Coup de Grace: Plots, purges in Zanu PF

via Coup de Grace: Plots, purges in Zanu PF – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 5, 2015

BELOW is an executive summary of the latest report by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) on the Zanu PF succession wars as they played out ahead of the 2014 congress.


The full report explores President Robert Mugabe’s role in the plot to oust former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and concludes that he was exposed as an indecisive leader.

Ahead of the crucial Zanu PF congress of December 2014, Research Advocacy Unit (RAU), together with the Zimbabwe NGO Forum, published The Mortal Remains: Succession and the Zanu PF Body Politic 2, a paper which examined the issue of succession, viewed against both the State and Zanu PF party constitutions.

That paper considered the Zanu PF congresses of 1999, 2004 and 2009 in some detail.

It is thus appropriate, given the importance of the 2014 congress to the dynamics of succession and the Zanu PF body politic, that the paper be supplemented by this lengthy addendum, even if the issue has already been widely commented upon.

Zanu PF holds a plenary congress every five years.

At the congress the seats of the central committee and two of its component parts, the politburo and the presidium (comprising the party president, two vice-presidents and national chairperson) are determined.

With Mugabe in his 91st year ahead of the congress, the build-up to the congress was always destined to be fraught as those seeking to succeed him strategically positioned themselves.

A key factor in this positioning was control of the provinces. Until its amendment, the Zanu PF party constitution provided that the provinces submitted to congress their candidates for the presidium and central committee, and although these candidates were to be elected by the congress, in practice they were merely endorsed.

It thus caused considerable alarm to the “Mnangagwa faction” that the provincial executive council elections at the end of 2013 delivered nine of 10 provinces into Mujuruite hands.

Complaints about the manifest electoral improprieties around these elections were ignored by Mugabe and the politburo.

A fight back strategy was required. Plan A was for the Mnangagwa faction to use its control of the media to undermine the Mujuruites in the hope of removing them from positions of power and conveying to others that support for Mujuru came with a high cost.

A series of exposures of “obscene salaries” being earned by top officials began to appear in the State-owned press.

The tactic did nothing other than to incur the ire of Mugabe, who in a public address called his then Information minister Jonathan Moyo — believed to control such media — a “weevil”.

Didymus Mutasa, then party secretary for administration, followed the cue given by the president stating that weevils must be dealt with by gamatox, a long banned insecticide. Thus the two camps became known as “Weevils” and “Gamatox”.

Moyo’s axing from government appeared imminent, notwithstanding Mugabe’s aversion to openly taking action against any party cadres and ministers.

Moyo sought an urgent audience with the president. The president thereafter said nothing further to denigrate Moyo.

The president (and his wife Grace) rather seemed to have been persuaded that Mutasa and other “gamatoxes” were plotting to remove him from power at the impending congress and instal former Vice-President Joice Mujuru in his stead.

He appears to have given a green light to Moyo and a group which became known as the gang of four, leading a larger group of 12 dubbed the “clean dozen” to prevent the plot and rid the party of senior Mujuruites.

The means by which this was to be accomplished was partly through Grace Mugabe, who, as the president’s wife, was rightly judged to be immune from criticism.

With her status first elevated as incoming head of the women’s league and a dubious doctorate from the University of Zimbabwe, Grace began a campaign to denounce “factionalism”, which — with the aid of the State media — was constructed to be synonymous with the Mujuruites.

Rather than two factions competing for power, clever and saturation propaganda created the image of a solid Zanu PF headed by Mugabe under attack from a “putschist cabal” of Mujuruites who would not stop short of assassination to achieve their end.

With the ground thus prepared by Grace, the plotters set about gaining control of the provinces.

Ignoring procedural propriety and using strong arm tactics, the nine provincial chairpersons were forced from office.

Similar political muscle was used to control the selection process for the central committee. Wisely, given the strength of the resistance by the Mujuruites to these first two steps, leaving nothing to chance, the plotters engineered the (unprocedural) amendment of the party constitution to grant Mugabe the power to appoint the other members of the presidium from the central committee.

Mujuru, Mutasa and other senior Mujuruites, having been thoroughly vilified by the time of the selection process to the central committee, were unable to stand as candidates and unless the unlikely recipients of Mugabe’s munificence were not eligible for appointment to the presidium.

Mugabe duly replaced Mujuru with Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice-president of both party and State.

Six other senior Zanu PF members and leaders of the Mujuru faction were expelled from the party. Another 141 were suspended.

The saga unveiled Grace as lacking both political nous and the gravitas seen as necessary for high office.

It exposed Mugabe as an uncertain and timorous leader — uncertain as to whom he may trust; unable to distinguish fact from fabrication in the endless palace intrigues around him; fearful of forfeiting the adulation of his supporters and intensely sensitive to any criticism.

He thus, as events showed, prefers to delegate the unpleasant tasks of leadership, and, where he is unable to fall back on his default position of not making any decision at all, eschews agency in the decisions which must be made.

The drifting and amorphous party which results is given neither course nor frame by the party constitution, whose contents are changed, bent or ignored depending on the currents of internal realpolitik, where political brawn, rather than procedural nicety, determines outcomes and secures office.

Those unable to thrive in a milieu where the only law is the survival of the fittest are trampled underfoot and looked upon with scorn, unless rescued by the power, munificence and compassion of Mugabe, to whom they are ever after to be grateful and beholden.