Disclosures by former Zanu PF politburo member Simba Makoni that the current wave of chaos rocking the party was symptomatic of Zanu PF’s failure to deal with leadership renewal seem to add currency to beliefs that President Robert Mugabe could be losing grip on power.
Speaking about the chaos surrounding the recent disbandment of the party’s district co-ordinating committees (DCCs), Makoni — a victim of Zanu PF’s power struggles before he broke ranks with the party to form his own Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) project in 2008 — said Zanu PF was not capable of managing change.
Makoni said this in a wide-ranging interview published yesterday in the State-run weekly, The Sunday Mail.
“Some of the symptoms of what is happening in Zanu PF today — the disbanding of DCCs and the change in the provincial leadership, expelling of people from the party and their readmission — they are all part of the ongoing process of advocating for change. The misfortune is that the Zanu PF leadership is not capable of managing change,” he said.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera yesterday agreed with Makoni and said Mugabe’s weakening grip on power had become most evidently clear from disclosures in the WikiLeaks cables.
“His grip on power has always been shaky and if you look at what happened following the WikiLeaks cables, senior Zanu PF politicians agreed that he had become a liability to the party but none had the courage to tell him to relinquish power. Makoni had to leave the party to criticise Mugabe because he could not do it from within,” said Mangongera.
“The party leaders are also to blame because they have failed to use party channels to deal with the succession issue. (Dumiso) Dabengwa said they at one time sent (the late Vice-President Joseph) Msika to talk Mugabe out of power. Why send Msika? They resorted to using clandestine methods like the Tsholotsho Declaration. If they continue with Mugabe, he will be an electoral liability because he will lose. He is no longer that kind of brand that would appeal to the electorate,” Mangongera said.
Zanu PF grassroots structures are reportedly in chaos following the disbandment of the DCCs which the top leadership accused of fanning divisions. Some senior party officials at district, provincial and central committee level have openly voiced their displeasure over the politburo’s decision to disband the DCCs. The party members claim the decision had effectively cut off the umbilical cord that bound the provincial and grassroots structures.
Makoni said it was “an open secret” that Zanu PF needed leadership renewal as early as the 1990s and the need reached a crescendo in 2007 when President Robert Mugabe openly defied calls for him to step down as party candidate allegedly after party bigwigs predicted him losing to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the 2008 polls.
“I recounted to you that a conversation started in Zanu PF in the mid-90s about the need for change. That conversation continued into the extraordinary congress and that conversation continues today,” Makoni said.
“Its (MKD) origins were in the conversations for change within Zanu PF. When that change was thwarted finally at the extraordinary congress of December 2007, those of us who believed that if President Mugabe stood as Zanu PF candidate, he was going to be beaten by Morgan. That was an open secret,” said Makoni.
“Those of us who saw the danger of the party, not only its presidential candidate, being defeated and the party itself being defeated and the legacy of struggle and the legacy of self-determination, and the legacy of being our true selves being threatened,” Makoni said.
Zanu PF’s succession battle has of late taken an intricate twist with the two leading contenders — Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa — reportedly fighting each other using grassroots structures, mainly the now disbanded DCCs.
While most party bigwigs are believed to be pro-change, the matter continues to be debated with muffled voices for fear of being singled out and labelled as “sellouts”.
A few years ago, Mugabe partially opened the floor for open debate on the party’s succession, but closed the debate, arguing it would cause more fissures in the party. Last year, a Zanu PF politburo member, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, was quoted by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks saying there was growing discontentment in the party over Mugabe’s continued stay in power.
The late retired army commander, General Solomon Mujuru, is reported to have openly asked Mugabe to disclose his succession plans.