President Robert Mugabe’s Friday televised speech on factionalism that is gnawing at his ruling Zanu PF was largely expected, but it failed to allay fears that he is no longer in charge.
Mugabe had to speak after war veterans tried to protest against First Lady Grace on Thursday before the demonstration was ruthlessly crushed by the police in Harare.
War Veterans minister Chris Mutsvangwa became the fall guy as he was literally thrown under the bus by the veteran ruler for allegedly organising the “unsanctioned” demonstration.
The former liberation war fighters were angered by Grace’s remarks at a recent address in Chiweshe where she accused them and the military of plotting against her husband.
Grace accuses Vice-President Emmerson Mnangangwa of trying to remove Mugabe from power using unorthodox means.
The First Lady’s script has a striking similarity to the one she used against former vice-president, Joice Mujuru in 2014.
However, this time around Mnangagwa’s supporters appear determined not to go down without a fight, setting the stage for a brutal war over Mugabe’s succession.
There is consensus that the infighting in the ruling party is ill-timed, coming at a time Zimbabwe is battling a devastating drought that has left three million people facing starvation.
Zimbabwe’s economy continues on a downward spiral and Zanu PF’s promises for a quick turnaround that were made ahead of the 2013 elections are turning out to be a ruse.
It is in view of this that, Mugabe’s 30-minute address must have ideally reassured the nation that he is still governing in the manner he is expected to be doing. But his address turned out to be a Zanu PF and not national event.
Flanked by his two deputies — Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko — Mugabe only displayed anger fuelled by the way the former fighters are treating his quarrelsome wife.
He said he was disturbed by the “dog fights” engulfing his party. Mugabe was visibly angry about the insults being hurled at him and his wife.
He did not appear moved by the fact that the fights over his succession have made his government dysfunctional.
His ministers are fighting daily in public about implementation of important government policies.
The fights range from disputes over the promotion of education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, to a purported ban on housing cooperatives.
On Wednesday some of the beaten war veterans were asking loudly if the centre was still holding and even suggested that Mugabe had ceded some of his powers to the First Lady.
Somehow, the televised address was supposed to put a stop to all speculation about Mugabe’s capacity to govern.
The Mugabe who turned out on Friday appeared tired, aloof and disinterested in the contemporary issues that Zimbabweans are grappling with.
Zanu PF and Zimbabwe are in flames and, therefore, need a very decisive leader who can inspire hope in a country now enveloped by despair.
Only Mugabe has the capacity to douse the flames that were stoked by his wife under the guise of fighting factionalism.
The president is known to harbour ambitions to rule until he dies, hence his failure to deal decisively with the warring Zanu PF factions.
Mugabe needs to be responsible and put his foot down before the factional wars get out of control.
The president cannot restore sanity in the ruling party by speaking with a forked tongue.
He needs to address the problems that led to the rebellion candidly and stop ducking the issue of his succession.
Mugabe would also do well to rein in his wife, whose public statements could push Zimbabwe into civil unrest. The president just needs to show us who is in charge.