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Post Goromonzi - An analysis of Zanu PF after their annual conference?
February 28, 2007

Now that the small town of Goromonzi (site of the recent annual conference of the Zanu PF party) has returned to its normal poverty-stricken existence - albeit enriched by one kilometre of tarred road from the main road to the conference site, provided for the occasion - it is instructive to take another look at the state of the party responsible for the unprecedented suffering of the people of Zimbabwe.

The conference had as its theme "Consolidating Independence through Land, Mining Reforms and Empowerment". A grand title indeed though, from reports in both the government and independent press, it is evident that the delegates barely touched on these issues. Rather, most of the time was taken up with the succession issue - who will eventually succeed the aging dictator, and when. The related infighting between the contending factions was as vicious as it was carefully camouflaged by those who cannot afford to be seen to be openly bidding for power - or even to question the official party line that the beloved leader will rule for ever. In short it was another dazzling display of the "smoke and mirrors" politics of double-speak and subterfuge for which Zanu PF surely stands in a class by itself.

Unintended revelations
As ever, the press coverage of the conference was revealing - though often unintentionally so! True to form, the regime's mouthpieces - The Herald and The Chronicle - reported that "the conference itself was a huge success", but there was the odd telling remark, such as the editorial in The Chronicle saying that though "Zanu PF emerged stronger and united from the conference, a big task lies ahead to make sure that the resolutions passed at the annual indaba are implemented". And if that is not a reference to broken promises and ignored resolutions of the past we ask, what is?

The independent press concentrated more on the excesses of the conference, which were many - like the Mercedes-Benz limousines lined up in the car park, and the bottled water, turkey, lamb, pork, venison, and other delicacies laid on for delegates. Such conspicuous consumption contrasted painfully with the surrounding abject poverty and starvation. To their credit the independent press also picked up on the inconsistencies in the supposed universal acclamation of 'Bob as President'.

The big issue
Whatever was on the official agenda, the one theme that dominated the conference from start to finish was the succession issue. In an almost unprecedented sequence of events, it became clear that the party was not uniformly behind Mugabe's stated intention to continue in the top job, and to extend his presidential mandate from 2008 to 2010 by way of a proposed constitutional amendment.

First, just before the conference, the politburo met but was unable to agree on whether to support his bid. Then the central committee of the party turned him down. And finally the 4000-odd delegates at the conference were unable to come together around any consensus on either Mugabe's own political future or the future of the party. There was some political face-saving in evidence when the delegates were informed at the end of the conference that the question would be further debated at a provincial level, prior to final decision-making by the central committee. Nor did it help his cause when Mugabe himself told journalists at the end of the conference that there was consensus over the harmonization of the elections. Patently this was a total distortion of the facts on the ground.

In reality, for Zanu PF and for Robert Mugabe in particular, this was a political defeat of the same magnitude as the result of the referendum on the new constitution in the year 2000, when the electorate served notice that the days of an effective one party state were over and henceforth the MDC was a force to be reckoned with in the land.

Mugabe himself knows that he is at the helm of a seriously fractured party; he also knows - and it must provide precious little consolation - that he is in some ways the only glue that holds it together. Indeed he could well say with the famed Madame de Pompadour (favourite of Louis XV of France) "apres nous le deluge" ("after us the deluge"). From the country's perspective, the aging dictator is at the centre of the ultimate Catch 22: He himself is the main obstacle in the way of resolving the severe economic crisis, but because of the lack of consensus on who will succeed him, he is still needed by his party.

Infighting within the ranks
The political infighting that has riven his party was certainly uppermost in Mugabe's mind before and during the conference. He implored members of Zanu PF to work together to ensure that they bequeathed a better future for the coming generations. He said there was need for unity of purpose within the ruling party. He admitted that "something has gone wrong", and asked "what are we demonstrating to the people? That we are still one or divided? Still together or apart?"

"What are we doing there at the top?" asked the man at the top.

This public rebuke would have smarted in certain quarters. There are in fact three main contenders for the top job, aside from Mugabe himself - Gideon Gono, Joice Mujuru, and Emmerson Mnangagwa - and of course it is they and their surrogates who are stoking up the fires of division. But there are numerous other quarrels and splits, at both national and regional levels. Recently for instance we have been treated to the spectacle of various Zanu PF chefs in court, one suing the other, a spectacle that formerly would have been unthinkable.

In the succession issue, the tension between the competing camps is heightened by the rapidly degenerating economy - all the more so because the economy is controlled personally by one of the contenders, Gono - and by the impact of Gono's policies on the personal fortunes of each.

Gono has been widely (and no doubt rightly) castigated for his irrational economic policies which have left the markets in bewilderment and chaos. Certainly both Mujuru and Mnangagwa are personally suffering from the effects of Gono's own brand of policy-making. However the man at the top clearly supports him against the Finance Minister, Murerwa, and that is all that matters in the short term. Mugabe publicly signaled his own preference when he criticized the "bookish" economics of the Finance Ministry: "They have this word they like using; 'quasi, quasi, quasi'", he said, "but I tell them that this is expenditure that we need. We are under sanctions and there is no room for the type of bookish economics we have at the Ministry of Finance", (the "quasi" referring to the criticism of Gono's 'quasi economic policies' in Murerwa's recent budget speech).

Changing the Constitution?
As far as forcing a change to the constitution to allow presidential and parliamentary elections to take place together in 2010, thus prolonging Mugabe's political life for a further two years, Zanu PF is not in a strong position.

To amend the constitution, the party requires the votes of two-thirds of the 150 members of Parliament - a minimum of one hundred actual votes cast. Currently the MDC holds 41 seats and with Jonathan Moyo, that gives 42 against Zanu's 108. So the regime will find it tough to get the full 100 votes that it needs. It only requires 9 disenchanted Zanu MPs to absent themselves from the vote (with a convenient "sickness" or "family bereavement", so they can avoid the embarrassment of publicly voting against the old man) and the motion would be defeated.

Mugabe relies heavily upon the uneducated for what little real support he still enjoys. They provide useful votes from those who are not themselves involved in business and have little understanding of what is going on in the country and the economy. However it is very questionable whether he truly has many other party members behind him, whatever they might say in public. A successful constitutional amendment is not therefore a forgone conclusion.

Between an ailing and failing economy on the one hand and on the other a leader who has become a huge public liability but is still needed to save the party from disintegration, Zanu PF finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. Moreover Mugabe's personal interest is now directly at variance with those within the party scrambling to replace him. The incumbent must secure a further two years in office beyond 2008; equally those contending for the throne must have him out of the way by 2008.

Hence it comes as no surprise to learn that, in an unprecedented move, Zanu PF MPs have secretly launched a "Stop Mugabe Campaign" to prevent him from extending his term of office beyond 2008.

The Role of the Military?
Even the military and police are now baulking at the ruination of the economy. Those police constables who were getting only $20 000 at the end of last year (and even if their salaries doubled, would still be getting a mere pittance), are unlikely to be on-sides for the regime which is so obviously responsible for their misery. The military chiefs met Mugabe towards the end of last year, warning him of the effects of poverty on the previously unquestioned loyalty of the defence forces. Chihuri, the Police Commissioner, strove to diffuse matters from the other end of the lighted taper, by addressing senior police officers and urging them to remain loyal to Mugabe. But the mere fact that he considered it necessary to exhort them is an indication of how tarnished is the great leader's once polished image, and how necessary it has become to shore up his support by all possible means.

Prognosis and cure
So what have we learnt about Zanu PF through the circus at Goromonzi ? It has indeed been a most revealing exercise, especially for those looking in from the outside on the inner machinations of a party without any single coherent objective or strategy and totally dominated by the crude politics of seizing and holding power. In a way it is like observing a patient in the painful, terminal stages of emphysema who refuses to give up the smoking addiction responsible for his condition.

Observing the sorry spectacle of Goromonzi 2006, we see a fractured and fractious party, not only at war with their fellow citizens but now on the point of open warfare within the ranks. We see a party which has undoubtedly lost confidence in its own leader, but which still cannot decide who should replace him. Ironically the old man who has become the party's (and the country's) major liability is still required by the party to hold it together for the time being.

Yet time is not on Zimbabwe's side. While Zanu PF continues to prevaricate in public and to pursue its own vicious succession struggle in private the economy moves ever closer to the point at which uncontrolled forces take over. Already we see an economy in tatters. We see a legal system which can only pay its witnesses a paltry $5 (a fraction of 1 US cent!), teachers whose salaries do not even cover the transport to and from their schools; doctors who earn less than USD 20 per month (and who are fired for going on strike). And all this in a nation in which an estimated 3,500 citizens are dying each week of hunger, malnutrition and AIDS. Without being melodramatic in any sense we can say that our beloved Zimbabwe is now close to the end - not as a country, for countries endure whatever tragedies are played out across their rugged landscapes - but as a civilized society in which the basic amenities of health-care, education and housing are provided, the security of its citizens is assured and the fundamental human rights of all are respected within a legal and ordered framework. In that sense Zimbabwe is close to the end.

Therefore if ever there was a moment for a strong, coherent and principled opposition to emerge to show that there is a saner alternative, this is it. Which means that the onus is on a divided MDC to reunite within a wide-ranging coalition of opposition forces - and yes, for those few remaining reasonable members of Zanu-PF to desert their disintegrating party and join all those Zimbabweans who genuinely seek an end to this destructive tyranny and the dawn of a new era of freedom, justice and peace. To say this is now an urgent necessity is a considerable understatement. 

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