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The shifting sands of Zimbabwean politics


A WEEK is an extraordinarily long time in Zimbabwean politics. One week, a female Vice President of the powerful ruling party Zanu PF is being insulted and summarily ejected out of the party and the next the seemingly powerful remaining Vice-President is facing power point presentations accusing him of “plotting” to replace the currently all powerful President Robert Mugabe.

By Munyaradzi Hove

That is a lot of powerful people in one paragraph, but is Zanu PF really powerful?

There’s a telling scene towards the end of one of the many documentaries on despot Mobutu Sese Seko. A man relates the story of how the country held its breath waiting for the routine killing of an activist who had criticised the tyrant’s rule in public.

When nothing happens, the public concludes that “the Lion has lost its teeth” and vocal opposition begins to grow, hastening the undignified departure of one of the biggest caricatures of post-independence African dictatorship.

In the past, dissenting or overexcited Cabinet ministers died at an alarming rate in Zimbabwe’s notorious car accidents.

More recently though, Mugabe has ordered Ministers to desist from slanging each other on social media, in vain. Where before, this order would be immediately obeyed, today he is routinely ignored with the rank and file publicly going after each other hammer and tongs, sometimes attacking a Vice-President in Mugabe’s presence at rallies that are meant to be projecting Zanu PF power.

Instead, the public sees an uncouth display of a house divided, a crumbling monolith at war with itself. It would appear both bull fighter and crocodile, which the Karigamombe and Ngwena nicknames refer to, are spent forces and the ambitious lustful young Turks know it.

In the other tent down the road at Harvest House where MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai presides over a debt-ridden MDC, attempts to make the tent larger are exposing the undemocratic practices of a leader who has stayed too long at the helm. He is so determined to stay in office that he simply created a third vice-president to appease his own unelected Young Turk.

Still living in a government house, and with his medical bills paid by Mugabe, Tsvangirai is seemingly determined to emulate his former tea-drinking partner. Blunt as the Kariba dam, he has on three separate occasions sent youth to bludgeon senior members of his party who have publicly disagreed with him, the most recent example being vice-president Thokozani Khupe.

It would appear this is a dangerous position to have in both political parties. It is not the first time, Tsvangirai has dispatched his own brand of militia against women. The first was a frail Trudy Stevenson, who is now safely out of his reach as Zimbabwe Ambassador to Senegal.

Tsvangirai is a slow learner and the country does not have the patience to wait. The MDC is falling apart as the recent turnout at their traditional stronghold, Bulawayo, indicates. With the MDC losing its traditional base of Matabeleland, attention has been turning to a potential new hero for Zimbabwe’s downtrodden.

Alliance for the People’s Agenda (APA) leader, Nkosana Moyo is a bespectacled former minister in Mugabe’s government. Appointed for his skills, without being consulted in 2000, he left in protest 10 months later at the government instigated break down of the rule of law. He is back in the political frame with a new political party called the Alliance for the People’s Agenda (APA).

Already there are unconfirmed reports of disgruntled MDC members beating a path to Nkosana’s door and secret overtures from others who have already grasped that the former African Development Bank vice-president holds solutions to the country’s economic woes in his head. His party is growing rapidly in small secret groups, almost like the early Christian Church of Paul and Peter. Zimbabwe, a country that is obsessed with religion understands this approach and it makes the MDC and Zanu PF nervous. Interestingly, the MDC has been the shrillest critic of Nkosana. Perhaps it has something to do with the prophecy by one of the leading “prophets” in the country that the next President will come from the diaspora.

This prophecy has been seized upon by friend and foe alike with trepidation and excitement respectively. Beyond the spiritual issues, Moyo’s campaign has focused on presenting the man’s credentials to the electorate.

Young people are fanning out across the countryside, armed with flyers that extol the man’s virtues. There is a distinct sense that the man represents hope and he will turn the tide. It is early days yet, but his appearances on radio, television and online shows have elicited comments that speak of a refreshing man, who speaks candidly and with authority on the economy.

Zimbabweans have not seen anyone like him since the likes of Bernard Chidzero and Eddison Zvobgo.

Next to Nkosana, Tsvangirai is a lumbering tractor, while Mugabe is a drowsy punch-drunk dinosaur stuck in the past and unable to stay awake for more than an hour.

The next few weeks, one ping pong week after the other, will be instructive, but one thing is clear APA is on the ascendancy while both the MDC and Zanu PF are on the slippery slope to decline because of the sins of incumbency.

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