By Prince Tongongara
The United States and United Kingdom leaders, George W Bush and Tony Blair, in 2002 introduced a new terminology to international politics when they attacked Iraq under Saddam Hussein. They said the unsanctioned attacks were done as ‘pre-emptive strikes’ and had to be done with great ‘shock and awe’ so that the enemy would not have time to regroup.
The strikes done ostensibly on the basis of what turned out to be false ‘intelligence’ divided international opinion. Some strong and vocal leaders from developing world like President Robert Mugabe used intemperate language to describe Bush and Blair actions and specifically said the actions were illegal and an act of cowardice by superpowers against young developing nation.
It remains a fact that since then Iraq has become a divided nation filled with sectarian violence and a weakened central government with no solution in sight more than a decade later. The two powers US and UK have over the years reduced or withdrawn their military presence in Iraq leaving the locals to clean up the messy they created.
With the benefit of hindsight one can see that while Mugabe detested the US and UK action then he was a keen student who mastered the art of ‘preemptive strike’ against political opponents domestically.
The ongoing extra-legal purging of Zanu PF provincial chairpersons ahead of the watershed December congress is in all essence a perfected ‘pre-emptive strike’ principle.
Mugabe’s rule is entering its twilight and talk of renewal in Zanu PF has steadily been growing into a crescendo since the infamous 2004 Dinyane meeting commonly known as Tsholotsho Declaration and the subsequent 2006 Goromonzi People’s Conference that pushed for the succession debate to be openly discussed in Zanu PF.
Mugabe’s power since then has waned while inversely his deputy Joice Mujuru’s star as a successor has been rising phenomenally. Mujuru’s popularity as a successor has not gone down well with ‘life-President’ Mugabe who thinks he should die in office or at worst anoint his own successor.
In true Bush and Blair style a convenient lie had to be created to justify the attacks on Mujuru and decimation of her allies ahead of the crucial congress. Mugabe needed to stop Mujuru ambition and only the ‘pre-emptive strike’ was the available option if she was to be stopped.
Hurricane Grace was launched and in a whirlwind national tour painted Mujuru as an incompetent person, corrupt and using money to stage a palace a coup during the December congress. The ‘convenient lie’ had been thrown into the public and the state controlled media ran with it and Mujuru has since then become fair political game.
Grace plainly put it that Mujuru had to resign or suffer the inglorious act of being ‘baby dumped’ at congress.
That Mugabe has not ordered restraint despite the public humiliation of his second in command speaks volumes of his complicity in the whole sordid affair.
It seems Grace and company has been given carte blanche to deal with Mujuru and her allies.
Within a short space of time Zanu PF has toppled five provincial chairpersons and served notice to no less persons like Mujuru, secretary of administration Didymus Mutasa and secretary of information and publicity Rugare Gumbo and Constance Shamu wife of political commissar Webster Shamu.
The five chairpersons elbowed out in stage-managed demonstrations and vote of no confidence exercises are Mashonaland West Themba Mliswa, Harare Amos Midzi, Midlands Jason Machaya, Matabeleland South Andrew Langa, Masvingo Callisto Gwanetsa and Mashonaland East Ray Kaukonde. Efforts are also underway to remove Manicaland chair John Mvundura.
However, this decimation of structures aligned to Mujuru ahead of the congress through deceit, lies, character assassination and sponsored votes of no confidence has been questioned by some liberation stalwarts.
Politburo members Cephas Msipa and Sydney Sekeremayi have called for caution and level-headedness in handling matters in the party. War Veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda unequivocally said true liberation fighters did not fight for the creation of presidential dynasty where leadership is ‘sexually transmitted’.
That the unrestrained attack on Mujuru and her allies will split the party has not escaped Mugabe and his advisers. To that extent despite strong urging to sack Mujuru and company he has refused to play the hand amidst indications that he is using backroom channels to placate the angry factions.
Herald columnist Nathaniel Manheru believed to be Mugabe’s spokesman wrote tellingly, “Or that post congress governance structures could in fact reintroduce some useful features from the inclusive era? And do so in ways that reconciles contending ambitions, thereby guaranteeing smooth transitions whenever they fall due?”
However, for now the ‘shock and awe’ pre-emptive strike seems to be ongoing unabated probably so that when the negotiations finally take place Mugabe will be speaking from a position of strength. Shrewd Mugabe seems to be winning again albeit after a fright. But is impending the victory sustainable?