Zimbabwe is politically on a razor edge. There could be pretences in the corridors of power that the country is stable, but many issues point to the contrary.
President Robert Mugabe seems to be in total control, but is he?
His party, the ruling Zanu PF, has been torn in the middle. Many politicians in the party have had their careers cut at the stroke of a pen.
It should be borne in mind that a lot of people who have been in this country’s leadership over the years know no other career except politics.
Many of them have been in government in differing ways for the past 35 years. Before that, they had pledged their lives to the nationalist struggle and had never envisaged a life outside Zanu PF.
Now that they have been chucked out of the party, the choices for them are stark. Either they fade into political oblivion by acquiescing to the situation or they fight back. The fighting back can come in different forms, not necessarily violent.
They could join hands with opposition forces and form a formidable force against Zanu PF or they could directly challenge Mugabe’s authority.
Former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa’s move to challenge his dismissal through the courts doesn’t stand a chance in heaven. Mugabe has already hinted the judiciary will play ball and ensure the lawsuit goes nowhere.
But Mutasa’s move is more symbolic than realistic. For the first time, someone has gathered the guts to challenge the whole Zanu PF monolith without forming a political party, his argument based on the legitimacy of the main party itself. In other words, what Mutasa has done is a direct challenge on Mugabe himself. It is a huge statement.
Obviously he will find ready sympathy in those colleagues of his who have also had their careers cut and public opinion might begin to swirl in his direction.
Succession politics has never been straightforward. History informs that it is accompanied by lots of intrigue and chicanery if not blood. One only has to read the fights among Bolsheviks of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union then Russia) when it was clear their founding leader Lenin was facing his demise. The same replicated itself in China at the end of Mao’s reign some 50 years later.
The precariousness of the Zimbabwean situation, therefore, cannot be underestimated more so because the economy continues on a tailspin with no solution in sight. A tipping point might come in an unexpected form.
With the apparent resurgence of opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the political scenario might rapidly redefine itself. If the numbers that attended his rally at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, Harare, over the weekend are anything to go by, indeed, there is still a bit of fight left in him.
He could exploit the political instability in the ruling party to coalesce public thinking. If the economy continues to implode, he could capitalise on it and lead public demonstrations that could easily strike a fatal blow on the weak ruling party.
But no Zimbabwean wishes for instability and chaos in the country.
This is the reason why Mugabe has to be more decisive in handling his succession than hitherto. The uncertainty he has created by hinting neither of his chosen deputies would succeed him has left too big a power vacuum which could be detrimental to the peace prevailing in the country.
His continued presence in the country is, therefore, critical at this juncture. He should stay at home to manage the volatile situation and any eventualities that might arise.