United we suffer

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe and his bitter political rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai might be sworn enemies.

But, whenever they privately meet, they are sure to agree they have a common headache — fierce factionalism driven by top officials with an eye on succession.

Impending primary elections to choose candidates in both parties have exposed how Zimbabwe’s biggest political parties are facing an implosion as different factions fight tooth and nail to push through their candidates.

In both Zanu PF and the MDC, blood is on the floor with senior officials busy on the ground rallying their factions, moves which could eventually undermine Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s abilities to reunite the camps for a watershed general election which could be held as early as end of June.

As the jockeying unravels, it is emerging that though Mugabe and Tsvangirai are worlds apart in terms of policies, they are currently in a similar situation.

In Mugabe’s Zanu PF, the politburo — a cabal of ageing stalwarts handpicked by Mugabe — has failed to come up with guidelines for primary elections as infighting takes toll.

A national council meeting to vet potential candidates by the MDC two weeks ago nearly degenerated into a fist fight resulting in secretariat staff being chucked out.

Reports suggest Finance minister and party secretary-general Tendai Biti, with an eye on taking over leadership after Tsvangirai quits, leads a faction which the former trade union leader has been fighting hard to suppress during the candidate selection process.

Reports also point to a plot to oust Tsvangirai from party leadership at the next MDC congress, likely in 2016, if he loses to Mugabe this year.

Party organising secretary Nelson Chamisa is fighting in Tsvangirai’s corner, reports suggest.

At the same time, although posts for Mugabe and Tsvangirai are safe for now, the two leaders face a “bhora musango” scenario if they impose their candidates, insiders have warned.

Still, MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora refuses to accept that his boss, like Mugabe, is in a tight spot.

“The difference is that in Zanu PF, there is a bruising succession battle triggered by the imminent departure of Mugabe.

“Therefore various gangs who are not united by ideological issues find themselves jostling to find a presidential candidate of their choice,” said Mwonzora.

But wounds also run deep in the MDC.  

The party snubbed several  parliamentary hopefuls aligned to some camps, creating anxiety within the party that they could cross the floor and join the breakaway MDC formation led by Industry minister Welshman Ncube or could simply shun campaigning for Tsvangirai.

However, Mwonzora is adamant that his party will not disintegrate like a deck of cards because of primary elections.

Already, Tsvangirai’s deputy Thokozani Khupe has chickened out of her Makokoba Constituency after feeling the heat from State Enterprises minister Gorden Moyo.

“The MDC will not be weakened by the primaries. We won’t impose candidates,” he said, brushing aside a recent demonstration by party members who felt candidates were being imposed.

Across town at Zanu PF headquarters, officials have also taken the MDC line that all is well.

“We are not going through any problems and there is no way you can compare us to the MDC. We are a revolutionary party,” said party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, whose party’s politburo has twice deferred discussion on primary election rules due to fierce infighting.

“We can never be compared to the MDC because we are a tried and tested party. Why do you want to jump the gun by asking us to hold elections?” he added.

Despite the public rhetoric and posturing from the two parties, the similarities — underpinned by well established factions angling to take over once the current leaders are gone — are glaring.

This is not helped by the fact that both Mugabe and Tsvangirai are not exactly darlings of their own officials.

Both men were widely badmouthed to US diplomats by their top and “loyal” officials as revealed by the WikiLeaks saga.

It appears the two men cannot help but sing from the same hymn book, at least for now.

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