Successionists put on leash

Source: Successionists put on leash | The Financial Gazette December 22, 2016

IN spite of the intense pressure brought upon him to act on ambitious ZANU-PF bigwigs engrossed in the party’s nasty succession fights, President Robert Mugabe has opted for a delicate balancing act to arrest a simmering implosion within the revolutionary party as it hurtles towards make-or-break polls in 2018, the Financial Gazette can report.
Ahead of the party’s 16th annual people’s conference held in Masvingo last week, daggers had been drawn out as the two factions in the ruling party — Generation 40 (G40) and Team Lacoste — attempted to exert pressure on President Mugabe to wield the axe on their rivals.
Going into the conference, Team Lacoste’s perceived kingpin, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, had rubbed G40 elements the wrong way by allegedly eyeing the top job in the event that his boss retires from active politics.
The most vicious attacks came from rubble-rousers in the party’s Women’s League, namely Sarah Mahoka and Mandiitawepi Chimene, who challenged “the crocodile” — as Mnangagwa is affectionately known — to come clean about his presidential ambitions.
As G40 functionaries gunned for Mnangagwa, those whom they perceived as providing sanctuary to “the crocodile”, became part of the collateral damage.
On top of the list were Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association leaders, Christopher Mutsvangwa (chairman), Victor Matemadanda (secretary-general) and Douglas Mahiya (spokesperson), who were expelled from ZANU-PF for conduct unbecoming of a party cadre.
Several ZANU-PF Youth League leaders were also deposed from their positions, including provincial chairmen thought to be aligned to Mnangagwa.
But Team Lacoste was not finished. The faction seized on dossiers produced by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission of alleged impropriety by perceived G40 apparatchiks to press President Mugabe to act.
Their main targets were Saviour Kasukuwere, the party’s national political commissar, and Jonathan Moyo — seen as the mastermind behind G40’s political success.
Moyo was alleged to have misappropriated more than US$400 000 from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fu-nd, while Kasukuwere was accused of allocating land earmarked for youths and women to his cronies.
The war veterans had openly called on President Mugabe to get rid of Moyo and Kasukuwere.
Such was the intensity of the political ruckus that by the time the factions descended into the ancient city of Masvingo last week, each was expecting President Mugabe to read from their script.
There was an anti-climax instead.
The ZANU-PF leader stuck to his guns by refusing to give in to pressure from either side.
Mnangagwa, Moyo and Kasukuwere emerged from the conference unscathed, to fight another day.
If anything, both factions are now on a tight leash because no-one in ZANU-PF, with the exception of President Mugabe, has a secure position anymore.
In fact, in their wisdom or lack of it the factions dug their own graves by making resolutions that cemented President Mugabe’s grip on the party, while weakening their positions in a bid to ensure that none of them emerged from the conference with their tails up.
Analysts this week said ZANU-PF members who know that their real chances of succeeding President Mugabe were next to nothing appear to have made up their minds that if they cannot have it their way, then no one else should.

Among some of the major resolutions that emerged from the conference include:
• The endorsement of President Mugabe as the party’s presidential candidate in the 2018 elections;
• That President Mugabe be declared life president;
• That all party positions be elected, except that of the president;
• The Women’s League re-submitted their resolution to have the party’s constitution amended to allow for a female vice president;
• The party should do away with the imposition of candidates in all internal elections;
• Harare International Airport be renamed Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport;
• All offer letters for agriculture land should not be rescinded;
• ZANU-PF’s ideology be extended to the public service; and
• That party structures and leadership be allowed to supervise various activities of government departments in their respective areas.
Analysts reasoned this week that the only person in ZANU-PF whose position is safe until the synchronised elections in 2018 was President Mugabe, who is the only one with a secured ticket to represent the party in not only the 2018 general elections, but until he dies.
In the interim, everyone else in the party would be preoccupied with personal survival as the nation heads for potentially explosive general elections.
Political analyst, Otto Saki, observed that the conference only served to fortify President Mugabe without necessarily ending the fights.
“He (President Mugabe) left the conference with a sense of consolidation, but it is in fact an entrenchment of disorder,” opined Saki.
“Do you think those supporting ED (Mnangagwa) will heed his weak calls for unity, or that those opposed to ED are not looking at power beyond him? He is going to be defied. It’s more defiance and counter plots coming”.
University of Zimbabwe political science professor, Eldred Masunungure, said the ZANU-PF leader used the conference to fortify his power by playing the factions against each other; the factions never really threatened his power in the first place.
“He (President Mugabe) has never really been in danger. The on-going ructions and radiations happening are really not about replacing him while he is still alive or displacing him, they are all about life after him. Therefore I can’t say he was weaker before the conference…He has always been strong,” said Masunungure.
Masunungure said no faction could claim bragging rights in the aftermath of the conference because none gained much.
“The temptation is to think that G40 gained some traction, but it didn’t quite do so. What you need to understand is that it went into the conference a bit degraded and it is no longer threatened with extinction as was the situation before the conference. It only managed to avert a process of total annihilation and now it’s all back to zero for both camps.
“We are likely to see the continuation of the same ructions that characterised 2016 in 2017. We will start 2017 with the pendulum dangling in the middle and we will see the swing it will take as the year progresses. The duty of this conference therefore was to balance the factions but we will continue to witness the pendulum politics,” observed Masunungure.
Before their fallout in 2015, functionaries in both G40 and Team Lacoste had worked in concert to create space within the presidium for Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko as President Mugabe’s deputies.

This was at the expense of Joice Mujuru, who had served as vice president of the party and the Republic for 10 years before her expulsion in 2014; and Simon Khaya-Moyo, who had been considered a shoo-in to succeed John Nkomo, who died in January 2013.
But after expelling Mujuru from ZANU-PF and government, and shunting Khaya-Moyo to an obscure portfolio, Team Lacoste and G40 are ruthlessly crushing each other to influence the direction the ruling party shall take in the post-Mugabe era.
Notwithstanding the pressure from either side, analysts opined this week that President Mugabe proved at the just-ended conference that he was still on top of his game despite his advancing age.
In his address to war veterans in July this year, President Mugabe indicated that he will not change the party’s leadership before the 2018 polls. Sure-enough, he has stuck to his script and went a step further by throwing both factions off balance.
Nonetheless, the factionalism was not addressed as President Mugabe simply blew hot air over the simmering divisions.
After the conference, delegates trooped back to their provinces without even knowing which of the resolutions proposed at the conference would be implemented.
Significantly, none of them can say with certainty what the future holds for them.