HARARE - This week's politburo meeting promises to be another stormy affair for President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, with the ongoing and controversial suspensions of party officials perceived to be sympathetic to embattled Vice President Joice Mujuru likely to dominate discussions.
Last week's meeting proved to be a brutal brawl as the gathered party bigwigs slugged it out in front of a seemingly impotent Mugabe, who only managed to call time on proceedings by promising to institute a formal inquiry into the deadly factionalism that is devouring the party.
In that meeting, First Lady Grace Mugabe's divisive and savage shellacking of Mujuru at her controversial "Meet the People" rallies last month dominated discussions, with Mujuru herself apparently taking the war to her enemies and being supported by the majority of the politburo.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that the current waves of votes-of-no-confidence that were being effected against some of the party’s provincial chairpersons were a major concern and likely to take centre stage at this week’s meeting of the politburo — the party's highest decision-making body.
“We hope they will be discussed,” Gumbo told the Daily News on Sunday.
But another politburo member was more candid on the matter.
"It (the removal of party chairpersons) is the only game in town when we meet next week. It is quite clear that now that the weevils (Mujuru's opponents) have failed in their quest to remove the VP
through slander, defamation and mob rule, they now want to get their way through these irregular removals," the official who requested anonymity said.
Zanu PF is currently embroiled in increasingly violent factional and succession battles that analysts say could portend the break-up of the party after its elective congress scheduled for early next month.
The party is divided along two main factional lines pitting supporters of Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa — even though both bigwigs have publicly denied heading any factions.
Mugabe, who turns 91 soon, is the only leader Zimbabwe has had since the country attained its independence from Britain in 1980. During this period, virtually all of Zimbabwe's neighbours have had at least four leaders, leaving Mugabe — Africa's oldest and longest serving leader — the odd man out in the region, and with no potential successor in sight.
Many party members allege that the faction loyal to Mnangagwa is currently unrolling its strategy to unseat all provincial chairpersons and other party leaders perceived to be sympathetic to Mujuru.
The latest assault on a sitting provincial chairperson — following similar recent thuggish attacks in Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Midlands and Manicaland — is Amos Midzi of Harare, a development that motivated Gumbo to observe ruefully last week that Zanu PF’s ugly factional and succession wars were now a threat to both the country’s precarious economy and Mugabe’s legacy.
The crude and often poorly-choreographed crusade against targeted officials — usually fronted by the same crew of rowdy hired youths plied with alcohol, as well as a smattering of war veterans — often turns out to be an anti-Mujuru programme in effect.
But analysts have pointed out that the plans to unseat the targeted provincial chairpersons ahead of the party’s crucial elective congress in early December, were generally proving to be a failure.
The Mashonaland East provincial coordinating committee (PCC) defied Mugabe, his wife Grace and Mnangagwa’s supporters last weekend, saying they had full confidence in the beleaguered regional party boss Ray Kaukonde.
Sources who attended that PCC meeting said central committee member and Marondera West legislator, Retired Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri moved the motion that the province fully backed Kaukonde.
“Mutinhiri was the one who got the ball rolling by stating that the province fully backs the executive, including plans to expel Mujuru allies.... (David) Chapfika seconded the motion and said the province was united in its support of the executive,” one of the sources said.
In the Midlands PCC meeting also held last weekend, plans to suspend provincial chairman Jason Machaya also hit a brick wall after his supporters apparently mobilised youths and war veterans to demonstrate against his ouster.
“The attempted vote-of-no-confidence failed to take place as war veterans, youths and women who support Machaya countered it at the conference, waving placards and denouncing factionalism,” a party insider who attended the meeting said.
“So, in the end they, (Mnangagwa’s supporters) could not go ahead with their plan. The meeting then went ahead with deliberations on the forthcoming congress,” the source added.
Similarly, a provincial executive council (PEC) meeting held last week in Masvingo and attended by 35 members, affirmed Retired Brigadier-General Callisto Gwanetsa’s leadership of the province.
The PEC meeting also unanimously resolved to pass a vote of no confidence in Gwanetsa’s deputy, Paradzai Chakona.
Gwanetsa is said to have argued that his purported suspension was a nullity as Chakona had not followed proper procedures.
There are continuing plots to oust Midzi in Harare, also for allegedly fanning factionalism, a fate also facing Zanu PF Manicaland provincial chairperson John Mvundura.
Midzi has described a purported vote of no confidence that was passed against him last week as a nullity.
Temba Mliswa has already been ousted as the Mashonaland West chairman, and the politburo has since moved to affirm the decision against all expectations.
In a statement last week, Gumbo said the country’s battered economy had been the biggest casualty of the protracted and ugly wars devouring Zanu PF.
Gumbo, one of only two remaining members of the Dare ReChimurenga council that directed the liberation war, said the factional fights have caused “unprecedented levels of tension within the party with the result that our focus has shifted from our core business as the party of government”.
With the majority of Zimbabweans living on less than a dollar a day, and social services such as health bogged down by strikes and serious underfunding, Gumbo said it was now time that the ruling party addressed the pressing economic challenges facing the country.
“The time has come to redirect that focus back to our main purpose and to ensure that we chart the best economic way forward for the Zimbabwean people in line with our election pledges and consistent with the aspirations of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-economic Transformation (ZimAsset),” he said.
In a rare admission by the ruling class of the many crises bedevilling the country, Gumbo said it was an open secret that “many of our people are struggling to make ends meet as the current economic climate, exacerbated by years of damaging economic sanctions, takes its toll”.
According to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), more than 80 percent of the economically active people are unemployed.
Water and electricity remain in critically short supply while Zanu PF heavyweights are involved in their war of attrition that many fear could lead to a bloodbath and the final death of the local economy.
Referring to the current economic situation as “desperate”, Gumbo said it was time “for an urgent change of priorities”.
“Anyone who seeks to push personal and factional interests at a time like this, where millions of our people are suffering and many investors are sitting on the fence pursuing a wait-and-see-approach, is not only selfish, insensitive and on the wrong side of history, but is also tarnishing the good name of the party and drawing unnecessary hatred towards the same.
“This is not only detrimental to our future electoral prospects but has the real danger of tarnishing President Mugabe’s otherwise splendid reputation and legacy,” Gumbo said.