An epoch-making meeting of Zanu(PF)’s supreme decision-making body in between congresses, the Politburo, is set for Wednesday amid tell tale signs of an implosion in the governing party occasioned by a roots and branch shake up targeting all its structures. The meeting comes as a fresh wave of turbulence across the provinces, where several influential figures have been recommended for either expulsion or suspension, has stoked panic within the corridors of power.
While the purge was initially targeted at former vice president Joice Mujuru who was dismissed from the party early this month, along with her perceived followers, it has since changed form to mirror the competing forces in ZANU-PF that are jockeying for President Robert Mugabe’s ear.
Prior to the December 2014 congress, Zanu(PF) was split along two main factions; one led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the other by Mujuru.
Despite the ruthless purge of the Mujuru faction, other centres of power have emerged in Zanu(PF) outside the Mnangagwa camp, which has compounded the confusion.
With President Mugabe now in the twilight of his political career, having turned 91 in February, a fierce fight has broken out at all levels of the party, as ambitious Zanu(PF) cadres jostle to position their proxies strategically.
The political gamesmanship has turned into a nightmare for those concerned about ithe party’s future, coming as they have when Mujuru and her allies have signaled the formation of a rival formation to contested in the 2018 national polls.
Harare province alone has recommended to the Politburo the expulsion of 25 key members and wants 15 more to be suspended for five years each.
Mashonaland East, Midlands, Bulawayo and Mashonaland Central provinces have also submitted lists of those earmarked for expulsion or suspension.
Other provinces, including Mashonaland West — President Mugabe’s home province — are expected to follow suit.
With the next Politburo meeting scheduled for next week, the remaining provinces are under pressure to conclude their lists for submission to the Politburo on time.
The Central Committee, which is Zanu(PF)’s policy-making organ, is expected to ratify whatever decision would have been reached by the Politburo when it meets the following day.
The Central Committee, to which the Politburo reports, meets quarterly.
All eyes will therefore be on President Mugabe to see how he will ease the tensions dividing his party.
Allen Hungwe, a political analyst, said the suspensions were no longer about pushing out Mujuru allies as previously claimed.
They are now about pushing those with unclear allegiances or those who may not necessarily be on Mujuru’s side but considered threats against the State power ambitions of those that have remained in the race, post December 2014 congress.
Even those who have largely been considered to be allies of Mnangagwa are also at risk of being parachuted out of Zanu(PF).
“This indicates that, besides the common adage that Mnangagwa allies are finishing off the remnants of the Mujuru cabal, they are themselves also under threat from another contesting power centre. The ground is shifting and shifting fast. Apparently the most threatened by this shifting ground is Mnangagwa, given that he is considered as the most aptly positioned to now succeed President Mugabe,” said Hungwe.
“There, however, appears to be some emergence of other power centres outside of Mnangagwa and President Mugabe that are also pushing for State power. That power centre may be anonymous in terms of its complexion for the meantime. All we are sure of is that Mnangagwa’s eminent rise to the presidency is not as assured as it may have been immediately after the December 2014 congress. The question remains; who is this power centre now contesting Mnangagwa for eventual State power?” he posed the question.
The ruling party plunged into a crisis last year when suspensions and expulsions were effected against some of its heavyweights in the run up to congress and in its aftermath.
The purge has not yielded a peaceful aftermath as had been hoped for, with ferocious infighting erupting in the provinces.
It has left the party vulnerable given that the affected cadres enjoyed general sympathy from within and outside the party.
Observers say the bloodbath witnessed before and after congress could create further gridlock in the party and government at a time when Zimbabwe and its sputtering economy desperately need some form of relief.
The recent primary elections in which the party has seen voter apathy with very few members turning up to vote have sent shockwaves and raised questions over the ability of Saviour Kasukuwere, the embattled national political commissar, to deal with the situation.
In some constituencies, the party attracted only a handful of voters.
For instance, in Glen View South, only 524 members voted, a number which is not enough to form one party district.
A Zanu(PF) district comprises of 1200 members drawn from branches.
Party insiders said the poor showing in internal elections, which took place against the backdrop of protests, violence accusations and counter-accusations, served as a wake-up call for the party’s leadership.
“These figures show that the party has been rejected by its own people and the leadership is very well aware of that fact which is why from now, we are going to witness a lot of drama,” said a Zanu(PF) insider.
Kasukuwere has since come under relentless disapproval, with many describing his tactics as divisive and destructive.
Some provinces have openly disobeyed his orders.
Bulawayo province went ahead in blocking pro-Mujuru members from contesting for party positions against Kasukuwere’s advice.
In Mashonaland East, the interim executive there toppled his appointee, Aeneas Chigwedere from the position of acting provincial chair although the combative Environment Minister immediately reversed the decision.
Another source of friction has been the ouster of retired Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena, who was the commissariat director, former Central Intelligence Organisation deputy director Sydney Nyanungo, Munyaradzi Machacha and others from the party’s commissariat despite their stellar performance in campaigning for ZANU-PF’s victory during the do-or-die 2013 polls.
A school of thought in Zanu(PF) holds the view that there is a deliberate attempt by the young Turks in strategic positions to renew the revolutionary movement from within by systematically silencing the old guard.
Dubbed Generation 40, the ultimate goal of this group, according to this school of thought, is to eventually campaign for a youthful candidate to succeed President Mugabe.
On Monday, Kasukuwere dismissed the panic reports as information supplied by ‘detractors.’
“That is what detractors would say, not bona fide members of our party,” he said.
He said there was neither panic nor discontentment in the ruling party.
“What panic and discontentment? We are the ruling party and surely, what would make us panic,” he boasted.
On reports of poor voter turnout for primary by-elections, he said: “What poor turnout at primaries are they talking about? I cannot understand that line of thinking.”