HARARE - With Zimbabwe teetering on the brink of total collapse due to a worsening political and economic environment, a leading global think tank says 2016 is likely to be one of the most difficult years for President Robert Mugabe and his ruling post-congress Zanu PF.
In a research paper compiled by analyst Gary van Staden of NKC African Economics, a unit of the well-renowned Oxford Economics, he said Zanu PF — which is torn by its seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars — could soon fracture and disintegrate like the proverbial deck of cards.
“The political environment is more likely than not to turn increasingly hostile over the next few months.
“Unemployment is at unimaginable heights, what few workers remain feel under threat, poverty on the streets is increasing and vacillation over economic reforms and policy realignment provide further sources of heat under the political pressure cooker,” Van Staden’s report notes.
It said festering succession wars within the ruling party indicated that Mugabe had lost control of Zanu PF and was now a “shadow of the former fiery leader” that he once was.
Speaking at the ruling party’s annual conference in Victoria Falls last month, Mugabe openly admitted that his party was rocked by factionalism, and went on to publicly admonish service chiefs — whom he accused of dabbling in politics.
“Mugabe’s acknowledgement of the obvious divisions within Zanu PF is partly designed to curb infighting, but it is also a final plea to allow him and his chosen elites to decide on a new leader and leave him with a little dignity.
“Elements of the party and State have taken clear positions in the race to succeed the ailing president, who may not even see out this term, let alone contest elections in 2018 (when he will be 94).
“Zimbabwe is an important piece in the Southern African political and economic jigsaw, but as things stand and are likely to play out, it is a piece that will remain missing,” the report added.
It said the military, who had been the real power behind Mugabe’s since the country’s independence from Britain in April 1980, had senior war veterans in command positions who allegedly wanted to see former Vice President Joice Mujuru in State House come 2018.
“(But) The military has other senior war hero veterans in command positions who want to see Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in office as he is regarded as the least threat to the patronage networks developed over 30-plus years of Zanu-PF rule.
“And there are still others who want to see fresh political blood in some combination of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions and elements of Zanu-PF.
“The idea of a united military and security establishment meekly following Mr Mugabe’s wishes and endorsing a chosen successor (more particularly should this successor happen to be his wife Grace) is deeply flawed, irrational and now clearly wrong.
“The gloves are off in every nook and cranny of the party and the State, and the consequences for governance and policy making in Zimbabwe over the next 12 months or so are severe,” the report added.