18 December, 2014
Zimbabwe: ZANU PF Congress 2014
by Shamiso Marange
Joice Mujuru’s fall from grace leaves yet another dent in the political history of Zimbabwe. Ms. Mujuru, 59, the first female Vice President in the country, along with eight ministers aligned to her faction found themselves displaced in an effort by President Mugabe to purge factionalism from his Zimbabwe African Nationalist Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). A first in the 51 years of party’s existence.
Prior to Robert Mugabe curtailing Mujuru’s influence in the politburo of the ruling party and sacking her and her comrades from their government positions, Grace Mugabe had gone on a whistle-blowing crusade, verbally-attacking Mujuru and instigating contempt towards the former freedom-fighter.
It is now evident that, the first lady had been unleashed to lay the the foundation to vanquish the Vice President and her faction on behalf of her husband. All Robert Mugabe had to do was step on the podium at the 6th ZANU PF Congress (or should we say, Con-Grace?) and hammer the final nails in the coffin. By the time the convention had begun Mujuru had been turned into a villain. She had been exposed and the knives to stab her in the back had been drawn. Her squeaky clean image as a hardworking heroin dedicated to the ruling party, was dragged through the mud. She was made out to be a thief, a traitor and a simple-minded character relying on witchcraft in an attempt to unseat the ‘messiah’.
A few days before the congress Mugabe set up a kangaroo court and made amendments to the ZANU-PF constitution, granting him powers to directly select his deputies and anoint his successor. An indication of the lack of genuine democracy within the ruling party structures. Before the changes to the ZANU-PF charter, Mugabe and his two ZANU-PF deputies had to be elected by members from the country’s 10 regions. The deputies automatically took up the same posts in government.
Mugabe set his snare in a timeous fashion, creating a well-orchestrated exit for Mujuru. She was check-mated and outmanoeuvred before she could make her move of superseding the nonagenarian leader from the party. In the end she never attended the congress and it would have been improvident if she had presented herself for her own guillotining. Only time will tell if she can make a comeback because a sizeable number of influential ZANU PF members were ousted along with her. But then again, because Mugabe has instilled so much fear in his followers, it is very likely that she will not rebel, and this could signify the end of her political career. Bullying, intimidation and violence are a part and parcel of the ruling party and not even its members are immune to these ailments.
ZANU-PF’s other faction leader, former freedom fighter and security strongman also known as the Crocodile, Emmerson Mnagagwa, 68, replaced his rival Mai Mujuru as Vice President.
The crocodile (a name earned for his ruthlessness in the liberation struggle) was so gleeful with his new appointment that he knelt in front of Mugabe when he was appointed VP of the ruling party and state. It would appear he is having the last laugh as he was elevated and his nemesis, Mujuru, was reduced to being an ordinary card-holding member of ZANU PF.
Mr. Mnagagwa, the justice minister was named as Mr. Mugabe’s first deputy, whilst Phekezela Mphoko a small-time former diplomat, was named as the second deputy. As a high-school student in the 1960s, Mr. Mnangagwa was imprisoned for arson charges and it is whilst in jail, he met Mr. Mugabe, a political prisoner during the Rhodesian era. This is where the father-son bond between the two was created, as Mnagagwa looked up to one of the masterminds of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle.
After he was pardoned from a death sentence because he was under 21 years old and later released from prison, Mnagagwa went on to train as a lawyer in Zambia, and after graduation, he received military training in Egypt and China. By the late 1970s, he had climbed the ranks within ZANU PF and was appointed Mugabe’s special assistant.
Since then, Mnagagwa is rumoured to have been in charge of the security and intelligence operations for ZANU PF. He was head of internal security in the 1980s when Mr. Mugabe ordered a brigade of soldiers to be trained by North Korean in an operation called Gukurahundi (the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains). Several thousands of civilians, mainly supporters of Joshua Nkomo of the opposition party Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), were murdered.
However, now that Mugabe has purged the factionalism from within ZANU PF, and the succession issue within the party is somewhat transparent, the question arises - why did the nonagenarian choose Mnagagwa over Mujuru?
The Mugabe dynasty is arguably the principal reason. The president needs to ensure that his family and his business interests will be safeguarded upon his death. This is where ‘Gucci Grace’ enters the arena, many believe that whoever has her ear has Mugabe’s favour. Mnagagwa wants power, Grace wants to preserve her dynasty. Her whistle blowing gambit was meant to clear the path for her apparent ally, Mnagagwa. Although she might have obtained the leadership of the ruling party’s Women’s League, the appointing of Mnagagwa dampens the supposition that Grace would take over from her husband. It is very doubtful that she will be able to play an influential role in politics or take control of ZANU PF when her spouse is gone. However, if she succeeds in attaining influential power within ZANU, then she can be credited for having created a new phenomenon now being referred to as the ‘bedroom coup’.
On the other hand, Mnagagwa is considered to embody Mugabe’s leadership ethics. He is deemed a hardliner that is unlikely to adopt liberal democratic practices. He has been in the game for too long and has observed, learned and assisted Mugabe in his reign as President. In terms of security and intelligence, Mnagagwa will continue to offer Mugabe a safe environment from anyone or anything that is deemed as a threat.
Can an individual with such a ferocious background be trusted to uphold the rule of law or respect human rights if he succeeds Mugabe? The manner in which he superseded Mujuru makes one wonder how dignified of a leader he will be once at the throne.
Furthermore, the recent shake-up on the political scene in Zimbabwe has nothing to do with improving the lives of the 13 million plus citizens of the country. It is the typical tale, the legacy of self-serving leaders that take advantage of the vulnerability and helplessness of their people, which is unfortunately not new to sub-Saharan Africa.