HARARE - Despite feigning bravado in public spaces, Zanu PF bigwigs are said to be seriously rattled by the new kid on the political block, the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), as it emerges that many ruling party legislators are now ready to jump ship for the outfit led by former Vice President Joice Mujuru.
Well-placed Zanu PF sources told the Daily News yesterday that the current mood in the upper echelons of the former liberation movement resembled that of a funeral as “not one person is sure how the next few months will pan out for the party” in the wake of the launch of ZPF.
“For a long time, many people thought that Mai Mujuru did not have the stomach to take on Gushungo (President Robert Mugabe) and the party (Zanu PF). Now that it is happening, the atmosphere at the top resembles a funeral as 2018 approaches.
“It is not helping matters that the chefs (senior party officials) and the security sector are all sucked in the terrible dog-eat-dog war for power, which makes it difficult for anyone to plan effective counter strategies against People First,” one of the sources said.
A number of Zanu PF MPs who spoke to the Daily News confirmed that they were on the verge of quitting the warring party, and that all they were waiting for now was “the best opportunity to join Mai Mujuru” — a looming development that the ZPF leader herself alluded to last week.
Speaking in an interview with this newspaper then, Mujuru said ZPF was “not a three-person party”, but rather one that had deep roots, including in the ruling party and the security establishment.
“You may think we are the only three who are in People First (Mujuru, Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa), no. We have people in Parliament there who are the majority who are saying push ... why would you be afraid of being relieved of your duties?” Mujuru said.
Commenting on alleged divisions in ZPF at the weekend by State media, the party’s spokesperson Gumbo said this just manifested how jittery Zanu PF was about the party — adding that Zanu PF “must brace for the fight of its life”.
“We are aware of the divide and rule tactics that they want to employ but we are united. They (Zanu PF) have come up with several strategies to try and destroy our party, and they are welcome because we know them and we are ready to deal with them,” Gumbo said.
He also confirmed that Mujuru had in the past few weeks been meeting with many Zanu PF officials, including MPs (names supplied but withheld on request), who all intended to join ZPF.
If these MPs do follow through on their promises, this would set the cat among the pigeons in the ruling party, which is reeling from its deadly and seemingly-unstoppable factional and succession wars.
Among the prominent Zanu PF personalities who recently ditched the ruling party to join ZPF are former deputy Information minister Bright Matonga — who is said to be working closely with former Zimbabwe Union of Democrats president, Margaret Dongo, to mobilise support for the new party in Mashonaland West.
The Daily News first revealed exclusively the plans by dozens of Zanu PF legislators to ditch the party and join Mujuru and ZPF late last year. The newspaper reported then that the panicky ruling party was, as a result, making frantic preparations for yet more Parliamentary by-elections.
Insiders also claimed at the time that it was “panic stations” among ruling party bigwigs who understood the fact that People First “is a reality and major threat” to Zanu PF’s fortunes ahead of the country’s eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections which are a mere 18 months away.
“Provinces, particularly Mashonaland East, have been instructed to prepare for tough by-elections for the MPs who want to ditch us,” one of the sources said.
Suspended Zanu PF Mashonaland East provincial chairperson, Joel Biggie Matiza, also confirmed to the Daily News then, that party supporters were suspicious about the motives and machinations of some of their comrades and were no longer willing to continue working with those said to be planning to join Mujuru.
“That is the exact reason why we recommended that some of these people be expelled because we realised they are no longer with us as they are now working with the opposition. We are only waiting to hear from the politburo concerning their fate,” Matiza said.
In the meantime, analysts say should the Mujuru MPs, who are said to number well over 100, proceed to jump ship, the move could trigger early national polls, which could crank up the heat on the bitterly-divided ruling party which is already reeling from its seemingly-unstoppable factional and succession wars.
Zanu PF is also under pressure from the looming pact among the country’s opposition parties, following the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and other parties to demand key electoral reforms before 2018.
The agreement is widely seen as a prelude to a more comprehensive electoral pact, which could see all opposition parties rallying behind a single presidential candidate against Mugabe.