President Robert Mugabe’s critics have dismissed as cheap politicking his claims that he would relinquish power anytime if his party or the people of Zimbabwe told him to.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Addressing thousands of former freedom fighters in Harare on Thursday, the long-ruling leader condemned colleagues fighting for his position, saying he was still firmly in charge.
Mugabe said, “I am there at the mercy of the people. If the people say go, I go; the party, I go. But if the people say we still want you, I stay. Let’s get organised, let us not bother ourselves with succession and things like that.”
His ruling Zanu PF party is currently battling factionalism as warring formations angle to take control of the party and subsequently government in the case of the 92-year-old stepping aside.
Political commentator Brilliant Mhlanga opined that Mugabe was simply bluffing and has no desire to leave office.
“The reality is that he has created over the years this culture of him being infallible, this fearsome leader. People in Zanu PF don’t want him anymore but they are afraid of him,” Mhlanga said
Mugabe has in the past complained that war veterans want him to step down before the end of his term.
Last week’s meeting was supposed to address the fresh infighting in the ruling party over his succession and the war veterans were scathing in their assessment of Zanu PF under the long time ruler’s stewardship.
“The central committee [Zanu PF’s highest decision making body between congresses] is the disciplinary organ of the party [but] now the politburo has taken over that role,” one of the thematic committees set up at the meeting said in its resolutions.
“We do have a national disciplinary committee [NDC] yet they do not act constitutionally. They serve one side of the media-created factions firing one side for unsubstantiated crimes, while keeping those whose crimes and indiscipline are in the public view”.
The NDC, chaired by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko and whose other members include First Lady Grace Mugabe, national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, youth league leader Pupurai Togarepi and party secretary for legal affairs Patrick Chinamasa, was also accused of systematic “selective application of the law”.
“Some good examples of this type of systematic selectiveness are when one cadre [Hurungwe East lawmaker Sarah Mahoka]insulted the whole presidium, including dressing down the President and VP [Emmerson Mnangagwa].
“Not even a cautionary remark to her was made at least to our knowledge, yet other people are expelled from the party for false accusations that they have insulted the First Lady with no proof,” the former fighters moaned.
They juxtaposed this with the suspension of Espinah Nhari for allegedly chanting “pasi neG40”.
In his presentation, former commissariat director Munyaradzi Machacha said Zanu PF had a “cartel of senior politicians from politburo right down to the districts”.
“The systematic elimination of war veterans and all revolutionary minded cadres is one big threat to the party,” he said.
“These eliminations are carried out by counter-revolutionaries who are political vultures that have infiltrated the party.”
Mugabe and his family, the war veterans charged, had become a pawn in a vicious political fight for control of the ruling party between two factions.
Zanu PF is torn between factions, one allegedly led by Grace (G40) and another by Mnangagwa.
“They [cartel members] use their proximity to the First Family, usually worming their way to that family using falsehoods that they would have created through social media and anti-Zanu PF newspapers,” the war veterans added.
Mugabe was also accused of presiding over endemic graft in both government and Zanu PF.
“Corruption is rife and endemic [and is] known to the public, yet it goes on unpunished and uncautioned,” Machacha said.
“How then can the same public being affected by such corruption continue to support us? This is by far one of the biggest threats to the party.”
Mugabe’s much-vaunted Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation also came under attack, with the ex-fighters saying it had gone off the rails. They urged Mugabe to fire non-performing ministers.
“Comrades felt that more focus should be given to the economy and government ministers be held accountable for the performance of their ministries through performance contracts. Non-performing ministers should be relieved of their duties,” the war vets said.
The indigenisation policy that analysts think has poisoned the country’s economic environment was not spared.
“The ongoing indigenisation and economic empowerment program was applauded as a progressive policy designed to bring the majority of Zimbabweans into the economy as serious players,” the war vets said.
“Comrades felt that the programme has been hijacked by corrupt individuals and most indigenisation deals are shrouded in secrecy,” adding the celebrated community share ownership schemes had ‘run out of steam’, with little to show.”
Mugabe on Friday told the Zanu PF central committee that he deliberately ignored political demands from the war veterans because they had no right to dictate to him on how to run the party.
Grace has been accused of leading the G40 faction which is locked in a bitter war with another group linked to Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe. — Additional reporting by VOA