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  • Zimbabwe Briefing - Issue 108
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (SA Regional Office)
    April 24, 2013

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    Zanu-PF’s triple aches in the forthcoming election: succession, gerontocracy and ethnicity

    The politics of succession have been an Achilles heel in Zanu-PF’s quest for regeneration and ultimately its survival. Zanu-PF has repeatedly failed to manage its regeneration and allow the infusion of a new generation of cadres that will resonate with the new voter that emerged from the beginning of the 1990s. This failure at re-inventing itself to resonate with the ‘new voter’ whose attachment to liberation politics is not as emotional, has haunted most of the liberation movements in Africa. This presents the greatest threat to the survival of Zanu-PF as a (former) liberation movement, and as well its quest for continued hegemony. This threat is further compounded by entrenched gerontocracy and ethnicity commonly referred to as factionalism. This piece will argue that Zanu-PF is not a coherent and solid unit as it has been in the past but will be fighting for its life in the forthcoming elections. This is so, in light of its failure to regenerate itself and the internecine ethnic struggles within it. Furthermore it will be argued that ethnicity (commonly referred to as factionalism) makes Zanu-PF vulnerable in electoral politics. Its over-dependence on the Mashonaland vote presents its major vulnerability as Mashonaland is not Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe is not only Mashonaland as Jonathan Moyo once remarked on Harare not being Zimbabwe.

    Liberation or independence parties that failed to transform themselves and accommodate a younger cadre-ship that understands the new voters have faced extinction in the face of emerging opposition parties in Africa. United National Independence Party (UNIP) of Zambia is a good case of a liberation movement, and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) an independence party, that lost power and are facing extinction. In the same vein the Kenya African National Union (KANU) faced the same demise but had to find orphanage and rehabilitation in the Jubilee Alliance led by Uhuru Kenyatta. Tanganyika African national Union (TANU) initially failed to appreciate the need for regeneration but quickly realised the need to transform hence re-christening itself Chama Chama Mapinduzi (CCM) and undertook various key reforms that resonated with the new generation citizens (the so-called born frees by Zanu-PF). The ANC of South Africa, SWAPO of Namibia, BNP of Botswana and FRELIMO of Mozambique have also realised the dangers of the trappings of power and entrenching incumbency in office, hence they instituted leadership renewal within their political DNA. It is the failure by Zanu-PF to realise this publicly available wisdom that ‘matakadya kare haanyaradzi mwana’ (literally translated, a child won’t stop crying from hunger because she ate yesterday).

    The past can only be relevant and comforting if it is only linked to the fulfillment of needs in the present.

    More so, the failure of retiring its old guard has meant continuous recycling of failed ideas and leaders, thus creating a paralysis of policy crafting and implementation within the state apparatus. The results are glaring with what appears to be rampant looting, plunder by Zanu-PF elites and mortgaging of natural resources to the Chinese under the guise of ‘Looking East’. In addition the entrenching of gerontocracy within Zanu-PF has meant that leadership renewal is anathema, therefore curtailing ambitions of vertical mobility within its ranks. The nicodemous political scheming meetings attest to the increasing discontent within the ranks of Zanu-PF of failing to deal with regenerating itself. This also has the potential of alienating itself especially with the ‘new voter’ or ‘born frees’ who have become a key constituent in our electoral politics. This new group of voters is the sword of Damocles hanging over Zanu-PF’s head.

    Ethnicity is the other factor that presents a major threat to Zanu-PF having a coherent and sound electoral campaign strategy. Though, this factor has been interpreted as factionalism in various political circles, in this paper it is argued that what is tearing Zanu-PF is resistance of Zezuru hegemony by other ethnic groups within it. This Zezuru alliance is rooted within the Mashonaland provinces, and has been at the centre of Zanu-PF’s politics. The history of this ethnic hegemony finds expression from the days of the liberation as captured in the late Professor Masipula Sithole’s book, “Struggle within the Struggle”, which argued that there was purging of the non-Zezuru factor and promotion of the Zezuru aligned group within the political hierarchy of Zanu-PF. This escalation of ethnic politics in post-independent Zimbabwe saw the clipping and curtailing of presidential aspirants such as Edison Zvobgo, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Simba Makoni. The collapse of the Tsholotsho Declaration and subsequent meteoric elevation of Joyce Mujuru to the presidium under the guise of women empower-ment, further entrenched the Ze-zuru clique within Zanu-PF. It should be noted that Emmerson Mnangagwa (a Karanga) had out-manoeuvred Joyce Mujuru (a Zezuru) and managed to unite other ethnic groups within Zanu-PF who felt that it was now their time to take over. The disbanding of District Coordinating Committees (DCCs) by Zanu-PF in 2012 marked a further assault to the Mnangagwa/Karanga ethnic group allied with Manyikas and Ndebele elements in Zanu-PF, that had managed to regroup and capture the DCCs after earlier failed Tsholotsho attempts. Reasons advanced were that DCCs were divisive, yet the reality is that it was the eruption of the ethnic tensions that have been simmering in the Zanu-PF pot. The fidgeting and instability in Manicaland and Bulawayo province attest to the increasing discontent and disapproval of continued Zezuru hegemony in Zanu-PF by other ethnic groups within it. Similarly, the Manicaland provincial leadership has been dissolved and the Bulawayo provincial leadership re-aligned and putting a leadership that is pliant to Zezuru interests. Hence, my argument that it’s ethnicity at play in Zanu-PF, and not factionalism, as conventionally argued. More so, this contradicts the claims of a re-aligned Zanu-PF from ‘Bhora Musango to iBhola egedini/Bhora mugedhi’, remaining only on Nathaniel Manheru’s wish list. Simply put the Mnangagwa alliance will always play second fiddle in the succession matrix of Zanu-PF as it is not trusted by the Zezuru alliance whose face is Joyce Mujuru at the moment. In the same vein President Mugabe is only comfortable with the Mnangagwa alliance; in so far it acts as a brake to the ambitions of the Mujuru alliance and not entirely replacing the Zezuru hegemony of which he is a product. The only thing that is binding these ethnic alliances in Zanu-PF is Mugabe and outside him, Zanu-PF will implode from intense ethnic warfare. This puts Zanu-PF in a precarious position and also failing to rally its constituencies to a single and solid unit.

    The matrix of gerontocracy-failed succession politics and ethnicity presents major fault lines within the Zanu-PF apparatus. This may also explain the waning of Zanu-PF support particularly post 1990, as the ideals of the liberation simply became more of political nostalgia rather than bread on the table. Therefore, it seems Zanu-PF’s prospects look dim as exhausted nationalism starts to breed diminishing returns. Increasingly the voter has metamorphosed, and this has been most particularly with the so called born frees who are now numerically a political force as 15 group have emerged after the first group of those born in 1980 attaining 18 years in 1998. That means from 1998 new voters have been emerging for the past 15 years. This is outside other age groups that were born towards independence, arguably from 1974, who were too young to develop ties with the liberation struggle. It is from this perspective that Zanu-PF looks vulnerable if this group of voters is tapped into. Furthermore, old age is most likely to catch up with Zanu-PF’s choice for the presidency in managing a rigorous campaign, hence its continued reliance on authoritarian tactics in an attempt to harvest fear in the elections. The increasingly intense ethnic/factional fights in Zanu-PF, further undermines the prospects of re-alignment of its constituencies as warring groups adopt a scorched earth mentality. Just like in a nasty divorce the warring parties would make sure the other doesn’t profit.

    It has been argued in this paper that Zanu-PF is not a solid and coherent party as it was in 1980 or 1985 but is in its last days as it has failed to regenerate itself and manage the ethnic cleavages within it. Its prospects in the forthcoming elections look dim, and its survival will be more dependent on the electoral strategies and blunders of the pro-democracy movement. There is need to push for electoral reforms, continuous piling pressure on the Zanu-PF machinery and as well building the capacity to communicate effectively with the electorate and monitor the electoral process by the pro-democracy movement.

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