Against a backdrop of unprecedented infighting around President Robert Mugabe’s succession conflict, senior Zanu PF leaders feel the time has come for the issue to be resolved at congress in December once and for all.
Consensus is currently building that Mugabe must accept that his time is up and allow for a successor to be elected by the party in terms of its constitution, rules and regulations, even though the battle to take over from him has intensified to alarming levels.
Senior Zanu PF officials from across the factional divide who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent this week on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted said all this ongoing wrangling stems from the fact that Mugabe has overstayed and allowed the power struggle over succession to boil over.
“It’s important that we conclusively deal with the succession issue at congress so that we know for certain who will replace the President,” a senior Zanu PF official said. “We can’t go on fighting like this because it’s destroying the party and taking away our attention from fixing the economy. So this congress must resolve this issue.”
Following the entry of his wife Grace into the political fray, Mugabe is now under pressure to deal with the issue after the succession race erupted into open conflict as the First Lady attacked Vice-President Joice Mujuru relentlessly demanding her resignation, alleging she is corrupt and wants to topple the president without producing evidence.
For many years a lot has been said about Zanu PF’s succession which can no longer be wished away.
Zanu PF officials, who spoke anonymously fearing to be put under siege like Mujuru, party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, Mashonaland East chairperson Ray Kaukonde and War Veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda, as well as ousted Mashonaland West provincial chairman Temba Mliswa, said Mugabe must tackle the issue decisively next month.
Contrived demonstrations and physical clashes are now being used to influence the outcome of the December congress.
Another senior Zanu PF leader said Mujuru threw down the gauntlet at Mugabe to deal with the succession issue during last week’s politburo meeting when she
suggested that if the president no longer wants her he should simply say so instead of allowing his wife and her supporters to savage and abuse her.
“Mujuru’s message to Mugabe at this point in time is that ‘if you no longer want me, tell me so that I can step backwards instead of allowing your wife and her minnows to abuse me’,” the Zanu PF leader said.
“The succession issue is the root cause of all these internal squabbles and that’s why they have intensified ahead of the congress. So we need to resolve this in terms of the constitution, our rules and regulations.”
Senior Zanu PF officials attribute what is happening in the party to Mugabe’s failure to learn good and bad lessons from other liberation movements like Frelimo of Mozambique, Swapo of Namibia, Unip of Zambia and Chama Chama Mapinduzi of Tanzania, Kanu of Kenya, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the ANC of South Africa.
Zanu PF official says Mugabe should learn from Chama Cha Mapinduzi, Frelimo, Swapo and the ANC who over the years allowed relatively smooth succession processes to take place within their leadership and thus renewal and survival, while Unip, Kanu and MCP are all but defunct now because of their failure to adapt to change.
They also say agitation for the succession issue to be resolved has been there in Zanu PF for almost two decades now, with the late Eddison Zvobgo having been one of the leading agitators.
Zvobgo’s close ally, Dzikamai Mavhaire spent time in the political wilderness after he demanded that “Mugabe must go” more than a decade ago.
As WikiLeaks revealed, one official said, there is hardly anyone in Zanu PF — perhaps save for his wife — who wants Mugabe to stay on any day longer. Those clamouring for him to stay on during the day, usually demand that he should go during the night.
The only reason, they say, why there is so much wrangling is because factions want to seize power from him, not that one camp wants him to stay on and the other is demanding he should quit.
“What has happened in the last few years is that debate on various critical political issues has virtually been closed. People were denied space to debate and talk. They are afraid that if they talk they will be side-lined, pushed away or punished,” another official said.
“So as a result debate and associated manoeuvres have gone underground and hence all these fights which have now erupted before congress. People are fighting covertly, although this has now exploded into an open power struggle despite no one admitting what faction they are, what’s their calculations and what’s their ultimate agenda.”