Why Zanu PF will not survive beyond Mugabe
By Jacob Nkiwane
Zimbabwe is bleeding. Its citizens are scattered across the globe. At home, unemployment has reached unprecedented levels. Majority of people are living in abject poverty. Streets are flowing with raw sewage and homes are constantly without electricity and water.
Business confidence is low with very little investment both domestic and foreign. Civil servants are not adequately remunerated and hospitals have no medicine. Roads are in a state of disrepair whilst most of our farms lie derelict and the list goes on and on.
On the political front, the country is more polarised than ever. Zimbabwe is the only country in the world with a President and two vice Presidents, Prime Minister and two vice Prime Ministers.
The structure of our executive reflects the deep divisions both along tribal and political lines. As a small country with a considerably small population, one would expect a small linear structure like most other countries but that is not the case.
Faced with all these enormous challenges, Zimbabwe is looking to its political leadership to find lasting solutions. The country has been under the leadership of President Robert Mugabe for more than three decades.
It is therefore fair to associate all the failures and successes of the country with his rule and his party ZANU PF. As the country holds its elections next year, President Mugabe will be 89 years old and his party ZANU PF will be turning 50.
Now that President Mugabe’s time in politics is almost certainly over, it is important to examine the future of his party without him.
For almost five decades, President Robert Mugabe has been the dominating force within ZANU PF since elected Secretary at the party’s inaugural congress in Gweru in 1964.
Other founding leaders of the party are either long dead or politically impotent. The liberation struggle became more intense after Robert Mugabe was released from political detention, clearly showing his leading influence before and after independence.
Mugabe has been the glue binding people together within the party for various reasons. Those who have been with him since the days of the struggle share a common sense of belonging and purpose.
They have been part of his failures, successes and actions and therefore cannot create careers which are independent of his brand. Some associate with Mugabe out of fear and cannot challenge him. Those who dared to challenge him from within such as Dzikamayi Mavhaire and others found themselves fighting for political relevance.
The likes of Dr Simba Makoni who has been part of ZANU PF for more than three decades and Dumiso Dabengwa who was part of the ZAPU cadres swallowed by ZANU in 1987 before partying ways unceremoniously are some examples of how politically cold it could be outside Mugabe’s camp.
The list of ZANU PF members who tried their lucky away from Mugabe includes the late Edgar Tekere, Daniel Shumba, Patrick Kombayi and Jonathan Moyo among others. None of them succeeded. The majority of them got lost into political wilderness until they turned back to beg for forgiveness.
Their failures were not due to lack of political space but rather a reflection of lack of political direction and talent which is characteristic of the majority of ZANU PF members. Political space has always existed as evidenced by Tsvangirai’s MDC which managed to wrestle public support away from ZANU PF.
After President Mugabe is gone, either through retirement or death, there will be little reason for younger generations to associate themselves with a party brand that has so much liability and garbage. Whilst patronage may be paying at present, the same will not be the case in the near future as new generations become less tolerant of corruption, cronyism and politics of violence.
Former ZAPU cadres will likely leave the party en masse. Although they currently hold senior positions within the party, very few if any have support from their Matabeleland region which despises ZANU PF for its handling of Gukurahundi. The party is also alleged to have side-lined the region in terms of developmental support for the last three decades.
To make matters worse, the two MDC formations have made tremendous inroads within the region, dominating and winning the majority of constituencies in the last three elections. Sticking with ZANU PF after Mugabe will spell doom for former ZAPU cadres’ political careers.
It was because of the need to mend ideological and philosophical differences between senior members of ZANU and ZAPU particularly Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo which brought about the unity accord. Once the two are out of the picture, the unity accord will have no relevance and it will be back to individual political talent and merit.
Because of ZANU PF members’ fears of challenging Mugabe, the party has shied away from attracting new charismatic leaders and nurturing young cadres to eventually take over the party. The old guard has tried continuously to shut out young members with aspirations for high office.
They have defined leadership around the liberation struggle, hence young members feel unwanted, less important, irrelevant, incapable and demoralised. Professor Jonathan Moyo, a political turncoat by all definitions, once castigated his party for the same reasons but unfortunately nothing has changed.
The recent endorsement of President Mugabe as the party’s Presidential candidate in next year’s elections is both shocking and surprising. It is a glaring reflection of the absence of better leadership within the ranks of the party. The man is old, tired and struggling with his failing health.
Instead of retiring the old man to rest, write books and share the little wisdom still within him, the party is still shouting ‘go Mugabe go’. If ZANU PF wants to survive past Robert Mugabe, the party must take decisive action now whilst he is still alive and influential.
The best action will be to elect a new leader of the party and possibly leave Mugabe to contest for the Presidency. The truth of the matter is that he will obviously lose next year’s elections under whatever circumstances and therefore it is the best way to retire him.
If the party elects a new leader however, the party will get Mugabe’s help to whip the members into line whilst he is still alive. To expect a new leader to emerge and unite the party after Mugabe is completely out of the picture is quite unrealistic and next to impossible.
The party will be fractured into innumerable factions. The problem with ZANU PF is that anyone who proposes that from within is regarded as insubordinate and labelled a sell-out.
Of late, it has become a tendency for both political pundits and the media to focus on Joyce Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa as possible candidates to succeed President Mugabe both in ZANU PF and in government. Are these two qualified and suitable to lead the party in particular and the country in general?
To begin with, both are decorated fighters of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. It is fair to point out that the two endured testing times during the struggle for Zimbabwe.
To Mnangagwa’s credit, he is one of the first group members to strike deep within Zimbabwe, a feat that probably helped in turning the trajectory of the war and generate much interest and publicity in the process. Mujuru on the other hand broke gender barriers by fighting fearlessly in some of the documented battles.
War credentials aside, the two have been part of President Mugabe’s cabinet since independence in 1980. They have occupied different government and ministerial portfolios and are regarded as part of President Mugabe’s inner circle.
Mnangagwa has been working with Mugabe since the days of the struggle when he was his special aid whilst Mujuru became the youngest cabinet minister in President Mugabe‘s first cabinet.
There are however no national policies which can be traced and pinned down to Mujuru and Mnangagwa. Besides war credentials, the two are basically bankrupt of ideas which can take Zimbabwe to a new and better place. They are not known to possess superlative qualities of visionary leadership.
All that is known about them is the way they have been trying to out-manoeuvre each other along their factional lines as reported by the media. Because of the implied animosity between them, it is highly unlikely that either of them will be able to unite the factions together once Mugabe is gone.
Mnangagwa is generally described as a ‘feared man’, a phrase that every ambitious politician doesn’t want to be associated with. The political landscape has changed. The majority of voters are from the young and educated generation which frowns at violence.
Reports of violence against his opponents especially in Kwekwe where his supporters are alleged to have tried to set the opposing candidate on fire are some of the living examples of the man’s alleged ruthlessness. His documented involvement in the Gukurahundi era worsens his predicament. His ascendancy to the top of the party will only worsen people’s hatred for ZANU PF.
As for Joyce Mujuru, it is important to remember that she only ascended to her current position as a result of a quota system schemed by Robert Mugabe to prevent Mnangagwa from ascending to the same position.
Without her late husband by her side, she has very limited political capital and capacity of her own. Although it is fair to point that her support has probably increased since she ascended to the presidency, Zimbabwe is not yet ready for a woman President.
It is probably the sad truth that majority of Zimbabweans don’t want to say in the open. The Vice Presidency is the furthest she can go.
Outside of their political talents, both are regarded as filthy rich. They have never worked in the private sector since independence. At a time when Zimbabwe is grappling with issues of poverty and corruption, the last thing the country needs is to elect a leader who cannot explain the sources of their wealth.
Although a few top military and police officers such as Generals and Commissioners are open cadres of ZANU PF, none of them has the potential to become a unifying force and capable leader.
Whilst politics of force and subordination may work well within the barracks, politics outside of the uniform are a different ball game. In fact, the Generals and Commissioners are part of the reasons why ZANU PF is finding it difficult to endear itself with the masses.
They are regarded as a stumbling block to a new Zimbabwe due to their political partisanship.
On the other side of the political spectrum, different political dynamics exists within the MDC. Unlike ZANU PF, the party has done well to build its image around democratic tolerance and a plethora of young and dynamic leaders.
Young members feel welcomed and respected within the ranks of Tsvangirai’s MDC. The brand will survive well after the current leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai.
Over the years, ZANU PF has survived around issues of colonialism and the land issue. Now that the land issue is solved and colonialism is long dead, the party has found itself scratching the bottom of the pot for ideas to remain relevant.
Because the party has been suppressing leadership debate throughout its history, there is very little hope that a new unifying leader with new ideas will emerge any time soon. It takes a fool to believe that a party that nominates an 89 year old as Presidential candidate will survive without him.
It is fair to say Robert Mugabe will go with his ZANU PF to his grave.
Jacob Nkiwane can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org