Would Mugabe’s departure kill Zanu?

via Would Mugabe’s departure kill Zanu? | The Zimbabwean by Tawanda Majoni 19.11.13

One major question that has persisted in the public sphere over the decades is whether or not the Zanu (PF) First Secretary, President Robert Mugabe, will take the party with him when he dies or finally decides to quit. Put differently, will President Mugabe’s departure tear the party apart, especially considering the intense rivalry among his lieutenants who are eyeing up positions in both the party and government? Will Zanu (PF) survive the factionalism that resides in the party?

So far, the dominant belief is that the party will be fatally crippled if Mugabe leaves. This view is premised on the oft-repeated line that he is the one holding the factions together and, with him gone, the faction leaders would immediately jump at each other and splinter the party.

In fact, Mugabe has over the years justified his continued stay with exactly this thinking. He says he is afraid to hand over the baton to anyone because that would disintegrate the 50-year-old institution.

This has apparently been taken as gospel truth by many Zimbabweans, but the more I hear it, the less convinced I become. This is particularly important for the local political opposition, which needs to disabuse itself of the risky inclination of planning its future around the possibility of a fatal crisis in Zanu (PF) in the post-Mugabe phase.

It is useful to remember that Zanu (PF) is not a stranger to factional and power fights, but has always survived as an organisation, having been formed in August, 1963, on the backdrop of factionalism in Zapu, then led by Joshua Nkomo.

In October 1973, disgruntled members from the then Zanu teamed up with some colleagues from Zapu to form the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe. Led by James Chikerema, Frolizi hardly became a party to reckon with and Zanu remained almost completely unscathed, despite the acute divergence among some of its top members. Again, with the assassination of Chitepo in 1975, intense power struggles emerged in the party after Sithole took over.

It remains highly possible that, even with Mugabe’s exit, people would look more at the party than the individuals who happened to be leading or belonging to the factions. In this case, while it is still possible that the party would splinter, we could only see a repetition of what happened after the Mgagao Declaration when one party remained with large numbers.

‘Will Zanu (PF) survive the factionalism that resides in the party’

From where I stand, it seems that the faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, if it decides to split off when Mugabe leaves or dies, would not take with it a substantial enough population to cause a fatal shake-up. Over the years, I have noticed that the Mnangagwa faction tends to be elitist, with little grassroots support. It has only kept afloat through its crafty strategies of stuffing party structures with its sympathisers but even then, this has not yielded as many results as the other faction, currently rallying around Joice Mujuru.

Mnangagwa himself is not popular enough within Zanu (PF) and Mujuru seems to have a far broader appeal, even in provinces like the Midlands and Masvingo where one would have thought her rival should boast his strongest bases. It thus remains very likely that, in the event of a split along the Mujuru/Mnangagwa fault lines, the majority would go with Mujuru and still maintain Zanu (PF) as a large party.

Finally, what happened in 2008 when Simba Makoni and Dumiso Dabengwa abandoned Zanu (PF) to lead a loose coalition of mostly disgruntled former Zanu (PF) members is telling. Makoni’s dramatic announcement of his resignation from Zanu (PF) had all the ingredients of razing the party to the ground, especially given his own popularity and the fact that he was an offshoot of the Mujuru faction. Yet the Makoni project was much ado about nothing.

In essence, my point is that discourse on whether Mugabe’s departure will kill the party or not has wrongly focused on Mugabe as an individual and failed to place itself in a more global context by considering that the dynamics in Zanu (PF) might, after all, be determined by other factors rather than a specific personality.

– To comment on this article, please contact majonitt@gmail.com



  • comment-avatar
    Boss MyAss 10 years ago


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    Chivulamapoti 10 years ago

    ZANU-PilferingFanatics is DEAD aqnd Mugarbage with them!

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    farai 10 years ago

    A tale of 2 African leaders. One desperately kept artificially alive to avoid an impending political catastrophe and another desperately wanted dead to precipitate one!

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    Sekuru Mapenga 10 years ago

    Mugabe’s departure from the political scene would be good for absolutely every single person in the whole world.

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    Mike Nyathi 10 years ago

    Maybe we should just speed the process up for them.

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    Mthwakazi 10 years ago

    @Tawanda Majoni
    You are wrong snd this is why:
    1. You are making comparisons with a Gukurawundi ZANU PF party of the 1963s, when the political dynamics were different. This was a party that was not in power;

    2. The leadership of the party was different under Sithole and his leadership style was different; today its Robert Mugabe who uses divide and rule tactics;

    3. The gukurahundi party is today in power, it has committed so many sins against the people;

    4. There is a whole new generation of voters today, whose votes would be critical to the gukurawundis’ survival should Mugabe leave, what if they vote differently?

    5. Generally most people who vote ZANU PF hardly have anything to say about the party; they seem all focused on Mugabe as an individual, and that is a very important consideration. Many defend Mugabe and not the party;

    6. Mujuru herself might have more appeal than Mnangwagwa, but that is just within ZANU PF structures; her appeal to the voters has never been tested, and its not certain she could win a clean election against the opposition;

    7. Never underestimate the Zezuru vs Karanga dimension in the post Mugabe era; many of you love to bury your heads in the sand and pretend there is no such a thing;

    8. There is also the issue of the Southern provinces (Manicaland, Masvingo and Mat South)and perceptions of marginalisation, this could also play a part;

    9. ZANU PF has never been a democratic institution. It has survived through heavy iron rule; dictatorship and the one big man syndrome; is Mujuru capable of this? People in ZANU PF do not debate issues; everything is imposed from above – those are not grounds for a self sustaining party going into the future;

    10. Non of the aspiring candidates have the charisma, dignity and political gravitas to be listened to by the party faithful should they choose to differ, as the case is with Mugabe. Generally when Mugabe makes a final ruling, party supporters tend to toe the line; this was the same case with Dr Joshua Nkomo in PF ZAPU. I am not sure if Mnangagwa or Mujuru do command such respect; and

    11. Finally, the two aspiring candidates do not command the respect Mugabe commands among African leaders on the continent. Given that ZANU PF has always survived through ruthlessness, elections manipulations etc; I do not see any African leader (AU, SADC)coming to their rescue should they attempt the same survival tactics that Mugabe has used and managed to get away with. In fact, they are likely to be challenged head on.


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    Mugabe had been leading the party for too long , he failed to empower specifical somebody as his successor even though that was going to be life risk to that individual , Mugabe felt that he is ZANU PF himself and he felt that nobody could lead the party apart from himself . For ZANU PF to continue surviving Mugabe must take a huge breath and invite more energy to his authority – that breath must explode out and unseat both Mujuru and Mnangangwa from the raice of having ambitions to be his successors as they have brought the name of the into a disrepute , then he must accountably nominate a nuetriral person to succeed him regardless of political background or not . Should he do that then the party will be able to respect the choosen successor , should he leave the party or dies before having his successor , a huge split will occur with a possible conflict which might cost lives .

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    Zanu is already dead. Its surviving by cheating and rigging.

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    Whether it is debating factionalism in the pre-independence Zanu Pf or the post, i doubt it is even accurate to leverage how they have survived before as reason enough for their future survival. Remember that before independence there was a common goal to unseat the imperial colonialists but now it seems it is more of economics than plain political rhetoric. The reason why Zanu is wanted out is that they have failed out right to bring economic solution to the common man in the country. Even Mugabe knows that it is no longer his acumen and fluency in English that inspires people to support him and no wonder why he has resorted to hang on power by hook and crook. Even Within the ranks of Zanu Mugabe remains a defacto leader as anxiety hangs on what precipice may unfold should he bow either to life inevitables or political pressure. Its not a point of discussion that Mugabe for now is the glue that is holding Zanu together and there is more evidence to prove this than not. Remember the Tsholotsho failed coup, the disciplining of Mnangagwa and Mujuru and their requisite speeches that Mugabe is an ordained leader. Dont forget the toeing of the line by the various captains of law and defence. Even a blind man can feel the grip by which Mugabe is squeezing the rod of power. His exit wil create a power vaccum which i doubt will be filled by anyone within the ranks or file of Zanu since the party seems dead even now and the cadres hell bent on bitting each other s throats. In any discussion there is room for error and uncertainty will always pervert us but Mugabe is certainly the only solution now for Zanu.

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    Chirau 10 years ago

    NO – ZANU PF is a pack of rabid rats that needs to be eradicated. Sadly there are some good people in the party but the hierarchy taints them with their poison.