Mugabe fooling Zanu PF factions

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe is desperately playing a delicate balancing act; juggling the two Zanu PF factions that are wrangling over his succession in order to keep himself in power while at the same time avoiding a costly implosion in his party.

On Friday, Mugabe proved to all and sundry that despite his advanced age and concerns over his health, he is still on top of his game.

The 93-year-old Zanu PF leader arrived in Masvingo on Friday for his third interface rally with party youths when emotions were running high among party faithful, who are split along two factions — Generation 40 (G40) and Team Lacoste.

Team Lacoste has since the 1990s been campaign for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe, but faced resistance from the Mujuru faction, which was controlled by retired general Solomon Mujuru, now late.

Following Mujuru’s death in a suspicious inferno in August 2011, his wife became the reluctant leader of the faction, but lost the tiff to Mnangagwa in 2014 when Joice Mujuru was expelled from government and Zanu PF, along with her acolytes.

With the Mujuru faction vanquished, Team Lacoste now faces another hindrance in the form of G40, which is rabidly opposed to a Mnangagwa presidency.

Masvingo is known as the hotbed of factionalism in Zanu PF. Ahead of Mugabe’s visit on Friday, both factions had lobbied the Zanu PF leader to annihilate their rivals.

But Mugabe, whose eyes are on next year’s elections, chose to put the two factions on the same level, indirectly slamming Team Lacoste for dividing the party on tribal basis while he also made a veiled attack on one of the perceived G40 kingpins, Higher and Tertiary Education minister, Jonathan Moyo for his negative comments on Command Agriculture.

Mugabe, who has perfected the art of playing a balancing act among the factions, took an unusual stance on Friday, seeking to please both camps in a way that ensured that he remains in control and that Zanu PF goes to the polls united.

Zanu PF is faced with serious factional and tribal wars that have seen purging of several party officials over the past few years on allegations of planning to unseat Mugabe.

Observers are convinced that Mugabe uses the factions to secure his position, by keeping them busy in the ring.

In the end, all Zanu PF members owe their survival in the party and government to Mugabe, who in most cases has the final say.

Political analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa said that as long as the two seemingly equal factions continue to exist, Mugabe will not have to struggle to contain them.

“I think, he is simply trying to avert (the) escalation of the factional wars but he (Mugabe) is really benefitting from these factional wars,” said Hamauswa.

As the fights rage unabated, senior officials have been publicly exchanging blows on the government’s Command Agriculture programme and Mugabe’s succession over the past week.

Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Constantino Chiwenga was last week embroiled in a nasty exchange of words with Moyo over the implementation of Command Agriculture.

Moyo labelled the programme “Ugly Culture”, claiming that it was a conduit for siphoning funds by some senior officials.

Over the weekend, Moyo escalated the war of words, calling his adversaries evil and further accusing them of murdering his father during the Gukurahundi era.

On the other hand, War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube torched a storm recently after he threw his weight behind former liberation war fighters who are putting pressure on Mugabe to name his successor in order to stop the infighting in Zanu PF.

A global political think tank recently made the observation that events do not support a victorious outcome for one faction or another, only the maintenance of a nervy balance between them.

The think tank said G40 was useful to Mugabe to contain Mnangagwa’s ambition but was now being reined in lest it gets too far ahead.

“Other G40-aligned politicos are in the firing line. The Member of Parliament for Harare South, Shadreck Mashayamombe, may be expelled from the party, we hear, with the suggestion that Grace Mugabe may take his seat with a view to the possibility of taking ministerial office. All ministers but five must be MPs. The possibility of her becoming a vice president, though unlikely, hangs in the air, given her husband’s predilection for not sending strong signals about his intentions. It would also be a red rag to the crocodile (Mnangagwa).

“Mnangagwa’s likelihood of succeeding to the presidency may still be in question but there is no doubt about his grip on the public arena and the media. He and his supporters have significant editorial control of Zimbabwe Newspapers, which publishes the two main pro-Zanu-PF dailies, The Herald in Harare and The Chronicle in Bulawayo, as well as The Sunday Mail,” said the political think tank.

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