President Mugabe saves party’s ugly ructions
HARARE – After weeks of relentless pressure being exerted on the Zanu PF faction which is fighting to stop Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa from succeeding President Robert Mugabe, the wily nonagenarian — the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the country got its independence from Britain in 1980 — made yet another significant intervention in his warring ruling party’s ugly ructions.
At a time that Zanu PF’s Young Turks who oppose Mnangagwa, and who go by the moniker Generation 40 (G40), appeared to be wilting badly under the sustained onslaught of the faction rallying behind the Midlands godfather, Team Lacoste, Mugabe has not only savaged all his ambitious lieutenants pushing to succeed him, he has also refused to give in to the demands of disgruntled war veterans that he ditches leading G40 kingpins.
Addressing war collaborators, ex-detainees and ex-restrictees at a crucial indaba in Harare at the weekend, Mugabe made it clear that he was not yet ready to leave office, adding ominously that if he were ever to retire he would do so “properly” — a warning that Zanu PF insiders claimed in interviews with the Daily News yesterday was aimed at Team Lacoste.
“Change inouyaka zvakanaka. If I have to retire, let me retire properly. Vanhu vogarawo pasi zvakanaka, kwete zvekuenderana kun’anga zvanga zvichiita mai ava vakatisiya ava vachiita Zimbabwe (People) First. Aah, zvinenge zvisina kunaka (Succession must take place orderly. Zanu PF members must sit down and agree on this, and not resort to voodoo like former Vice President Joice Mujuru allegedly did before she formed Zimbabwe People First),” the increasingly frail nonagenarian thundered.
Mugabe also said he was aware of the jostling for power by both Team Lacoste and the G40 factions, going on to derisively refer to the former camp as the “Locust” group, and warning against “successionist” politics.
And while the nonagenarian and Zanu PF have lately been working hard to heal the widening rift between them and disaffected former freedom fighters, he lashed at former Cabinet minister and war veterans’ leader Christopher Mutsvangwa and his executive at the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) for allegedly misleading ex-combatants — and reminding them that “politics leads the gun”.
In the same vein, Mugabe flatly refused to give in to the demands of the war veterans that he ditches G40 kingpins as a pre-condition for the former freedom fighters’ support in the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
This was after both ZNLWVA and the Zimbabwe Liberation War Collaborators’ Association (Ziliwaco) had piled pressure on Mugabe to get rid of alleged G40 leading lights, ministers and politburo members Saviour Kasukuwere and Jonathan Moyo.
The duo stands accused by war veterans of allegedly sowing seeds of discord in the ruling party, imposing candidates, abusing social media to spew party secrets and to badmouth party bigwigs, and working to drown and sideline party officials perceived to be allies of Mnangagwa.
“Let us all have one purpose. Let us not stray like what happened with our war veterans … If you were given a warning, but you still beat your chest insisting that the party does what you want, is that how a war veteran behaves? Where did you learn that? You do not have the orientation of Zanu and Zapu …. Politics leads the gun,” Mugabe insisted.
His tirade came notwithstanding recent concerted attempts by the war veterans to reconcile with their former patron, in which they have said that they do not have a gripe against the nonagenarian and his powerful wife Grace — but that they are rabidly opposed to Kasukuwere and Moyo.
Mutsvangwa told journalists in Harare last week that war veterans could only work with Mugabe and Zanu PF on condition that the party expelled both men, even though they had also earlier moved to do away with the position of ZNLWVA patron — a development which observers said was meant to spite the nonagenarian.
Speaking ahead of Mugabe at the weekend gathering, war veteran Charles Gawu — who spoke on the state of the ruling party’s ideology — had encouraged Mugabe to deal decisively with the Zanu PF commissariat, a thinly-disguised assault on Kasukuwere.
“It appears as if our party ideology is now being enforced by people who did not fight in the liberation, people who lack knowledge of the party ideology. The Zanu PF commissariat is the backbone of the party and the party is divided because of the commissariat department.
“We are proposing that only veterans of the liberation struggle lead the commissariat department,” Gawu said, before calling for age restrictions in the party’s decision-making bodies.
“The party should recognise the seniority of members. There has to be age restrictions in key institutions in the party. We need to elect leadership that possesses appropriate credentials. How can a 30-year-old be a member of the national consultative assembly? What advice do we get from them?” he asked slyly.
Former Harare chairman, Godwills Masimirembwa, had also earlier had a go at Kasukuwere, who cast a lone figure as all sorts of insults were hurled at him.
But Mugabe, who analysts say has perfected the art of Machiavellian politics, turned discussions on their head, claiming that some senior party officials wanted him dead — untested allegations that Kasukuwere has also recently voiced in public.
Addressing a Zanu PF rally in the Harare small dormitory town of Epworth, Kasukuwere made the startling claim earlier this month that some ruling party bigwigs who were angling to take over from Mugabe wished death upon the increasingly frail nonagenarian.
Party insiders at the rally told the Daily News that the shocking claim was “the beginning of the public outing of Team Lacoste”.
“Despite the fact that people voted for … Mugabe in 2013 and the party declared that he is our 2018 candidate … there are some among us who are now losing sleep each time mudhara (Mugabe) goes out of the country inquiring whether he is still alive or not.
“Is that politics to wish others dead so that you can assume power? Isn’t it that you have to work for the people to get to the top?” Kasukuwere asked cryptically.
“However, he is not dying anytime soon. He will be there even to bury some of you and some of us will not be moved from the position that we have taken to let him rule forever,” he added.
With Mugabe now visibly frail due to old age, and his health a subject of much frenzied speculation within the warring Zanu PF, each holiday or trip abroad that he has taken over the past few years has appeared to fuel the ruling party’s worsening succession wars, amid claims by the G40 group that Team Lacoste is working feverishly to stampede the nonagenarian out of power.