Warring ZANU-PF factions are sharpening their swords once again after weeks of low-key ructions as they ignore President Robert Mugabe’s passionate appeals for them to unite and re-direct their energies towards securing another victory at the 2018 polls that are promising to have all the ingredients of a nail-biting battle.
Last week, President Mugabe (92) ordered his jockeying lieutenants to stop congregating themselves into factions for purposes of wresting power from him under the false hope that he may retire from office now that he is in the twilight of his political career.
The ZANU-PF leader described the shenanigans as treasonous. In Zimbabwe, treason-related crimes are punishable by death except if committed by a woman. The new Constitution enacted in 2013 exonerates women from capital punishment.
President Mugabe also reminded those gunning for his job that he was going nowhere. He said this while admonishing the factionalists in his address to thousands of party supporters who had gathered at the Robert Mugabe Square in Harare last week to show solidarity with him, marking the conclusion of the million-man-march.
In the past, the ZANU-PF first secretary has been scathing in his criticism of ambitious cadres who are canvassing for the top job. Regardless, the jockeying has moved a gear up notwithstanding the fact that there is no vacancy at Number 1 Chancellor Avenue.
President Mugabe was re-elected President and first secretary of ZANU-PF at the party’s 2014 congress, which means he will be the party’s presidential candidate in 2018.
At the polls, he is likely to face his long-time rival, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change.
For the first time in the country’s history, the veteran politician is also likely to get inside the ring with an aspiring female presidential candidate, Joice Mujuru, his long time deputy until they fell out in 2014. Until December 2014, the infighting in ZANU-PF was between Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa.
And when Mujuru was sent packing from the party and government following allegations that she was plotting against her boss, ZANU-PF celebrated prematurely, thinking it had buried factionalism six-feet under.
But not-so longer after the 2014 congress did factionalism reared its ugly head again, this time pitting the Mnangagwa camp, on the one hand, and Generation 40 (G40), on the other.
G40 is pushing for President Mugabe to become life President and that only in his absence through natural causes should the party seize itself with the succession question. Even after President Mugabe is gone, G40 wants the high-pressure job to be landed by a young Turk.
Team Lacoste — the group propping up Mnangagwa’s presidential ambitions — believes the Vice President should be the heir-apparent by virtue of being the most senior politician within the ranks of ZANU-PF at the moment.
War veterans, who have aligned themselves to Team Lacoste, are leading the fight in this new factional dispensation which has begun in earnest.
The former freedom fighters retreated to Gweru on Sunday where they fired a series of salvos at G40; only days after President Mugabe had ordered a stop to factional activities by any grouping, singling out the ex-combatants whom he ordered to raise their concerns within party ranks.
While in Gweru, they declared themselves immune from expulsion from ZANU-PF and immediately renewed their calls for the heads of ZANU-PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere; secretary for ICT Jonathan Moyo; deputy secretary for women’s affairs Eunice Sandi-Moyo and Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister, Mandi Chimene.
Sandi-Moyo is a trusted lieutenant of First Lady, Grace Mugabe. By targeting the ZANU-PF Women’s League deputy secretary, the war veterans seem to have renewed their attacks on the First Lady.
The Gweru meeting was held under the guise of giving feedback on the war veterans’ meeting with President Mugabe in April where they made various demands to the country’s leadership.
The indaba was addressed by the chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) and top Mnangagwa ally, Chris Mutsvangwa as well as the organisation’s secretary general, Victor Matemadanda.
Ousted ZANU-PF Youth League boss, Pupurai Togarepi and controversial Kadoma businessman, Jimayi Muduvuri, were also given the floor to address the meeting.
The war veterans’ provincial leadership from all 10 provinces of the country as well as all former liberation war fighters from the Midlands region attended the meeting.
According to minutes of the meeting leaked exclusively to the Financial Gazette this week, war veterans want Mnangagwa declared the most senior ZANU-PF member after President Mugabe, therefore lining him up for presidency.
They claimed that this was in line with the 1987 Unity Accord at which it was agreed that the most senior member from ZAPU and ZANU would succeed in the event of an incumbent vacating office.
At present, Mnangagwa, who is the only remaining member of President Mugabe’s first government formed in 1980 along with Defence Minister, Sydney Sekeramayi, is not officially recognised as the second most senior ZANU-PF member.
According to minutes of the Gweru meeting, Mutsvangwa urged war veterans to fight so that Mnangagwa is accorded the status.
“He said the party leadership is not following the ZANU-PF constitution by not recognising the VP (Mnangagwa) as the only senior left after the President,” reads the minutes in part.
Moyo and Kasukuwere were accused of planning to destroy the name of the revolutionary party, with the war veterans saying the only person suitable to replace President Mugabe was Mnangagwa as he was the only man known in China.
Mutsvangwa allegedly also sensationally claimed that President Mugabe had told Chinese people that Mnangagwa was his preferred successor.
He is quoted in the minutes as having said: “He (President Mugabe) was asked by the Chinese business people when he went there to look for investors to name the person who was supposed to take over when His Excellency leaves office and he had mentioned VP Mnangagwa as the successor in order to attract the Chinese business people.”
Mutsvangwa is also said to have told the war veterans that there would be bloodshed if anyone attempts to derail that succession plan.
“If anyone derails this aim of succession he or she will cause bloodshed in the country,” said Mutsvangwa, according to the minutes.
Mutsvangwa also accused G40 of trying to influence President Mugabe to replace army chiefs with new blood, concluding his speech by declaring that G40 was a dead outfit.
Sources who attended the meeting said Matemadanda went further than Mutsvangwa by calling on all war veterans to rally behind Mnangagwa, whom he claimed was the only suitable candidate to take over from President Mugabe.
“He told the meeting that war veterans have power to handpick a President of their choice for the party, even without an internal election,” said a source.
Togarepi and Muduvuri claimed they were sent by Mnangagwa on a fact-finding mission aimed at establishing whether anyone had been sent to campaign for him so that he can remove the President from power.
“They both told the meeting that they had concluded their tour of the country and had come to the conclusion that no one had been sent by the Vice President for that purpose,” another source said.
The meeting, according to the minutes, resolved that the three provincial chairmen who were suspended from the party, Joel Biggie Matiza (Mashonaland East) Kizito Chivamba (Midlands) and Ezra Chadzamira (Masvingo) must be reinstated with immediate effect.
They also resolved that the position of the Women’s League secretary for administration should be occupied by someone from the Midlands province. The post is currently being held by Letina Undenge of Manicaland province who took over from the late Espinah Nhari after she was booted out for chanting the slogan: “Down with G40!”
Nhari died in a car accident two weeks ago.
The war veterans also want President Mugabe to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate circumstances surrounding the missing diamond revenue amounting to US$15 billion.
President Mugabe stunned the nation early this year when he disclosed that diamond revenue amounting to US$15 billion – more than three times the size of the country’s National Budget – had been salted away through under hand dealings in a televised interview on the eve of his 92nd birthday in February.
Contacted by phone on Monday, Matedanda confirmed the authenticity of the minutes gleaned by the Financial Gazette.
“This is the last in a series of meetings we have been holding in the provinces,” he said and added: “War veterans are of the view that the party should have a clear succession plan. We salute our comrades from the former ZAPU side who have a clear succession plan in which the most senior member takes charge. We in the ZANU side do not have that.
“I, of course told the meeting that it is time the ZANU side makes that clear. On the ZAPU side, when vice president Joshua Nkomo died, they selected Joseph Msika to take over and when he too died, they put up John Nkomo.
“When John Nkomo died, President Mugabe had to appoint (Vice President Phelekezela) Mphoko who was not known after cadres identified him as the most senior member. However, when vice president Simon Muzenda died, the most senior member, Cde Mnangagwa did not take over and instead a woman was chosen, only for him to take over the position he had defaulted years back.
“What we are saying is that Cde Mnangagwa should be formally declared the most senior former ZANU member… for a clear succession plan.”
ZANU-PF spokesman, Simon Khaya Moyo, was not available for comment as his mobile phone was unreachable.
President Mugabe has, however, said he is not leaving office unless asked to do so by his party, effectively closing the door on any succession talk within ZANU-PF.
Last week, the ZANU-PF youth and women’s leagues — considered the bedrocks of the party — called on him to remain in office until death.
With the two main wings of the party flexing their muscle last week by mobilising record crowds through the million-man-march staged on Africa Day, members of Team Lacoste have a mountain to climb.
The Women’s League made it clear last year that they would want one of their own to be appointed Vice President before the end of this year, which means that one of the two vice presidents must make way for a woman should the resolution sail through.
This was captured in their resolutions presented at the party’s annual conference held in the resort town of Victoria Falls last year. With ZNLWVA coming out in the open with regards their preferred candidate to succeed President Mugabe, it remains to be seen if the party’s youth and women’s leagues would hold sway.
But as the infighting continues, the country’s economy has been left badly bruised and battered.
Symptomatic of the economic crisis, the country is currently experiencing serious shortages of bank notes, with long and winding queues being the order of the day at retail banks.
Fears are that the liquidity crunch could result in basic goods varnishing from supermarket shelves as retailers struggle to restock owing to the shortage of foreign currency.
Zimbabwe migrated to the use of multi-currencies in 2009 after the local unit lost the battle for existence to hyperinflation.
Currently, the multi-currencies are thinning within the banking system, with nostro accounts running dry.
A nostro account is a bank account held in a foreign country by a domestic bank, denominated in the currency of that country.
Nostro accounts are used to facilitate settlement of foreign exchange and trade transactions.
Because of the depletion of nostro accounts, companies are struggling to replenish their imported raw materials and re-stock, hence fears that shortages reminiscent of the 2007/8 era could resurface.