Dabengwa's crumbling world

BULAWAYO - When Dumiso Dabengwa walked out of the “marriage inconvenience” with Zanu PF in 2008, many, particularly hard-core Zapu supporters who felt homeless after the 1987 “Unity Accord”, had something to smile about.

And when he announced that he would re-launch Zapu, thousands in the Matabeleland region, where the party enjoyed popular support, relished their chance in national politics again.

That Dabengwa, a liberation war spy chief nicknamed the Black Russian, was at the centre of Zapu’s revival added to the party’s credibility, given his war history as a top commander.

So vibrant was the party in its first year of comeback that it somehow shook the country’s two political heavyweights Zanu PF and the MDC.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC was particularly rattled since it also claims large support in the same region but lacks the “homeboy” credentials enjoyed by Dabengwa.

The party’s first full congress, held at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair grounds in 2010, was an emotional affair with over 5 000 ecstatic delegates attending.

Representatives of Zapu branches in foreign countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, United States, Swaziland and South Africa graced the event. Even South Africa’s ruling ANC party, which enjoyed historical war ties with Zapu sent emissaries to the event.

And what a feast it was as 15 cattle were slaughtered.

Witnessing such scenes, one was left with the impression that Zapu, formed by the late larger than life Joshua Nkomo in 1961, really had something new to offer in the highly contested political dispensation.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF was formed in 1963 by renegades who broke away from Zapu.

But two years after the congress, Zapu seems to be a party in decline, heading towards oblivion.

Broke and disintegrating, Zapu seems unable to match the giant status it earned during the liberation war and after independence before being diluted by Zanu PF under the “Unity Accord”.

With watershed elections likely next year, Dabengwa’s “revived” Zapu seems one of those little parties just there to increase the numbers.

Recent rallies have been telling, with party leaders counting their luck to get 100 people attending.

Reports say the party has recently been forced to sell 14 cattle to settle a $15 000 headquarters’ rent debt. The party has since been evicted from the building.

Infighting has become the order of the day, with some members going for Dabengwa’s head.

In response, Dabengwa has fired those he suspects of plotting his ouster as party president.

Ray Ncube, a former army colonel who was the party’s Bulawayo provincial chairperson, was shown the door last week for allegedly running a parallel structure.

Some have described Dabengwa as part of Zanu PF projects to try and upset the MDC in its stronghold Matabeleland region.

Together with another former Zanu PF politburo member, Simba Makoni, they ran a “failed” campaign supporting Makoni for President under a project called Mavambo/Dawn, Kusile in 2008.

Dabengwa later opened up in a newspaper interview that the project was set up specifically to prevent Tsvangirai from taking over from Mugabe.

He described the project as “successful” after Tsvangirai failed to garner enough majority to take complete control of government. — Weekend Post

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