THAT ousted Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa has been in government since 1980 is no secret and for many it should be shocking that the former Presidential Affairs minister could summon enough courage to launch a scathing attack on his former principal President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe for years has been a towering figure in Zanu PF. His supporters, including Mutasa, publicly described him as a demigod, politically invincible such that no one would dare challenge him.
But in a sudden turn of events, Mutasa on Monday released a venomous statement implicating Mugabe and his wife Grace in propagating hate and division in the revolutionary party. Mutasa said Mugabe’s legacy had been torn into shreds by people with selfish political ambitions.
This follows the ouster recently of several Zanu PF heavyweights and among them Mutasa, former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and former spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, on charges of plotting to topple and assassinate Mugabe.
Not only did Mutasa accuse Mugabe of allowing undemocratic tendencies to prevail in the party, he also accused him of railroading the party away from the values of the liberation struggle upon which he has built his legacy.
Mutasa’s attack, though it has surprised many, has created anxiety in and outside Zanu PF with many people keenly waiting to see how Mugabe, upon his return from Asia, would respond to the attack and threats of legal action, knowing him as someone who doesn’t tolerate criticism.
Although a lot of people castigated Mutasa describing his move as a case of sour grapes after being elbowed out of the system that he had served for the past 35 years, others think that launching an offensive against Mugabe by a senior lieutenant was something long overdue.
Zanu PF had been battling to contain factional infighting and just at the time people where ruling the Mujuru camp out, Mutasa has surfaced and threatened to take the bull by its horns.
But most surprising is the action Mutasa has decided to take against his former boss.
He has been in the party for a lifetime and was firmly behind its way of doing business and in several instances was at the forefront and made relentless attacks on anyone who dared to challenge Mugabe and the party.
Political analyst Alex Magaisa said the statement issued by Mutasa this week was likely to activate a vicious backlash from the veteran politician, who turns 91 next month.
“There might be a backlash against Mutasa and his team. If Mugabe was holding back on using arrests and detentions, he might just do it now. All sorts of charges will be concocted and there may be a backlash against Mutasa and company, quite apart from the expulsions,” Magaisa said.
“For Zimbabwe, the political landscape is being transformed. The biggest opposition to Mugabe might no longer be from the traditional opposition, but from within. Mugabe was viewed as the glue that was holding the party together but with him approaching the sunset of his career, the situation will be volatile.”
He added: “The big risk for the nation is that this may lead to serious violence, chaos and instability. However, by any measure, the realisation Mutasa has made three decades later is quite astounding and should be given the benefit of the doubt that he has indeed seen the light.”
Media and democracy scholar Pedzisai Ruhanya said Mutasa was equally undemocratic so he could not say the same about Mugabe unless he has repented.
“If he has experienced a Damascene moment, there is nothing wrong in him coming back now to correct his past,” he said.
Mutasa was ousted from the revolutionary party during the purge of pro-Mujuru party members before and during the Zanu PF congress alongside other heavyweights such as Webster Shamu, Gumbo and Dzikamai Mavahire.
After over a month of silence by the Mujuru camp, Mutasa appears poised to take Mugabe head-on.
But will he succeed? African politics has a template and whoever deviates is usually dealt with in a uniform manner.
“Mutasa’s statement will inflame an already volatile situation in Zanu PF. There were people who were calling for the ouster of Mutasa and all Mujuru-aligned MPs. Now that the MDC formations have said that they will boycott by-elections, Zanu PF will have no fear of losing its seats in new elections,” said Magaisa.
“So they might as well go ahead and expel Mutasa and his allies. This could lead to a split in Zanu PF. The effect of such a split will depend on how much support they have and how many of their supporters will be willing to follow them.”
Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa said Mugabe would likely respond by becoming more vindictive on the Mujuru faction.
“Mugabe would do the usual thing,” Dabengwa said. “He would completely chuck them out and claim that the people have spoken.”
Dabengwa, however said, according to the new Constitution, it would be difficult for him to become ruthless on Mujuru and her colleagues.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said Mugabe would likely be more vindictive and use the scare tactics to cow the Mujuru faction into submission. He said political prosecution in Zimbabwe has always been manipulated in favour of Mugabe and the Mujuru faction should simply walk out and form an opposition party.
“The only option is for them [Mujuru faction] to have the courage to walk away and use their majority as a rallying point to form a new party. Unfortunately, they lack the moral courage and integrity because they are also compromised in Mugabe’s patronage system,” Mangongera said.
But Ruhanya said: “Most fundamentally, they have to be prepared to be harassed, arrested and lose all economic gains [they ever made].
“By the way they say they want to take Mugabe to court;which court will say Mugabe held an unconstitutional congress?” he quipped.
He said the conflation of the power Mugabe yields through State institutions and the social base always makes it impossible to win against him.
The social base
When MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai held his congress last year, it appeared he was in haste to consolidate power. His time of glory in the unity government had somehow left him detached from the people. Yet in Mugabe’s case the people appear to be playing a smaller role with each day as they are used when necessary and forgotten when it pays.
Ruhanya feels if Mutasa is to make any impact he needs to get in touch with the social base or risk failure to operationalise his statement.
“If Mutasa wants to operationalise his statement he has to go to the grassroots and engage the same social base that makes Zanu PF, mainly in Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central; the countryside. If Mutasa is not going there, he will remain an online activist with no threat to the political situation,” said Ruhanya.
He said everyone who intends to fight Mugabe must know his power lies in the people and the economic and political institutions in his control.
He, however, said the system is structural and it needed ordinary members of Zanu PF to start denouncing Mugabe instead of press-statement activism which has never worked in Africa.