It’s not about Zanu PF, stupid; it’s about the ANC!
The ANC is the African National Congress, South Africa’s liberation party. It celebrates its centennial next year but as a governing party it is just under half the age of Zanu PF having ruled South Africa since 1994. Zanu PF has been in power for 31 years.
The excerpt is from a document authored by a group of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) veterans calling itself “The Commissariat”. The MK veterans say the ANC is infested with factionalism, corruption, incompetence in government, tenderpreneurship and pending implosion. They therefore want to stop the ANC from holding an elective conference due next year in Mangaung, Bloemfontein.
“That the elective conference of the ANC must take place is a constitutional imperative. But that it must take place at all cost (considering the current state of the organisation), is suicidal for the ANC and its members and, is a threat to the stability of the country,” says the document.
South African President Jacob Zuma seems to be in big trouble; a strong lobby to unseat him is under way in the country led by charismatic ANCYL president Julius Malema. Malema is widely seen merely as a proxy of bigger players in the power game. Zuma is likely to go the way of his predecessor Thabo Mbeki who was deposed in a palace coup at Polokwane at another elective congress in December 2007.
What is interesting are the similarities between the problems bedevilling the ANC and those haunting Zanu PF, which is set to hold its own conference next month. Its leader Robert Mugabe has hinted that the conference, which in normal circumstances would not be elective, would be turned into a congress at which a new leadership could be picked. This would be in preparation for national elections that may be held next year or in 2013. It is more than likely that Mugabe will be endorsed as the party candidate for that election besides it being “unreasonable and impractical” to do so because of his failing health and age. He will be 88 next year amid reports that he is suffering from some cancer. Many believe that due to these two factors Mugabe would not be able to withstand the rigours of an election campaign in which he is fighting a popular young and sprightly Morgan Tsvangirai who is 20 years younger.
But due to the factionalism in the party, the issue of replacing him with a younger leader is a matter of life and death. So debilitating is the factionalism that without Mugabe the party would crumble like a cookie. The death in August in a mysterious fire of factional strongman Solomon Mujuru demonstrated just how deep rooted the schism is in the party. The factions were generally believed to be two with the other led by feared party secretary for legal affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa. It now emerges there is a third faction of Young Turks calling themselves Generation 40 which is baying for leadership renewal in the party.
Corruption is another disease that has taken its own toll on the former ruling party. As its cadre detects the endgame, looting of state resources has become the order of the day. This is done mainly through awarding tenders to dubious foreign companies that are given huge infrastructural projects while giving a “cut” to the minister responsible. In South Africa they have coined a term for it; they call it “tenderpreneurship”. Corruption is also manifested in the way many ministers who had nothing to their names recently have become some of the riches people in the country deserving mention in Forbes Magazine’s list of the rich. This newly-rich class has not only riled those in opposing political parties but many in Zanu PF itself as they see their colleagues inexplicably become richer and richer.
The politics of patronage, which has become the culture in Zanu PF, has also seen underperforming minister stick to their jobs even when it is patently clear that they are doing more harm than good. Some are allegedly openly involved in corrupt activities such as the poaching of rhino and elephant and the illicit trade in diamonds.
So, could the conference-cum-elective-congress next month be Zanu PF’s Waterloo?
Many considerations come to the fore in dealing with this puzzle, not least the fact that by endorsing its geriatric leadership headed by Mugabe himself, Zanu PF risks losing the support of its young supporters and the generality of Zimbabweans who are now suffering from a condition called ennui, a kind of boredom borne of dealing with the same thing for far too long a period of time. Too many young Zanu PF members have been lurking in the shadows waiting their own turn to grab the reins of power. If the conference next month does not give them the chance to do so frustration may burst at the seams.
But what is also important will be the role the WikiLeaks cables will have on the whole thing. The cables leaked by the whistleblower website have shown how concerned the party is about Mugabe’s continued leadership. The cables reveal there is a consensus across the board in Zanu PF that Mugabe must go. The consensus is not a new development, according to the cables, having existed since the turn of the millennium. Senior politician upon senior politician is quoted as telling successive US diplomats that Mugabe was now a liability to the party. These include his deputy presidents.
Those not compromised by the cables have formed a strong lobby to have those who undermined Mugabe punished by the party at the conference. If this happens, that means all the big names who have led the party during the liberation struggle and in the past 30 years may see the end of their political careers. But can they take it lying down?
Whatever happens in Bulawayo next month, Zanu PF is in danger and as the MK veterans said about the ANC, the conference is suicidal for Zanu PF and its members, and is a threat to the stability of the country.