Gruelling political battle beckons
A SHONA proverb goes: “Mudzimu waro bonga kuwana huku dzichirwa (lucky is the wildcat that finds chickens fighting).”
The proverb depicts a scenario whereby a hunting wildcat comes across a cockfight.
Such a rare, once in a lifetime opportunity, could have presented itself to former vice president Joice Mujuru, who made a grand entry into opposition politics last week amid fierce infighting in the ruling ZANU-PF.
And, looking at events in ZANU-PF and the main opposition, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, where divisions are the order of the day, Mujuru can be duly likened to the lucky and opportunistic wildcat that finds chickens fighting their lives out.
Only days after the launch of Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), the ruling party expelled 16 party members, suspended four and strongly reprimanded others, clear signs that the succession wars are not abating, even in the face of the danger posed by Mujuru.
Over the past week, pundits have been suggesting that due to the fights in the major parties, Mujuru has found for herself political space which she can utilise to her advantage.
To all intents and purposes, it is ZANU-PF which has more to lose with the formation of this new party.
Judging from events of Tuesday last week, this woman surely is up to some serious business and this should give anyone competing against her reason for self-introspection.
One could not miss the charm as she went through her prepared speech in that trademark, carefully punctuated voice of hers — sporting a bright face and a smile which illuminated the packed conference room at a local hotel.
Unbeknown to her, a vast crowd gathered outside the hotel, bringing business to a temporary halt, as people scrambled for her attention.
Faces popped out of neighbouring high rise buildings to catch a glimpse of her: Finally, she had reappeared.
The crowd was not going to disperse unless she addressed them.
She stood at the foyer to give the appreciative crowd a three minute address, announce the launch of the party and call for peace and harmony among them, virtues which she said are key in building a resilient nation.
She then slipped away under heavy guard from her security personnel.
There were arguments, mostly advanced by ZANU-PF sympathisers, that the crowd which forced her into an impromptu address, was not involuntary, but mobilised.
It was all stage-managed, they claimed.
Whatever the case, their just being there in such a sizeable number tells a great story: A story that someone out there is not sleeping as they mobilise people to rally behind Mujuru.
This should be worrying, especially for ZANU-PF, Mujuru’s former political home for decades.
The ruling party has been in a denial mode, with its commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, “prophesying” that ZPF would die a natural death as happened to parties formed by former ZANU-PF cadres.
He was referring to parties formed by the late Edgar Tekere; former finance minister, Simba Makoni; former liberation wartime intelligence supremo, DumisoDadengwa; controversial war veteran Margaret Dongo; and the ZANU-Ndonga leader Ndabaningi Sithole whose parties remained on the fringe despite a promising start.
But such a comparison only serves to expose the lack of foresight on the part of the peddler, especially given the new scenario on the Zimbabwean body politic today.
There are a few quick points to note:
lNever before has anyone broken ranks with ZANU-PF to form a political party to oppose at a time when the ruling party is so divided.
lAll those who broke away from ZANU-PF before her had never been vice presidents before. This office commands its own following due to the nature of the party and national constitutions.
lZANU-PF still has many persons high within its ranks who have previously associated themselves with Mujuru and whom it cannot trust not to sympathise with her.
lArguably, the majority of its Members of Parliament sympathise with her. Among those are dozens that were suspended from the ruling party for hobnobbing with her and are currently sitting on the fence. These people command good following in their own constituencies and, if mishandled, can cause serious problems for ZANU-PF.
lShe is probably the only former cadre to cause so many expulsions and suspensions in the history of the party during the post-independence era.
In addition to these factors, there seems to be considerable belief that Mujuru has somehow managed to win donor sympathy, a development which, if true, would be particularly of grave concern to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) which has been struggling to get donor-funding for the last three years.
The presence of Western foreign diplomats, not least French ambassador to Zimbabwe, Laurent Delahousse, at her party launch last week could just be a tip of the iceberg of what is yet to come.
There are also unconfirmed reports that at least dozens of all-terrain campaign vehicles have been ordered by the party as it readies to take on ZANU-PF in the next general elections, just over a year away.
Mujuru also appears to be enjoying the support of some key sectors which neither Tsvangirai nor any of her predecessor ZANU-PF rebels attracted. Most importantly are the pockets of sympathy she reportedly has within the security sector.
While those in ZANU-PF, not so gifted with foresight, are already writing the ZPF obituary, claiming she would be embarrassed phenomenally at polls, many are arguing that the ruling party has finally met its match.
Word is also that ZPF already has functional structures starting right at grassroots levels.
Mujuru opted for structures that are almost akin to those found in ZANU-PF, which has prompted critics to suggest that she was merely running parallel ZANU-PF structures.
But the very fact that her party already has structures renders the likes of Tekere, Makoni and Dabengwa incomparable with her as they never really had strong structures.
Whether or not those structures have influential and effective leaders is debate for another day.
ZANU-PF would, however, not be doing itself any good by fooling itself that ZPF is a myth and that the massive turnout at the party’s launch was a fluke.
The on-going purges in the former revolutionary movement can only work to add numbers to ZPF because as things stand, former ZANU-PF members can easily relate with Mujuru’s party than any other party available.
Only last week, some of the former senior party officials asked Mujuru to forgive them for their role in fuelling her downfall.
Whether or not they are now moving to relocate their political tents in Mujuru’s camp is not clear yet, but they have no kind words for ZANU-PF.
The ruling party certainly has a monumental task in the coming months if it is to stop Mujuru, who now seems to be striking the right chord with a populace that is seeking answers to a catastrophic socio-economic crisis which ZANU-PF is clueless in dealing with.
Meanwhile, the MDC-T will have to jealously guard its fragile turf which has been trodden upon even by splinter movements.
The same splinter parties also seem to be losing membership to Mujuru’s ZPF, which has been everyone’s talking point over the past week.
But it would be horseplay to say Mujuru would land the presidency on a silver platter.
The MDC-T experience has shown that to command a great following in Zimbabwe is one thing and quite another to convert that into electoral victory.
Experience has also shown that electoral victory is no guarantee to one forming a government in Zimbabwe.
Even Mujuru seems aware of the herculean task ahead as evidenced by her calls for the levelling out of the electoral field and respect of the voter — demands which the MDC-T have made to ZANU-PF before without success.
By virtue of being the governing party, ZANU-PF has the State machinery at its disposal and will use it against any threat to its foothold on power.
Mujuru must also be praying hard that the current succession wars bedevilling ZANU-PF vanquish a faction led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the beneficiary-in-chief of her downfall.
There is a general consensus among critics and pedestrians alike that if Mnangagwa comes out tops, which is highly unlikely at the moment, her chances could be narrowed.
As such, she could relish a battle with the less lucrative Generation 40, a faction bitterly opposed to Mnangagwa. The faction is registering sweet victories after outmanoeuvring the veteran politician and tactician.
But whatever the case may be, the fact remains that ZPF is here in our lives and a gruelling political battle beckons.
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette