THE ruling ZANU-PF party has failed to contain worsening fissures within the 53-year-old movement, rocked by the deterioration in internal cohesion due to escalating bickering over President Robert Mugabe’s succession, the Financial Gazette can report.
With two years remaining before crunch polls in which the veteran ZANU-PF leader will square off against his former deputy, Joice Mujuru, the governing party has never been this badly fractured.
Across its main wings, discord has interrupted a wobbly restructuring that was set in motion after the party’s 2014 congress in an attempt to rejuvenate party structures affected by the brutal ouster of Mujuru and her followers.
Despite calls for unity by President Mugabe in the aftermath of Mujuru’s expulsion, forces eyeing the top office in the event that the ageing ZANU-PF leader retires from active politics have not relented.
The party’s youth wing and the Women’s League have been turned into battle grounds by the two factions — Generation 40 (G40) and Team Lacoste — that are vying for influence within the now-crisis-torn party.
The latter faction is rooting for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed President Mugabe while the former is adamant that ZANU-PF should have President Mugabe as the only centre of power and anyone harbouring ambitions to succeed him should be viewed as treacherous.
The infighting has spread to ZANU-PF’s affiliates such as students’ unions, workers’ unions and civic society lobby groups.
At the centre of the storm is the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), once seen as the vanguard of the party, whose leader, Chris Mutsvangwa, was suspended and sacked as minister of war veterans’ affairs last month.
In the Youth League, seven leaders — Godfrey Tsenengamu (Mashonaland Central), Godwin Gomwe (Harare), Vengai Musengi (Mashonaland West), Washington Nkomo (Matabeleland South), Khumbulani Mpofu (Bulawayo), Edmore Samambwa (Midlands) and Tamuka Nyoni (Matabeleland North) — were suspended last month for undermining President Mugabe and his wife, the First Lady Grace Mugabe.
The Women’s League, which is led by the First Lady, is equally ravaged with conflict, and its secretary for information and publicity, Monica Mutsvangwa, who was also a deputy minister, and secretary for administration, Espinah Nhari, were suspended for similar offences.
Several other provincial leaders were also suspended last month. These include Kizito Chivamba from Midlands, Ezra Chadzamira from Masvingo and Joel Biggie Matiza from Mashonaland East.
President Mugabe is now battling to resolve the factional conflagration, amid indications that he might have left it until too late.
Yesterday, the party held a Politburo meeting to discuss what party national secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, described as “important issues affecting the people”. The Politburo meeting will be followed today by a crunch meeting of the war veterans. The war veterans had been baying for a meeting with President Mugabe, who is their association’s patron, after an earlier meeting was pitilessly wrecked by police in February.
After the meeting with war veterans, the party will convene a meeting of its central committee on Friday, at which several disciplinary issues are expected to be dealt with and finalised.
Sources said party members, split along factional lines, were now irretrievably at odds that unity was no longer possible.
“We’ve been set up against each other. Unity is no longer possible,” a party insider said, suggesting there was now mass disaffection by Team Lacoste members, which he said could lead to “a breakaway that could essentially become a split”.
President Mugabe has told disaffected members of the party to lodge their grievances through official party channels.
But Team Lacoste members believe that getting justice from a system superintended by their opponents was completely impossible.
In the line of fire from Team Lacoste are perceived G40 members who include the secretary of the commissariat, Saviour Kasukuwere.
The Mnangagwa faction has also lost confidence in Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, who is the chairman of the National Disciplinary Committee.
ZNLWVA, currently led by Mnangagwa’s allies, has since passed a vote of no confidence in Mphoko, who has presided over the expulsions or suspensions of Team Lacoste members.
Speculation yesterday deepened that today’s meeting of the war veterans could again seal Mutsvangwa’s fate.
War veterans have reportedly been told to steer clear of contentious issues that may “undermine the President”.
The war veterans were supposed to organise the meeting and President Mugabe was only expected to attend as their patron. A patron is chosen as a special guardian, protector, or supporter of an organisation and is not necessarily a member of the association.
The war veterans had wanted President Mugabe to attend their earlier meeting aborted by riot police. At that meeting, they wanted to raise concerns over G40 members, whom they said were belittling their role and place in society and hijacking the party.
But soon after the meeting was ruthlessly crushed by police, President Mugabe gave a State of the Nation address at which he criticised Mutsvangwa, saying he took “exception to” his plans to mobilise war veterans.
“This irresponsible manner brings the name of the party and head of government into disrepute. People are beginning to wonder whether in fact we are governing properly in accordance with the rules,” President Mugabe charged.
President Mugabe again warned less than a week ago that the liberation war fighters had no right to tell the party how it should be run, saying ZNLWVA was a charitable institution like many others.
Branding Mutsvangwa and his team “weevils” who could be exterminated using gamatox, President Mugabe said they were free to excuse themselves from ZANU-PF.
Apparently, those remarks will set the tone for his indaba with the war veterans. About 10 000 war veterans are expected to attend the meeting.
But sources indicated that President Mugabe’s political statements did not imply that he was unconcerned with the possible demise of ZANU-PF, which looks inevitable given that Mujuru, who now fronts Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), left with thousands of committed cadres who have started mobilising for her party using the same structures they had before being sacked from ZANU-PF.
When Mujuru was fired, the ruling party also dismissed provincial and district committees which they alleged were aligned to her.
To highlight the fear of a surging ZPF, the party’s central committee meeting tomorrow is expected to allow the readmission some suspended bigwigs who were linked to Mujuru. These include former minister of State Nicholas Goche and former party political commissar and minister of transport, Webster Shamu.
These have been wooed back to stop a flourishing ZPF, whose political rallies have already shown promise of huge support from the populace even in instances were these have been addressed by unknown political entities.
The current expulsion of Mnangagwa’s allies, while sure to give G40 champions unfettered influence in ZANU-PF, will surely weaken the party itself.
Political scientist, Eldred Masunungure, said President Mugabe was faced with a situation that had “become very complex and unprecedented in the history of the party”.
“His control is kind of slipping, sliding, and I think this will be a test of his capacity to hold the party together, especially the war veterans sector. That is the most difficult test that he can either pass or fail, depending on how he handles it, and depending on the outcome of that meeting (with war veterans today),” said Masunungure, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe.
“His control is under severe test and I think it’s the sternest test since he took over control of the party in 1977,” said Masunungure.
Masunungure said the factional battles had become a “pendulum situation” and it was not clear any particularly faction had been vanquished.
“One day G40 appears to be gaining ground, the other moment it’s Team Lacoste. You cannot say with confidence that this faction is on top,” said Masunungure.
Political scientist, Ibbo Mandaza, who leads the Southern African Political Economy Series (Sapes) Trust, said President Mugabe was still in charge.
“(President) Mugabe is the one in control, however, tenuous that control may be. So far he is controlling the factions. It’s the factions that have lost control,” said Mandaza.
He said through his meeting with war veterans, President Mugabe had clearly “managed to contain the war vets”.
“The agenda setting (for the war veterans meeting with President Mugabe) is being done from somewhere,” said Mandaza, who also suggested that the veteran leader was also trying to “contain the Mnangagwa faction”.
“The G40 faction are in control at the moment but we don’t know for how long,” said Mandaza.
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette