AS the intriguing Zanu PF succession race trudges towards what looks like a climax, the frightening spectre of a chaotic end has been exacerbated by the emergence of a tribal dimension.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Analysts and former top aides to the 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe said there was a post-independence tribal group that had unfettered access to the Zanu PF leader with power to influence Cabinet changes.
Publicly though, Mugabe has declared he abhors tribalism and regionalism two twin evils that former Intelligence minister and wartime stalwart Didymus Mutasa said blighted the liberation struggle.
“There was a predominantly Zezuru group known as Committee of 26 that I understand was led by a pioneering black businessman. They had unfettered access to Mugabe and he knew about them. They were capable of causing a Cabinet reshuffle,” said Mutasa.
“Mugabe’s utterances and those of his wife indicate a tribal tendency. Grace is basically trumpeting what Mugabe thinks and believes in by fronting the singing of songs such as ‘Mazezuru unconquerable’ and declaring that all factionalists in the party should relocate to the Midlands and Masvingo.
“Mugabe is so cunning that he is very capable of hiding his true identity or thoughts on an issue but push it through someone else.”
But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo rejected the claims that Mugabe was a tribalist.
“He abhors tribalism and has said that publicly,” said Khaya-Moyo.
Asked to the extent to which tribalism affects the ruling party, Khaya-Moyo retorted: “We have not carried out a survey to get a clear understanding of the depth of tribalism in the party but we abhor all forms of negative isms including racism and regionalism as well as factionalism”.
In 2015 Mugabe accused Zimbabweans from the south-western parts of the country of being “petty tribal thieves” and the Zanu PF leader was accused of having pushed a tribal agenda through the Gukurahundi atrocities of the 1980s that left over 20 000 civilians dead under the pretext of hunting down a handful of dissidents.
With Zanu PF split between two distinct factions one known as Team Lacoste and pushing for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa a Karanga to take over and another known as G40 that hitherto has been clamouring for Grace to succeed her husband, but has lately introduced Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi both Zezuru into the matrix, the tribal issue has become a fresh frontier for the internal power struggle.
G40 leading figure and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo early this year told a Southern African Political and Economic Series (SAPES) public discussion that the Karangas in Zanu PF had declared “its our time”.
“They are riding on the mantra Chinhu Chedu ‘we got this’. That it is the time for the Karangas to rule,” Moyo mockingly said.
Mutasa said the Manyika ethnic group had in the early years of the formation of Zanu dominated the party’s leadership before bloody clashes, a palace coup and before enigmatic Dare ReChimurenga leader Herbert Chitepo was blown up in Zambia.
“The struggle years were littered with bloody tribal clashes, the issues around (Noel) Mukono, (John) Mataure and (Thomas) Nhari all of Manyika extraction and the deaths of Chitepo point to an evil tribal axis at the time between Mugabe and a Karanga clique led by (Josiah) Tongogara and others,” Mutasa said. After independence Mutasa said the Manyikas had never reunited and “to this day there is no one of note to talk about”.
Mutasa’s claims were collaborated by another struggle stalwart and former Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo.
“The Committee of 26 also included the likes of (Nathan) Shamuyarira. Even if one were to raise an objection to the informal group’s activities, you would be met with deafening silence. Mugabe preaches what he does not practice and that has been his modus operandi since the struggle years,” Gumbo told NewsDay.
Another former Cabinet minister and acerbic Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa claimed he was a victim of Zanu PF tribalism.
“Mugabe at the Bindura (rally) was revelatory. He recounted his tribal balancing act in choosing the CC (central committee) and PB (politburo) at the Chimoio special wartime congress in 1977. All this was done to the blind knowledge of the thousands upon thousands of fighting cadres. This leadership would engender the political atrophy that has viciously marginalised the war veterans while consigning their lot to four decades of grinding poverty,” Mutsvangwa said.
“Post-revolutionary Zimbabwe has no room for Jonathan Moyo and his pretention to be a Paul Kagame. It will reject the latter day feudalist (Saviour) Kasukuwere in his mischief-laden invocation of the legend of King Munhumutapa. Nor can Zimbabwe countenance superstitious delusions that desecrate the revolutionary sainthood of Mbuya Nehanda in a blasphemous claim to be her spirit medium.”
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure concurred that the tribal problem was the bane of Zanu PF internal power politicking.
“Tribalism is an issue that has been salient and an ever present danger to nation building. It was the curse of the nationalist struggle as well and a main cleavage in Zanu and the turmoil that rocked the external wing.
“For those old enough to know in the early years of independence it was apparent that ministers uprooted whole district to serve in portfolios under their watch. The appointments to parastatals also took ethnic dimensions. We can also see this in the unwritten rule that if the President is Shona then the deputy will be Ndebele,” Masunungure said.
Masunungure added that opposition parties have not been left out.
“You can also see this permeating opposition politics and that is why eyebrows were raised when MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai appointed two deputies not only from the same ethnic group but same district,’ the University of Zimbabwe lecturer said.
Mugabe’s succession, Masunungure said, was likely to be decided on tribal grounds than merit.
Mugabe has also tried to project Mnangagwa as a regional leader accusing the VP of having hounded late national hero Simon Muzenda out of the Midlands.