HARARE - Analysts say disaffected Zanu PF stalwarts who have broken ranks with President Robert Mugabe to coalesce under the banner and principles of the “original Zanu PF”, have realistic chances of becoming a formidable political force.
A Zanu PF central committee member who refused to be named for fear of reprisals told the Daily News yesterday that the liberation struggle pioneers who were spearheading a rival Zanu PF formation to Mugabe’s, with the political slogan “People First”, could flower if they were able to take advantage of the massive disgruntlement within the ruling party.
He said the fact that the post-congress Zanu PF was reeling from perpetual and deadly infighting, with many war veterans complaining bitterly that there was a deliberate plot to elbow them out of the party’s top leadership, meant that it was vulnerable to a serious challenge.
“Indeed, if you check the top hierarchy of the party, you will notice that it is only the party vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa who has liberation war history.
“Others like Oppah Muchinguri are a distant number 10, while Christopher Mutsvangwa is second from last. This is the reason why many of these leaders feel that there is a plot to outflank them and that could work to their (Zanu PF “People First”) advantage,” the central committee member said.
However, he strongly warned the disaffected party stalwarts against forming a different political outfit, saying they would be playing into the hands of their enemies if they did so.
Their most urgent task for now, the top official added, should be to seek consensus with all their potential allies about the need to continue to pile pressure on the post-December 2014 Zanu PF leadership, which would be best achieved by holding on to the Zanu PF name.
“It is clear that a line has been drawn between war veterans and others, whether by design or default. The leadership that came out of the Zanu PF congress last year was a product of the First Lady (Grace Mugabe)’s political designs.
“You can also notice that most of the leaders have no history of the party while those who have like Mnangagwa, (Savior) Kasukuwere and Ignatius (Chombo) have no social base. We do not know where Mphoko is coming from and that’s a weakness,” he said.
He said any attempts by the disaffected senior party officials to form a new party would lead to the kind of political setbacks that had beset the likes of Margaret Dongo and her Zimbabwe Union of Democrats, Edgar Tekere and his Zimbabwe Unity Movement, as well as Simba Makoni and Dumiso Dabengwa with their Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn and the re-launched Zapu parties.
“They (proponents of Zanu PF “People First”) are in the majority. They have over 100 Members of Parliament and nine provincial party chairpersons, so why should they jump around?
“There does seem to be some confusion and they risk playing into the hands of those who are gleeful about them forming a new party. There needs to be consensus on what they want to do,” he said.
However, Pedzisayi Ruhanya of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute said while the disaffected ruling party members had a good chance of succeeding, their new party should not cling to the name Zanu PF if they were serious about “winning the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans” and to be seen as “a serious alternative to Mugabe’s party”.
Ruhanya further argued that the name Zanu PF, as well as the party’s leadership and legacy were “uninspiring and that this will only help destroy them”.
He suggested that they should instead start their “own project to show Zimbabweans that they are genuinely reformed”.
“Zanu PF is associated with misrule and the decomposition of the country’s political economy.
“It is known for its undemocratic, authoritarian and totalitarian political practice which involves the disappearance, torture and general disrespect of citizen’s civil and political liberties. They will be understood better if they just come out as citizens who are sorry for what they did when they were part of the authoritarian system. Otherwise people will ask themselves how it is possible to hire Adolf Hitler’s Storm troopers to redeem the politics of Germany in the same way they would not see sense in engaging Mugabe’s lieutenants to redeem Zimbabwe’s politics,” Ruhanya said.
Referring to recent suggestions by former Zanu PF bigwig and Hurungwe West MP Temba Mliswa that democratic forces should come together in a coalition against Mugabe, Ruhanya argued that it was in fact Mutasa and company who needed to join others in opposition, and not the other way round.
“If they are genuinely reformed, then everybody has a chance, but they cannot position themselves as leaders of the democratic forces which they have been fighting all along,” he said.
University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure, said only time would accurately judge the success of the new project.
Masunungure said history had shown that splinter parties, whether they were from the ruling Zanu PF or opposition MDC had never been successful projects.
“I am not too hopeful that this project will fare any better than its predecessors. They will need to come up with strategies that will take them beyond just becoming a protest party, a passing cloud,” Masunungure said.
However, he did say as the interim leaders of the new party had a rich liberation struggle history, as well as solid post-independence service, they could successfully leverage on this to make a significant political impact.
“With that history, they should be able to be a force to reckon with because no one can doubt that. While they may not have been shining stars, some of them did sterling jobs and they can ride on that. But they will need to come up with fresh ideas,” Masunungure said.