Zanu-PF: The worst and best of times

By IAfrica
In Zimbabwe
Aug 19th, 2014

It is probably the best of times for political drama.
For the past two weeks, Zimbabwe has stood holding its breath with drama unfolding in Zanu-PF as the youth and women’s wings of the revolutionary party held their elective conferences.The conferences act like dress rehearsals for the grand contest called the elective congress, which comes once in five years.
There is an elixir in the political mix, these days, in what is called factionalism.

It is something that had always been talked in hushed tones over the years, but this year it has been mentioned freely in discourses around the grand old party, Zanu-PF.

The issue of factionalism is said to be especially tied to another construct called succession, which assumes that certain incumbents – or more specifically the biggest of all – will or has to move, even be removed, to pave way for seismic shifts within the hierarchy of the party, Zanu-PF.
This year may yet present an opportunity for all that aspire to benefit from any changes, however occasioned, to place themselves in positions that are not only strategic but also legal.

That is, from a traditionalist or even legalist viewpoint, a party with a particular hierarchy will have to follow the order of that hierarchy when it comes to any changes.

It is an open secret that many people in Zanu-PF, and also outside of it, whether out of wisdom or lack of it, are of the opinion that the present leader President Mugabe may not hold until another congress.

So, it is reasoned, the positions obtained during the upcoming congress will determine the fortunes of the position-holders “post-Mugabe”.
As such, the stakes were bound to be high in the contests of the youth and women’s leagues, the executives of whose bodies constitute part of the electoral college at congress.

Thus began the story of lobbying, jockeying, manipulation and influence peddling.
The Youth League especially fell foul of the shenanigans as top officials in the main wing were heard and seen trying to influence the elections even when President Mugabe had strongly denounced vote-buying.

He had to use particularly strong language to describe the situation.
A leader who was “bought” did not “deserve to be a youth leader at all”, said President Mugabe.
“You are just rubbish, dirty rubbish as the person who has given you money both of you. The giver and the given are alike but we know, you have emerged, most of you are not like that but some are like that . . . You are not political prostitutes, are you?”

Only, some of the bigwigs did not seem to care.
As some reports indicate, no sooner had President Mugabe condemned vote buying during the youth indaba, were some “chefs” heard saying they would be “standing” with so-and-so and some addressed college students while others even took youths to musical gigs.
Such were the rising stakes – which the Women’s League could only accentuate – although it did not exactly turn out that way.
The women did not go for a vote on the key posts but elected to fill them by consensus.

The binary politics of factionalism did not seem to apply here.
There was palpable relief in the President’s closing remarks as he praised members of the Women’s League for having resisted the machinations of men.

The women’s organisation even merited emulation by the ever bickering men and President Mugabe rather took exception to the shambolic state of the party’s administration and organisation, which, from all we know, are functions at the hands of men.
But the storm had passed.

At least for now, judging by the fact that as the dust settles on the two indabas, the congress is just over the horizon.
The only game in town

One of the remarkable things that these two acts provided was the significant indicator that Zanu-PF is the most important political institution in the country.

The drama captivated, entranced, the country as all eyes were firmly glued on the ruling party and heated discussions came about on the streets, in bars, in kombis and on social networks.

For a moment it was forgotten that there is an animal called MDC with species called MDC-T and MDC Renewal Team and even MDC-N.
It was forgotten, too, that the said parties have been locked in little fights of their own.

The one MDC-T is planning to hold its congress in October, that is, less than 50 days from now, yet the enormity of the Zanu-PF spectacle overshadowed this forthcoming congress which ordinarily should be able to chart a way for the party in question.

Opposition politicians such as Obert Gutu and Job Sikhala, among others, sighed and groaned and moaned at every turn of the drama in Zanu-PF – like the rest of us spectators to the political games.

Here is what Job Sikhala, who poses as a fierce critic of President Mugabe and Zanu-PF, wrote on his Facebook wall:
“Obert Gutu my good lawyer provoked my thoughts yesterday when he asked a very pertinent question that never crossed my mind. He asked why it is so easy for opposition political parties to split if a minor disagreement emerges while the glaring factionalism and internal fights in ZANU-PF doesn’t end in a split? Is it ideological or the foundation of political parties that define the way they handle internal differences? Let’s freely debate this?”

So Zanu-PF had set the agenda for national discourse that even the opposition did not find it ironic to use Zanu-PF as an example; as a threshold and reference point, to “freely debate”!
This, of course constitutes the best of these times for Zanu-PF.
It has shown that Zanu-PF is the only game in town.

It has also shown that it has a lot of energy – if only that energy could be dispensed to good ends!
It holds true that such contestations as already seen and yet to be seen are normal and desirable to any democratic society and institutions.
The contests may represent the depth of passion and commitment to an organisation and cause.

What such passion requires is strategic direction not unnecessary fratricidalism and even worse, using the same directly to boost the outside opponent, which results in some people thinking of doing a bhora musango, which is like cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.
This prospect has been worrying to observers and supporters of the revolutionary party.

They note that Zanu-PF has an uncanny way of shooting itself in the foot when it is at its ablest.
The results of such uncanny behaviour are often disastrous, although the party still manages to rally itself, for another fight as the cycle continues.
It may sound pretty much like the story of condemned Sisyphus and his boulder.

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