths are critical constituencies I mean both as a mobilising
base and as voting fodder. The numbers at the (interface) rallies are
impressive but does that translate into votes? What can Zanu PF offer
youths beyond policy promises that have limited prospects for
implementation?” Pigou said.
Speaking at his first interface rally in Marondera at the beginning of the
month, Mugabe did not leave anything to imagination as he heaped praise on
the Zanu PF youths for organising “a successful and well-attended” rally.
“I have come here to thank you for the respect that you have always shown
me, including when you organised the million-man march. The nation was
shocked by the support and even some Sadc countries as well as the West.
“Of course, I was boasting because of the support that you give me and
even today I am shocked there are so many people when I thought I was
merely going to address people from this province but I realised that
other provinces are also here,” said Mugabe.
In May last year, Zanu PF youths organised a hugely successful
“million-man march” in support of Mugabe, after his leadership had been
put under a microscope by the former liberation war fighters who had
authored a stinging communique, disparaging his administration.
Some of the leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans
Association (ZNLWVA) had to be arrested on suspicion of penning the
stinging communique, and are currently out on bail.
They are facing charges of undermining Mugabe’s authority.
Until that happened, the ex-combatants had served as Mugabe’s pillars,
waging particularly brutal campaigns against opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai and the MDC, especially in the bloody elections of 2000 and
The fallout opened a new chapter in Mugabe’s relations with the former
liberation war fighters, who responded by dropping the Zanu PF leader as
Mugabe was also forced to drop ZNLWVA chairperson, Christopher Mutsvangwa,
whom he had appointed War Veterans minister the previous year, while many
of the association’s leaders were also banished from the imploding
liberation movement, in addition to being hauled before the courts.
Since then, there has not been any love lost between Mugabe and the war
veterans, with the Zanu PF leader leaning more towards the youths as his
Amid the internecine fighting within Zanu PF, blamed on Mugabe’s own
failure to resolve the thorny succession issue, the youth league has
emerged as his preferred route to 2018 national elections.
Party insiders said Mugabe now prefers the youth league over the
ex-combatants as he fears another internal rebellion – Bhora Musango –
which in 2008 saw bigwigs campaigning for themselves and left the Zanu PF
leader in the cold, resulting in his defeat in the first round of the
March 29 presidential election.
Zanu PF is currently deeply divided, with a camp opposed to Vice President
Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe, the Generation 40 (G40) faction,
involved in a life-and-death tussle with the VP’s backers, Team Lacoste.
Mutsvangwa’s executive has publicly said it favours Mnangagwa to succeed
Mugabe at both government and party levels.
Shakespeare Hamauswa, an analyst, said women and youth leagues have always
been the pillars of all political movements in Zimbabwe and therefore,
were yet again, likely to influence the voting patterns in next year’s
“The war veterans have been working with these two groups and now Mugabe
knows that power lies on these two groups. In this case the war veterans
are like fish and youth and women the water but with the war veterans now
divided such that their power and influence is now limited, Mugabe will
have to make do with what is available,” said Hamauswa.
Political analyst Dewa Mavhinga said the security commanders hold sway in
Zanu PF politics and were likely to engineer another Mugabe victory next
“The bedrock of Mugabe’s power in Zanu PF and in managing elections lies
with the security forces, particularly sections of the army and the
Central Intelligence Organisation,” he said.
“To that extent Mugabe can afford to do away with his links with war
veterans and turn to the youths, or any other sector, knowing well that
his strength lies with loyal State institutions that are prepared to
ignore rules for free and fair elections in order to retain Mugabe in
office,” said Mavhinga.
Yesterday secretary-general of the ZNLWVA Victor Matemadanda said the
youths would not pull it off for Mugabe without their involvement.
“It will be much easier for a war veteran to convince rural dwellers to
attend Zanu PF rallies after explaining why some promises made at
independence were either fulfilled or not because they have a relationship
that dates back to the liberation war than someone who they may easily
dismiss as someone singing for his supper because he or she benefits from
being either a central committee or politburo member.
“The fact that youths are fronting Mugabe’s campaign may not necessarily
matter though because what Zimbabweans are concerned about is what
promises are there for the future and why some that were made have not
“So it is really about the campaign material, how is it packaged and I
don’t know what strategy these youths are using but without the delivery
component, it will be very difficult for them,” Matemadanda told the Daily