HARARE - Zanu PF insiders say President Robert Mugabe is in a pickle over how to handle and end the ruling party’s worsening factional and succession wars, hence his “tepid” statement when he returned from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Sunday, where he handed over the chairmanship of the African Union.
Well-placed ruling party sources told the Daily News yesterday that Mugabe is caught “between a rock and a hard place” as both of the two main factions brawling for supremacy in the former liberation movement boast of having From P1
some of his most trusted lieutenants among their ranks.
“I don’t envy his position at all as he is being asked to choose between a faction linked to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom he has known for five decades, and the other which appears to enjoy the backing of Dr Amai (his wife Grace) and Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko.
“Clearly, therefore, Gushungo is caught between a rock and a hard place and hence his unusually tepid speech on the worsening fights in the party when he returned from Addis Ababa. I suspect that things will get worse before they get better,” a politburo member said resignedly.
Speaking at Harare International Airport at the weekend, on his return home, Mugabe appeared to tread a careful, middle road as he lashed the escalating factionalism that is devouring his party — a move that one senior Zanu PF official said meant that “both factions can go home feeling relatively happy”.
“We need unity in the country, province by province. Not to have a province which says we stand for this and our leaders are so and so.
“There are no other leaders other than the ones we were given by the central committee.
“Leaders are chosen at the congress, that is where we drop those we do not need,” the increasingly-frail nonagenarian said.
Analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday also said Mugabe, who turns 92 in three weeks’ time, was in a quandary about the infighting and had chosen to “sit on the fence” as his strategy to save his party from imploding completely.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said if the Zanu PF leader got tempted to take sides in the party’s brutal wars, this would expedite its implosion.
“If he has a preference, he is keeping it in his heart. The moment he pronounces a successor, as some are urging him to do, that would be the last nail in the party’s coffin as this will not unify the party but in fact deepen the succession wars,” he said.
But Afghanistan-based analyst Maxwell Saungweme said it would be difficult for Mugabe not to side with his wife’s faction given what had happened over the past 18 months.
“He obviously backs his wife’s faction but at the same time he can’t also fire all his key lieutenants such as (his spokesperson George) Charamba and Lacoste (Mnangagwa). He is in a big fix.
“But I think he deserves what he is facing as this is a direct result of him overstaying in power and not having a succession plan.
“Now, there is a vacuum which opportunists and busy bodies like (Jonathan) Moyo and Charamba are exploiting,” Saungweme said adding that Mugabe, needed to retire given his advanced age.
“They definitely know the man needs to rest and can’t fully deal with all issues around him. It’s sad for Zimbabwe that we subject our elders to that torture by allowing them to overstay in power. Great grandpas like him should be resting and sharing ngano (folktales) with their grandchildren”.
And as Zimbabwe teeters on the verge of total collapse, amid fears that the country could soon plunge into unprecedented chaos, as Zanu PF’s brutal factional and succession wars escalate, analysts also say it is clear that the centre can no longer hold in the ruling party.
The analysts told the Daily News’s sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday at the weekend that the free-for-all rumpus devouring Zanu PF — widely seen as the worst ever to hit the party since it came to power 36 years ago — also showed that both Zanu PF and the country were on “auto-pilot” in Mugabe’s dotage.
At the same time, Zanu PF insiders insisted that the reluctance by the nonagenarian to either anoint or help the party to settle on his successor was the main factor behind its seemingly-unstoppable and often mindless bloodletting.
“This is why not even the purging of (former Vice President Joice) Mujuru in 2014 has stabilised the party. We now have Team Lacoste (the party faction aligned to Mnangagwa) and the G40 (ambitious Young Turks known as the Generation 40) tearing each other apart and taking everything down with them.
“Unfortunately too, the president, for unclear reasons, but possibly related to his advanced age, has not put his foot down to end this madness and anoint a successor.
“As a result, the sharks are taking matters into their hands and publicly campaigning for themselves or for their preferred candidates,” a despondent senior official lamented.
The official spoke in the wake of last week’s tumultuous events which saw hawkish presidential spokesperson Charamba, described by his Zanu PF detractors as an “idiotic” Mnangagwa ally, openly shellacking the G40 as “foolish successionists”.
The analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday said the anarchy that was ravaging the ruling party was a reflection of an organisation in an “advanced state of decomposition”.