'Change will come from Zanu PF'

HARARE - World Politics professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (OAS) University, London, Stephen Chan, says the current wave of protests against President Robert Mugabe — including the social media campaign #ThisFlag — are not good enough to cause a revolution similar to the one witnessed in the Arabic countries (Arab Spring).

Crucially, he says change will come from Zanu PF not opposition or pro-democracy groups; he speaks to Senior Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki and below are the excerpts of the interview.

Q: We have seen ructions in Zanu PF over the unresolved succession issues, how are they likely to shape the future of Zanu PF?

A: Yes, these ructions will destroy Zanu PF as the party of liberation. The war veterans have lost faith in Mugabe. Joice Mujuru, a genuine war heroine, has been purged. Emerson Mnangagwa, a hero of the struggle, has been under sustained attack.

Those who will be left will have played no part in armed struggle. If that is the case, those who succeed Mugabe will need a successful policy programme, but all we see is struggle for succession and no policy programme.

If  Mnangagwa also falls, then the Zanu PF of the 2018 elections will not be the same party of the 1980 independence elections.

Q: At 92, President Robert Mugabe is considered to lack the stamina and energy he once had in keeping Zanu PF intact, does his age underline the current squabbling in Zanu PF?

A: There is no major leader anywhere else in the world who is Mugabe’s age.

In China, which also venerates age, you cannot become a member of the Politburo or become President if you are over 60. You must have done that in your 50s and then the President only has two terms, so it is impossible to still be President in your 70s.

But I think there is a misunderstanding here about age: it is not just that someone lacks the stamina and vigour of youth; it is much more that one takes into age the habits and mental processes of one’s own youth.

But a man who was in his 20s 70 years ago will not be able to understand the aspirations, technological environment, and complex future imaginings of those who are in their 20s today.

In a way, it doesn’t matter how much Zanu PF squabbles, if the president and the entire party lose touch, at one and the same time, with its living liberation history and with the ability fully to understand the needs and aspirations of very young people.

It then loses its past and its future and has only its squabbling present.

Q: Is there any role left for him to play in keeping Zanu PF together when one considers that he is now being identified with the G40 faction yet previously he would, at least publicly, maintain a neutral role.

A: What is the G40? We in the West keep hearing of the G40, but we recognise not a single brilliant technocratic name; we recognise no one who has the intellectual capacity to rescue Zimbabwe.

Whether Mugabe will come down firmly on the side of the G40 or not, my worry is that the G40 will not bring successful policies to Zimbabwe.

Q: How significant is Mugabe’s fall-out with the war veterans and how do you see things shaping (up) in Zanu PF given the relationship that the ex combatants have with the military?

A: To lose the war veterans is a disaster for Mugabe. They fought. They sacrificed. Who else carries the mantle of the men and women who suffered in the field against huge odds?

I saw the Rhodesian war machine. It took huge courage to go up against that. Losing the veterans will mean, as I said, Zanu PF is no longer the party of liberation.

Q: For a long time Emmerson Mnangagwa  was touted as the likely man to succeed Mugabe but  there are doubts based on how he is being  humiliated by juniors in the party while Mugabe’s watches on. What’s your take on that?

A: I cannot read crystal balls. Perhaps this is not yet over. We shall see. But it is extraordinary to see a vice president treated this way.

Q: What options are there for Mnangagwa and how does his relationship with the military and the war veterans help him in his bid in light of the current attacks by G40?

A: Mnangagwa retains close links with the military, past and present.

To alienate him may be to alienate very powerful other people. But a coup would be very bad for Zimbabwe.

Whoever is president of Zimbabwe should be something for Zimbabweans to decide, not men in uniform. But I do think Zimbabwe is entering a tense moment.

Q: The economy has remained in the doldrums, leading to strikes and protests as well as suggestions that Zimbabwe could have its own Arab Spring; Is Zimbabwe ready for this?

A: There will be no Arab Spring. Besides, the Arab Spring brought nothing to the people of north Africa and only untold suffering to the people of Libya and Syria.

People can wrap as many flags around themselves as they like.

This battle will be fought in the great institutions of the country. Zanu PF is one such institution. The army is another. I hope the judiciary will be another. And, if the church is to be an active institution in all this, it will take more than just one single Pastor.

Q:  Can the opposition political parties profit from this situation?

A: The opposition parties have nothing I recognise as viable policy platforms either.

Q: Is their grand coalition possible given that they seem to be hesitant and overly cautious in going towards this route?

A: There will be no grand coalition.  The opposition leaders are content to be princelings in their own courts. They are afraid that one of them might indeed become king.

Q: Zimbabwe’s face of the opposition for 16 years, Morgan Tsvangirai, is suffering from the cancer of colon, how does this impact his party’s chances in future elections?

A: Tsvangirai will no longer be a force in Zimbabwean politics. He has made his mark in history. He was a very brave leader of the opposition, and a far from perfect prime minister.

Q: Do you see him having a role in the 2018 elections?

A: No powerful or decisive role whatsoever.

Comments (19)

Good interview

NISBERTY BENEJARA - 10 August 2016

Chan seems enchanted by Zanu pf . almost as if he is a card carrying member. Sure for Zanupf the loss of War vets could be a big deal. For Zimbabwean people the demise of both Zanupf and its War vet component is good riddance. The war vets could not have confronted the Rhodesian war machine without the people. Chan overrates them . Some of the brutality inflicted on innocent peasants by the war vets could make Cambodian Pol Pot look like a sunday school bully. The Zimbabwe sociopolitical arena is evolving. It took most of the mature democracies centuries to get to where they are.I agree with him though that Institutions will need be strengthened

jason mpala - 10 August 2016

Chan is right. He might seem to be enchanted by Zanu-PF but i do not also see This Flag, facebook, twitter, whatsaap etc toppling Zanu-PF. Mawarire has made his money and has disappeared from the scene. Thats what the clever ones do - use the fools to get rich. he is living faraway enjoying the fruits of his futile efforts. The problem with people who oppose Zanu-PF is that they make too many assumptions. Zanu-PF cannot be said to be finished because a few people wen t onto the streets and threw stones. Where are the majority of the people and what are they thinking about Zanu-PF? You cannot say the whole country has spoken when just a few go onto the streets and one or two record themselves in their private homes scolding the President.

Nyararai Taurai - 11 August 2016

Yes,true.With a very weak opposition,zanu is way too reluxed.Zanu leaders actually create opposition for themselves by expelling mujurus ,knowing they are very weak leaders to mount any opposition.They love Tsvangirai bcoz he lacks strategy.He is not interested in statehouse.Otherwise zanu wuld be very seriouse wthin itself thru changes.A very week opposition ,made up of chancers will never plot anything good.

viola gwena - 11 August 2016

I don't agree with Viola,,Tsvangirai had never lost the strategy neither ideas. He is a peaceful leader who doesnt believe in solving problems with violence,,yet the only way to remove Mugabe is by violent means. Him Tsvangirai knows that but he don't want to kill only to become a President. Tsvangirai won all the election including local government elections but he is being robbed &overpowered by Mugabe government. What a man can do when he is dealing with evil one's. Biti himself blamed Tsvangirai but what did he came with now,, nothing new.He even vowed that he will never join Tsvangirai again but recently he said he can work with him again. People of Zimbabwe u want results but ignore the fact that those who sacrificed themselves went through hell in the hands of that animal Mugabe.U must at least appreciate rather than criticising. That man went through hell &shows that he is not after leadership or money but he want the people of Zimbabwe to have their freedom back.Even if Tsvangirai fails to be the President of Zimbabwe,,to me he remains a good leader with people at heart

Matsotsi - 11 August 2016

Its truth that we must not trust Mujuru&her friends. If they are genuine then they must join Tsvangirai,,but Tsvangirai must be the leader.It will be a big mistake if the people of Zimbabwe will vote for Mujuru. Trust me.

Matsotsi - 11 August 2016

The opposition is the weakest link here.why 20 yrs in opposition?why fail to plot further than street marches? If Lindiwe Zulu told Mr Tsvangirai n he defied that Zuma advice n lost,what do yu call that type of leadership?Cheap.Very cheap.Tsvangirai showed reluctance to go for broke,preferering to run n hide in Botswana.Leaving Biti to face the music .Biti has a case forsure.

viola gwena - 11 August 2016

This is Chan 's opinion, neither is it a fact. Zimbabweans will decide whats best for them. Chan is not in Zimbabwe, he is out of touch with reality.

Viona Ngwena - 11 August 2016

The day opposition will rid off their pride and selfishness then they can get rid of the zanu pf gvt. for as long as they all have self as core instead of the masses then foret and smile, zanu will be the only change, as it is the opposition is nowhere to be seen, no clear position or sollution at hand hence the #this flag and #tajamuka movements.

sbhamu - 11 August 2016

Chan is a long standing zanu sympathiser. Any friend of china is given a propaganda spin. He is right in that only zanu can depose of Mugabe...external forces opposition, pressure groups and international community can only put pressure but ultimately shot of a military coup only zanoids are the ones who can get rid of Mugabe. Mugabe or not Zanu is done and will be confined in the grave like Arab Moi's party in Kenya with a similar sounding name.

Galore - 11 August 2016

Ungabudirira sei,,Mugabe ndiye muzvinapembe,goalkeeper, striker iye Tsvangirai kugedi kwake kusina goalkeeper. Its true the change will come within ZANU. Tendaivo veduwe kana munhu ambozama.

Matsotsi - 12 August 2016

In the absence of a united opposition force (which is a shame and diservice to long suffering citizens), their are two possible sources of change, ZANU PF itself , the army (coup), or external forces. Given the two camps of lacoste and G40, it is clearly ZANU PF could easily implode with mugabe's demise. What happens next might depend on how the army sees itself in the nation's welbeing. External players can never be discounted given that Zimbabwe now has a quite sizable dispora population - all of who want to see change, and outside countries may want to influence events in the country after decades of political and economic decline. That Lybia and Syria are failed Arab spring projects is unlikely to deter external forces. Zimbabwe does not have the same religious dimension ravaging the former two hence is likely to be easier for them to invade and tame. Remember also election results in south africa could also herald a less ZANU friendly government - which could then take a more assertive role in zimbabwe's politics. nothing is set in stone.

raf - 12 August 2016

The problem is the West they are like the ones who pay the piper and call the shots who should go and who shouldnt.Zim cant be like downing st or Wall street.Mugabe knows he will go or should retire but the man has got amandate from the soil and its almost done

enmasiriva - 12 August 2016

Is the brilliant intellectual and technocrat not Jonathan Moyo? Except that he is only using G40 as a front. He is far too intelligent to have a genuine faith in that lot. He is also too intelligent to believe a dynastic succession matrix will have the political capital to monopolise the playing field. He is the true PhD of the bunch, crafting his thesis in the shadows. The reason the President appears to support G40 is precisely because it is a non-descript, sweeping mist of providence, with no single individual who can seriously be thought of as the President's competition (since his wife is technically not able to perform that function). If someone within G40 were to become the subject of succession ambitions, G40's use to the President would collapse. The true battle is not just between Mnangagwa and G40, it is a 3-way fight between the President, Mnangagwa, and an undeclared G40 Puppet Master (Moyo?).

John - 17 August 2016

If Mnangagwa moves against the G40PM, the President will move against him on the grounds of 'fanning factionalism'. If Mnangagwa moves against the President, the President can use executive authority to remove him, or more likely, will leave the G40PM to make a 'legitimate' request that the VP be sacked - the G40PM cannot openly move against the President, since his entire strategy is based on defending the President's election won mandate to govern All 3 strategists are hoping for the same ideal result - that the other 2 will cancel each other out.

John - 17 August 2016

If Mnangagwa errs in conceptualising correctly - and believes he is fighting one opponent rather than two - he will be blindsided by one or the other. But he seems to be aware. Remember that after Joice was ousted, there was a cabinet reshuffle and Moyo was demoted from Information Minister to Education...the same Moyo who had fought so effectively in Mnangagwa's corner to ensure he rose at the VP's expense. Why? Because Mnangagwa knows who Moyo is - a Puppet Master. I suppose it was easy to get the President to move against Moyo since that would end any further cooperation between the two against him. A daring intrigue, but Moyo struck back within 12 months and G40 is now a thorn in the VP's flesh. They are all formidable tacticians.

John - 17 August 2016

Moyo needs Mnangagwa to fall before the President dies or is incapacitated, otherwise his next demotion could be out of government altogether. The President needs to keep G40 relevant and energised as a frontal attack against the VP, but without inadvertently allowing them (and the G40PM) to grow too powerful.

John - 17 August 2016

Why should Zimbabweans want to perpetrate the rule of ZANU PF? Mnangagwa should be tried for war crimes or genocide given his role in the Gukurahundi attrocities. Mujuru, that Chan dubs a genuine heroine of the independence war, is as corrupt as the rest. Is it so wonderful to have shot down a helicopter and said things like it's a long time since I've tasted blood? Didn't she partake in all the ZANU PF looiting. Have you not heard what the mass of protesters are saying on the streets?? The young do not want this sclerotic, corrupt lot to hold power any more. They only hold it by dint of corruption and brutality. We want new leadership, we want many of these cronies to be charged with the human rights abuses they have perpetrated and continue to perpetrate with impunity. We want a Transitional Justice process to deliver truth, justice. accountability and restitution. We want the old liberators to stop holding the nation to ransom. If change comes through ZANU PF then the struggle for real democracy in Zimbabwe will not be complete. All of them, one and all, are corrupt, brutal, bankrupt and unwanted except by those who benefit.

Elizabeth Bishop - 18 August 2016

The Flag movement is good and could bring new stability to Zim.

Tina Sampson-Smith - 16 November 2017

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