HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsZanu PF infighting: Mugabe losing gravitas

Zanu PF infighting: Mugabe losing gravitas

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It has become clear that the ruling Zanu PF party has broken into smithereens. The ongoing fighting, not only among its rank and file, but also in the top leadership, testifies to this.

NewsDay Editorial

Not that the infighting is new, historians have dated it back to the very formation of the party in 1963.

They also tellingly point out the party itself was a result of infighting in the bigger nationalist movement.

Indeed Zanu PF was formed by dissidents who broke away from Zapu then led by Joshua Nkomo; the reasons could have been legitimate, but so are the reasons for the factional fights in his party.

Robert Mugabe is credited with keeping this political behemoth together ever since he took over its leadership in the late 1970s.

He is credited with ending the struggles within the struggles that had continued to haunt it.

But the open fights taking place now indicate he either is simply not bothered or has completely lost control of the party.

Analysts would say, of course, he cares about what is happening in Zanu PF, he has often said he would not make way for a new leader because that would lead to its fragmentation.

Now that the party is splintering under his watch, credence is given to the argument that he is no longer in control.

Age probably has got to do with it; but many in both the opposition and the Zanu PF establishment say openly that he has not become senile and still has a sharp mind.

So, if it’s not senility, what has loosened his erstwhile iron grip on the party in recent weeks?

Two recent events may have compromised his standing in the party because they show he has allowed himself to be unwittingly manipulated.

First, allowing his wife Grace to take the plunge into politics and personally anointing the move without question weakened his fight against factionalism in a way that will be difficult to reverse.

It is clear the First Lady is an ambitious woman. It is also clear she intends to manage the succession war in a way that safeguards her young family’s future.

This automatically means she is not a disinterested intervener in the factional fighting. It means she belongs to a faction, and, as a consequence, her husband cannot distance himself from the faction to which she is inclined.

Second, allowing his wife to earn a contentious doctorate from a university of which he is chancellor, again without question, opened him to immense criticism.

Not only did he lose his gravitas as a great scholar, but he also opened an avenue through which he is vulnerable to attack.

Detractors will point to his abetting Grace’s vaulting ambition at the expense of the general good of the party and the country.

Indeed, Grace’s degree award and the plunge into politics have been very divisive in the party and he is powerless to do anything about it.

To salvage any semblance of authority, he has to work very fast while avoiding vindictiveness; he must build bridges and put in place a workable succession plan.

The earlier he did this, the better. A lot is at stake not only for the national interest, but also for his legacy.

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