Zanu-PF camps battle for control

via Zanu-PF camps battle for control | News | Africa | Mail & Guardian 22 NOV 2013 by Kudzai Mashininga

Those aspiring to take over from Mugabe have taken their fights into the public domain, writes Kudzai Mashininga.

Widening rifts between factions in Zanu-PF fighting to succeed President Robert Mugabe are threatening to tear the party apart. Zanu-PF has now called a rare politburo meeting at its headquarters in Harare for November 23. The politburo is Zanu-PF’s highest decision-making body.

In Mugabe’s absence and with no one to rein them in, senior party members this week traded insults in local newspapers. Mugabe is attending the Arab-Africa summit in Kuwait, but is expected to preside over the politburo meeting.

Zanu-PF is now split into two factions, both of which are hoping to succeed Mugabe. One is led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, the other by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. In public both deny leading the factions.

The public insults appear to add credence to Mugabe’s previous arguments that he cannot retire because the party would split.

The fractures have emerged as a result of provincial polls the party is holding to choose provincial party leaders. The polls are a crucial part of Zanu-PF’s succession matrix because the party’s national leaders are chosen at congress by the provincial chairs. The next congress is due to be held next year.

Each faction is vying to win control of as many provinces as possible so that their candidate can be guaranteed party leadership next year.

So far, elections have been held in three provinces – Mashonaland Central, Midlands and Manicaland – and the results are all being contested as the rivals seek to upstage each other.

Mujuru’s faction is said to have taken the lead in all three provinces.

There are petitions to nullify results in Manicaland and Midlands, and the process to hold elections in seven of the remaining provinces – scheduled for November 23 – has been suspended because of the chaos.

Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, this week waded into the fray. He said he was instructed by Mugabe to inform Zanu-PF members that results in Mashonaland Central are yet to be “endorsed”. This triggered a war of words with the party’s spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, who said Charamba must refrain from making party announcements because he was a civil servant.

Zanu-PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa came out in support of Gumbo, saying Charamba had “jumped the gun”.

“The party, at lower levels, is democratic, but the high echelons are not. People try to force what they want, not what the people want,” he said.

Charamba responded by saying that his role as a medium was simply to transmit messages.

“I never seek to be the message. Consequently, my role began and ended with the instruction from the president, which I believe I delivered to all concerned,” he said.

On Tuesday, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Jonathan Moyo described the fighting as an unnecessary sideshow and urged party members not to concentrate on internal politics or the succession issue because it had cost Zanu-PF in the 2008 polls.

Moyo ran into trouble in 2004 over allegations that he had led a failed plot to thwart Mujuru’s elevation to be vice-president in favour of Mnangagwa.

Earlier in the week, Moyo also attacked Gumbo for allegedly making “mischievous claims” on the outcome of voting in Mashonaland Central. Gumbo hit back by labelling both Moyo and Charamba as “tricksters” who wanted him to fall out of favour with Mugabe.

The fallout has also seen the state-run Herald newspaper, over which Moyo and Charamba maintain a tight grip, attacking Gumbo and Mutasa in a front-page editorial and warning that the paper was a “watchdog not a lapdog and where need be, the teeth [will] come out”.

Mutasa and Gumbo allegedly support Mujuru’s camp.

In an interview on Tuesday, Gumbo said the official party position is that results in the three provinces where voting has taken place would stand. He declined to respond to attacks on him and Mutasa.

“We have never been attacked like that before, but the reality of the struggle is that people can do anything,” said Gumbo.