The Violent Phase of the Zanu PF Succession Race

via The Violent Phase of the Zanu PF Succession Race | newzimbabweconstitution 13 November 2014 by Alex Magaisa

The big political miscalculation of our time is to regard Zanu PF as a normal political organisation that is run and controlled by civilians and employs the usual standards and rules of civilian political organisations. In my opinion, Zanu PF is, in fact, a quasi-military outfit and has hardly morphed from its origins when, as Zanu and Zapu, they directed the prosecution of the liberation war.

The distinction between the military and the political spheres was very thin, if any.  In order to execute the war, Zanla and Zipra forces were responsible for political education of the masses, so that they understood the purpose of the war and gave support to the guerrillas. This continued through the post-independence era, with guerrillas leading the election campaigns, especially in rural areas.

Over the years, when the chips have been down, it is the war veterans and soldiers who have been deployed to campaign for the party and its causes. The military institutions are led by the same people who were in the liberation armies and their view and approach to politics is influenced by that background. It is not surprising that over the years, they have openly demonstrated their support for Zanu PF.

When in 2008, Mugabe and Zanu PF faced sure defeat and loss of power to Tsvangirai and the MDC, it was the military that came to the rescue, allegedly ensuring that there was a run-off, before gratuitous violence was meted upon the people across the country, to cow them into submission.

The abduction and serious assault of Jim Kunaka, a former youth leader of Zanu PF, yesterday shares similar characteristics to the abductions, violence and killings of MDC Youth leaders like Tonderai Ndira in that dark period of 2008. Like Ndira, Kunaka was abducted by unknown men claiming to be law enforcement agents. Like Ndira, he was bundled into a car and taken away by force. But unlike Ndira, he was lucky to survive to tell the tale. When Ndira’s body was found, it was in a state of decay but with signs that he had died a very violent and painful death – reports said his tongue had been cut.

There were many similar cases, of abductions and killings of political opponents – many that have gone unreported. Similar tactics had been used against Nkomo’s PF Zapu in the early 1980s, before that party succumbed and was swallowed by Zanu PF in 1987. In fact, it was worse in the 1980s, with Gukurahundi, the dark military operation in which thousands of civilians in Matabeleland and the Midlands were killed by the Fifth Brigade, a unit that was created outside the national army and was specially-trained by the North Koreans.

Political violence is not new in Zimbabwe, nor is it confined to Zanu PF. But it is important to underscore the fact that political violence often takes two forms.

There is violence that may occur between rival supporters of political parties or factions. They might clash over an issue and express their differences through running battles in the street. This type of violence is bad and must be condemned but it has to be distinguished from the other type of violence.

This second type is the violence that is State-sponsored. This is not just members two rival groups pulling each other’s hair but a clear, calculated effort by the State or elements of the State to eviscerate an opponent.  In this type of violence, State agents – be they in the military, police or intelligence – take a central role in its execution. It is this type of violence that plagued the nation between the dark period of March and June 2008, when the object was to decimate the MDC’s support structures, thereby targeting the youth leaders and cow the voting public into submission.

Given the parallels between the Jim Kunaka case and the cases in 2008, there is every reason to suspect that the Zanu PF succession race has now entered that violent phase, not where rival factions’ supporters fight each other in the street, but where violence of the second and more sinister type is now in use – the violence that is prosecuted and directed by elements of the State. Kunaka has been linked to the Mujuru faction.

The irony of yesterday’s abduction and violence is that Jim Kunaka has been accused in the past of leading violent campaigns against the MDC supporters. He led a group called Chipangano, which allegedly terrorised residents in the bustling high-density suburb of Mbare. Now, he lies helpless and wounded in hospital, having been the latest victim of political violence. The temptation, of course, is to say that he has got his comeuppance; that he got a taste of his own bitter concoctions that he generously delivered to others. But that would be to go down to the levels of the people that we oppose.

If anything, Jim Kunaka’s case must be a reminder to anyone, including those in Zanu PF, that political violence is bad and should never be tolerated. Over the past year, some Zanu PF supporters who had become dormant and mute after the horror of 2008, have begun to raise their heads, happily parading their political allegiance, believing that time had erased the horrific images of their party’s conduct in 2008.

Others, who previously wore MDC colours and even claimed political protection in foreign lands on the basis of alleged persecution by Zanu PF, have been coming out and making all sorts of noises, telling MDC supporters to get over the 2008 violence, saying that it’s all in the past and that people must move on.

We have argued in response, that a country does not move on if it buries its head in the sand and pretends that these things did not happen, because as sure as the sun rises every morning, State-backed violence would happen again and again. Now, the chicken is eating its own eggs. The leopard is eating its children, saying in justification, that they are now smelling like goats.

Should the opposition, formerly at the end of such treatment, be celebrating? No. The natural instinct is to say, you deserve it. But all that ever does is perpetuate the cycle. It has to stop somewhere.

Let me leave you with a few extracts from a judgment of the Supreme Court, in the case where human rights campaigner, Jestina Mukoko sued the State after she had been tortured by State agents. Ironically, she had been abducted in almost the same fashion as Jim Kunaka experienced yesterday. Here is how Deputy Chief Justice Malaba described her ordeal at the hands of the State agents:

“… one of the men took a piece of a hosepipe about one metre long. Another man took a coiled piece of iron. The two men took turns to beat her with these objects several times on the soles of her feet using severe force. She said her assailants were quite zealous in what they were doing. She yelled in pain”.

“When the interrogation commenced she was ordered to lift both legs and place the feet on the edge of a table. She did as ordered. Two men struck the soles of her feet repeatedly with severe force using the same objects used to beat her in the morning. She said her feet felt very sore. She could hardly walk the following day”.

“One of the men brought gravel and put it on the floor to form mounds. She was told to pull up her dress above knee-level and kneel on the gravel. The interrogation began and continued with her in that position. She said she was injured on the knees and felt severe pain. Each time she tried to move the knees to relieve the pain the interrogators ordered her to move back into position. She remained in that position for one hour …”

Harrowing, I know. You read more of the case here:

In that case, the highest court in the land found that Jestina Mukoko had been tortured and ordered that the State could not continue with its case. But none of the State agents who caused this extreme pain and suffering have ever been brought to book. In 1990, Patrick Kombayi, then a Zum politician, was almost killed in political violence by two State agents, Kanengoni and Chivamba. They were found guilty by a court of law but they were pardoned by President Mugabe. When Kanengoni died last year, he was declared a hero. Chivamba, we hear, is a Zanu PF MP somewhere in the Midlands.

The truth is that State agents conduct themselves with impunity because they are protected by the highest authority, as long as they support the existing and favoured power structure. It is not impossible that those who abducted and tortured Jestina Mukoko or abducted and killed Tonderai Ndira 6 years ago, were among those who abducted and beat up Jim Kunaka yesterday. They do so because the system allows them to act with impunity.


  • comment-avatar
    Mscynic 7 years ago

    Disgusting. And EU and Brit ambassador fawn. Time for principle and ICC.

  • comment-avatar
    Chigunduro 7 years ago

    You right very well Alex. One can not put what you said in a better way. The question is, where is Zimbabwe headed? If the current forces succeed, what is the future? What will it take for this curse on Zimbabwe to go? One would presume, from your analysis, that a mere change in leadership in ZANU PF alone, whoever finally succeeds to lead after all this dark period, will not change Zimbabwe’s fortunes. Zimbabweans are the opposition, not some imaginary western imperialist force. They want and deserve a better future. Will this happen in our life time?

  • comment-avatar
    Muchadura 7 years ago

    All happening under the watch of Mugabe. And someone says he is a hero! A hero-turned-villain maybe. All for the love of power and it’s trappings.

  • comment-avatar
    Garikayi 7 years ago

    Your article is only as good as you know. Some of us who experienced and witnessed brutality perpetrated by freedom fighters just decided to quit…you might call us cowards but these former ZANLA/ZIPRA cadres were trained by Russians, East Germans, Romanians, North Koreans…masters of torture, brainwashing experts. indoctrination experts etc. These guys do not have any respect for humans but unfortunately the world just watches helplessly. Let us pray this dark era will pass and a new generation will get into power…one day. God bless