Sunday, 20 November 2016

ZANU PF WARS REACH A CLIMAX

Zanu PF insiders say last week’s dramatic turn of events which saw disaffected war veterans burying the hatchet with powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe and cranking up the heat on under siege ministers Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere, could signal the beginning of the end for the Generation 40 (G40) faction, which is rabidly opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding President Robert Mugabe.

The surprising development came as Team Lacoste — the other major ruling party faction which is rallying behind Mnangagwa’s mooted higher ambitions — has recently been piling on the pressure on the G40, which a mere three months ago had itself been in the driving seat in Zanu PF’s brutal tribal, factional and succession wars.


A senior party official who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday said unless there was another dramatic shift in momentum before Zanu PF held its annual conference in Masvingo next month, it appeared “all over bar the shouting” for the under pressure G40 group.

“This fierce war has taken many twists and sharp turns over the past two years, taking down hundreds of senior officials, including a vice president (Joice Mujuru), and who is to say that we won’t see more drama.

“But from what we have seen over the past three months, it now appears all over bar the shouting for the G40, with all its kingpins seriously on the ropes. The only thing that can save them (the G40), from where I stand, is if Grace or Mugabe intervenes,” the Zanu PF bigwig who has always claimed to be “non-aligned” in the party’s deadly ructions said.

Analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday also said the war veterans’ re-emergence as a force in the ruling party’s politics and Mugabe’s mellowing attitude towards them, had left the G40 facing down the barrel with a few weeks before the ruling party holds what could turn out to be a decisive gathering in Masvingo next month.

They pointed out that it was also a “tell-tale sign” that Defence Forces commander Constantino Chiwenga had recently told his troops that Zanu PF “would emerge stronger after its December gathering”, given the military’s influence in Zanu PF and their alleged allegiance to Mnangagwa — which securocrats deny.

“If this reconciliation (among Mugabe, Grace, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko and war vets) continues to gather momentum, the G40 and or its constituent elements will have to recalibrate to demonstrate their future relevance. Having said that, Zimbabwe’s fluid politics can continue to surprise,” senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, Piers Pigou, said.

Joey Mabenge, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition coordinator, said the ex-combatants’s re-emergence and their reconciliation with Grace, and Mphoko was “telling to the extent of showing that power has shifted” in Zanu PF’s deadly factional and succession battles.

“G40 has to wise up to the fact that Zanu PF is not going to easily embrace the kind of transformation that seeks to de-link the party from its liberation war characteristics,” he said.
This follows last Thursday’s surprising announcement by war veterans’ chairperson and former Cabinet minister, Christopher Mutsvangwa, that the former freedom fighters had no problems with Grace and Mphoko, in a statement widely interpreted as confirming that the tables were turning against the G40.

This was despite the fact that war veterans had had serious run-ins with both Grace and Mphoko in Zanu PF, as the ruling party’s brutal succession wars had burned hotter over the past two years, leading to the expulsion of the leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) from the former liberation movement in July.

“Yes we have got issues with Kasukuwere and Moyo. We view them as the main culprits in the G40-attempted power grab. We don’t have issues with the vice president (Mphoko), and particularly the first lady. We don’t have issues with her. She is the wife of our president,” Mutsvangwa said last week.

“She (Mugabe’s wife) has got a position in society and that position we respect. But with the other two (Kasukuwere and Moyo), it’s different, particularly when the element of corruption and bad management of the economy comes in,” he thundered, adding as “he knew the incapacity of those two heads”.

The war veterans’ announcement came after marathon meetings with Mugabe’s emissaries — War Veterans’ minister Tshinga Dube and the ministry’s permanent secretary Walter Tapfumaneyi — in a bid to heal the rift between the former freedom fighters and the nonagenarian, which widened mid this year.

With the majority of war veterans belonging to Team Lacoste, some even went to the extent of publicly asserting that Mnangagwa should succeed Mugabe and if the Midlands godfather was overlooked conflict could arise.

After amending their constitution last weekend, which saw them scrapping the post of patron which was occupied by Mugabe, the war veterans also warned then that they would only work with the nonagenarian again if he jettisoned the G40, which they accuse of destabilising the ruling party.

“We were not expelled from Zanu PF by Mugabe, but by Kasukuwere and the G40. As long as those people are there, it’s no longer Zanu PF but Zanu PF G40,” the forthright ZNLWVA spokesperson, Douglas Mahiya, said at the time.

Over the years, war veterans have served as Mugabe and Zanu PF’s political power dynamos, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian on the throne in the hotly disputed 2000 and 2008 national elections which were both marred by serious violence and the murder of hundreds of opposition supporters.

University of Zimbabwe political professor Eldred Masunungure said Mutsvangwa and the war veterans were playing a “Machiavellian political game” by pledging their allegiance to the First Family, to isolate the G40.

“Mugabe is a smart Machiavellian factional player as well and that is what has made him survive this long politically. So, he will deftly play it by making sure he does not entirely ditch the G40, at least publicly,” he said.

“He needs both factions and will not countenance a situation in which one of them is decapitated. So, he will neatly handle the war veterans’ demand, which the former fighters themselves know is difficult to fulfil,” Masunungure said.

Civic leader Gladys Hlatywayo said last week’s events signalled both the thawing of relations between Mugabe and the disaffected war veterans, as well as a possible beginning of the end for the G40.

“The spirited campaign by the war veterans since serving divorce papers on Mugabe is yielding some results. While Mugabe first responded with his usual brutality and arbitrary imprisonments against them, he has seen that they are not a pushover,” she said.

“The war veterans are being crafty and are using a carrot and stick approach to ensure that Mugabe ditches the G40, knowing fully well that the G40 has framed itself as a faction of the president,” Hlatywayo said.

“So, excluding Grace might be a divide and rule tactic and a mechanism to go after the real thinkers and brains behind G40. It might also be a sign that Grace Mugabe and her husband are reaching out to war veterans having seen how indispensable they are,” she said.

Former Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe executive director, McDonald Lewanika, said the war veterans were hedging their bets — continuing with their support of Mnangagwa and reassuring the first family that they were not their enemies, while targeting those that they perceived as problems for them.

“In terms of real politics, it’s a smart play because a fight against the Mugabes is one they have seen they cannot win ... whether they actually succeed will depend on the extent of the truce that Mnangagwa has secured with Grace, and any overtures of collaboration and accommodation in the future without disturbing the current order,” he said. daily news

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