Zimbabwe on the edge

HARARE - Amid the country’s deepening political crisis, owing to worsening infighting within Zanu PF, analysts said yesterday that Monday’s unprecedented move by the military to warn President Robert Mugabe and his warring ruling party — that they would step in to stop its mindless bloodletting — showed that the country could be reaching “a point of no return”.

The fear of a looming, full-bloodied political crisis came as tension filled the streets of many urban areas yesterday, with an unusually heavy presence of security forces being spotted on major roads leading into Harare.

This follows Monday’s ominous warning by angry military commanders — led by their boss Constantino Chiwenga — that they were no longer prepared to allow any more anarchy within the brawling ruling Zanu PF.

At the same time, the Zanu PF youth league appeared to pour petrol into the raging fire yesterday when it attacked Chiwenga as a general who had gone rogue.

“Therefore, we will not sit idly and fold our hands whilst cheap pot-shots and threats are made against the legitimate and popularly elected leader of the revolutionary party … and Zimbabwe,” youth leader Kudzanai Chipanga said at a press conference in Harare.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said Monday’s unexpected move by the military was “very significant” and possibly a sign that the country had now crossed the “red line”.

“This is a historical development and we have to go back to the days of the liberation struggle for parallels. This is more so because the special relationship between the ruling party on one hand and the army and civilians on the other, that started during the liberation struggle has obtained until now.

“We are now seeing a contestation between the two ... and this redefines the once harmonious relationship between them. These are indeed extraordinary times and the political red line has been crossed. There is a redefinition of relations and they (military commanders) are stating that they have a stake in the ruling party.

“That statement also suggests that the military is prepared for the worst and thus it now also depends on which path Mugabe will take going forward,” Masunungure said.

Political analyst and former civic leader McDonald Lewanika also said Chiwenga’s statement was “significant and has the potential to cause chaos in the country”.

“The path that Zimbabwe is now set on is treacherous and a lot will depend on the extent to which the CDF (Commander of the Defence Forces, Chiwenga) follows through on his warnings should his demands not be met.

“I think that the intervention by the CDF, while regrettable, is a game-changer and a lot will depend on the extent to which his threats are taken seriously.

“Already, the Zanu PF youth league has rubbished the statement, but the reality is that given the military’s role in Zanu PF, the CDF’s actions call for a pause and possible alterations to plans that had gotten into full swing to turn the December congress into an inauguration of Mugabe’s preferred successor,” Lewanika said.

Speaking in his unprecedented public reprimand of Mugabe and Zanu PF on Monday, Chiwenga warned the former liberation movement against firing struggle stalwarts from within its ranks.

“The current purging of which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith,” the visibly angry general thundered at a media conference in the capital.

His open and scathing criticism of the ruling party’s leadership came after former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired from both the government and the party last week, for allegedly showing “traits of disloyalty”.

“It is pertinent to restate that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces remain the major stockholder in respect to the gains of the liberation struggle and when these are threatened we are obliged to take corrective measures,” Chiwenga said whilst flanked by the commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, the acting commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe, as well as several major generals and brigadier generals.

Piers Pigou, a senior consultant with the International Crisis Group, told the Daily News that the statement by the military was “the strongest sign yet” that Zimbabwe had entered “unchartered waters”.

“Chiwenga’s statement ups the ante and is a direct challenge to Mugabe ... In other words, consciously or unconsciously, Chiwenga appears to be accusing Mugabe of promoting, or at least protecting counter-revolutionary elements. This is a significant escalation of rhetoric that now goes beyond simple posturing,” he said.

“Whilst there is every reason to be concerned about the security sector acting outside constitutional parameters … Zanu PF's penchant for selective engagement with the rule book may well have come back to bite them,” he added.



On his part, professor of World Politics at the School of Oriental & African Studies at the University of London in the United Kingdom, Stephen Chan, said the stage was delicately set for “a showdown” between Mugabe and the military — and the next few days could “reconfigure the country’s political outlook forever”.

“It sets the stage for a showdown. Mugabe may have to contemplate two options: inviting Mnangagwa back into the government, or facing down the generals,” Chan said.

Zanu PF has for the past five years been devouring itself through its internecine infighting, which first led to the expulsion of former vice president Joice Mujuru in the run-up to the party’s hotly-disputed congress in 2014.

Mujuru — together with party stalwarts who included Cabinet ministers Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo —  were hounded out of the former liberation movement on untested allegations of plotting to topple Mugabe from power.

At the beginning of 2015, the infighting escalated further, as a faction of young Turks going by the moniker Generation 40 (G40) launched a vicious and ultimately successful assault on Mnangagwa, as it went full steam to derail his ambitions to succeed Mugabe.

Mnangagwa, until his surprise sacking last week, had been Mugabe’s aide for more than five decades and many people were for long seeing him as a shoo-in to succeed the Zanu PF leader.

However, and particularly since the beginning of this year, it had become evident that the relationship between the two men had become increasingly strained and untenable. With Zanu PF divided in the middle over the party’s unresolved succession riddle, the tribal and factional feuds took an ominous turn in August when Mnangagwa fell sick during an interface rally in Gwanda — which his backers said was allegedly a poison attack by his G40 enemies.

The Midlands godfather was later airlifted to South Africa where he received emergency surgery.  He subsequently issued a statement denying that his illness was caused by ice cream from the First Family’s Gushungo Dairies, although he consistently suggested that he had indeed been poisoned.

In the past few weeks, powerful first lady Grace cranked up the heat on Mnangagwa, accusing him of fanning the ruling party’s rampant factionalism, being a coward and also occupying a position that should have been reserved for a woman.

After firing Mnangagwa, who has since gone into self-imposed exile, Zanu PF provinces have now also since gone on to recommend the expulsion of more than 100 senior officials said to have been backing him.

Comments (8)

Listen Zimbabwe! Coup plots are often funded by foreign intelligence agencies. Coup leaders have always proven to be less intelligent than the leaders they oust. It happened in Ghana when Nkrumah was overthrown. Zimbabwe! The coup leaders won't do better than Robert Mugabe. Whatever problem you have would become worse. Sometimes in trying to solve a problem one only makes the problem worse. Return Mugabe to power and let him lead the country in shaping a better future, choosing a new leader. Afterwards consult him often. Foreign powers will forsake you; their interests are merely mercenary. Join with other african countries in finding a common solution to similar economic and social woes.

The mask - 15 November 2017

Listen Zimbabwe! Coup plots are often funded by foreign intelligence agencies. Coup leaders have always proven to be less intelligent than the leaders they oust. It happened in Ghana when Nkrumah was overthrown. Zimbabwe! The coup leaders won't do better than Robert Mugabe. Whatever problem you have would become worse. Sometimes in trying to solve a problem one only makes the problem worse. Return Mugabe to power and let him lead the country in shaping a better future, choosing a new leader. Afterwards consult him often. Foreign powers will forsake you; their interests are merely mercenary. Join with other african countries in finding a common solution to similar economic and social woes.

The mask - 15 November 2017

Mugabe has no option but to retire, the generals would not let disGrace into the presidium and that is best for Zimbabwe. Now let's see if the generals will pave way for a transitional govt or they are paving way for ED...that is going to be the crucial part of the whole equation. I have no doubt Bob is going to rest now. If they do not involve opposition then it will make little change considering our economic and social situation right now. People you can rejoice we are not going to have disGrace in the presidium and that was the main point of this capture. I really saw this coming and most of these so called respected analysts didn't, surprisingly. Everyone was writing ED off but I knew he wasn't done, I really don't like him but it's the sad truth that he has the support that matters as we can all see.

misty - 15 November 2017

@The mask.... I am sorry but mugabe is actually the stumbling block to the resuscitation of this country. In fact him and his wife have really become a big liability to our beloved country. Correct me if I am wrong but I don't think you are a Zimbabwean judging from your comment, I cannot blame you because you probably don't quite understand Zim politics, any honest Zimbabwean will tell you Mugabe is the author of all our troubles. I personally welcome the army taking over as we can all see Mugabe was in the process of creating a dynasty and surrounding himself with his worshippers who apparently have no clue how to solve the problems their "god" created...just there to loot from the state coffers. I completely disagree with you. This rhetoric of the west causing our problems is just propaganda that Mugabe used to use to brainwash the masses.

misty - 15 November 2017

While we are excited that Mugabe has bite the dust we are not happy with what the army said it is not loud and clear .Its a coup aaah no its not and the reasons they said is like they want to save ZANU from dying not that they want to rescue the weakened and very poor citizen from Mugabe . Actually we mighty end up under the control of another junta .

Diibulaanyika - 15 November 2017

These ANALYSTS! My foot! Its clear the WARVETS are taking steps to restore Zanu to its original principles and path. After this we may see a more vibrant Zanu on the political landscape, but not in the mould of G40. These WARVETS are DISCIPLINED and PRINCIPLED. Stay focussed!

Will Blackman - 15 November 2017

KKKKKK nonsense what original principle the party has no principles that the Zimbabweans can remember even during war it had a lot of in house fighting and killings After independence it when in a killing spree of innocent citizens 20 000 of them . So the only good thing as Zimbabweans is to make sure zanu follow Mugabe simply we do not want zanu anymore in this country it is useless .We want to start from zero and rebuild our country .

Dave - 16 November 2017

@ dave It will become apparent that the WARVETS are disciplined, and can discipline Mugabe, and can take him out of State House. The WARVETS are disciplined. Mujuru is one but she is power hungry. With regard to Gukurahundi killings, the north Korean trained brigade did the killings. I doubt a Zanu or Zipra warvet could senselessly kill in that manner. Even during the war, that Gukurahundi behaviour was not there.

Will Blackman - 18 November 2017

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