Faction-riddled Zanu PF, whose confidence has been boosted by recent poll surveys that showed it was ahead of its rivals, could suffer heavily from the in-fighting that has split it into two camps just three months before the plebiscite, analysts have warned.
Report by Caiphus Chimhete
Elections are set for June or July this year.
But analysts said Zanu PF takes solace in that it is squaring up against an equally fractious MDC-T, which has, over the past years, lost its mobilisation steam and arguably, its support base.
The issue of factionalism in Zanu PF came to a head after traditional party rivals, Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnagangwa held separate events in the same vicinity a fortnight ago.
This set tongues wagging in Zanu PF echelons as this was an unusual occurrence in the party, especially when one of the meetings involved a member of the presidium.
Both Mujuru and Mnangagwa are positioning themselves to succeed 89-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has been ruling the country uninterrupted since the country’s independence in 1980.
National Association of Non-governmental Organisations (Nango) chairperson, Effie Ncube said Zanu PF had to heal internal divisions if it entertained hopes of winning the next polls.
He noted that factionalism had also devoured the rank and file supporters in the party.
“It [factionalism] is at the apex of the party and goes down to the lowest level,” said Ncube. “Remember, the party suspended the elections of DCC [District Coordinating Committee] executives because of factionalism. They can’t ignore this issue for too long because it has a significant bearing on the outcome of the polls.”
Last year Zanu PF disbanded the powerful DCCs after it emerged that the factions were promoting candidates in their camps.
In the past few months, Zanu PF political commissar, Webster Shamu has made endless trips to Bulawayo, Masvingo and Mutare in an attempt to address the issue of factionalism.
Political analyst, Phillip Pasirayi also believes factionalism would further divide and weaken Zanu PF ahead of the crunch harmonised elections.
“Already, the political campaigns and mobilisation for the party’s primaries is showing these divisions as both Mujuru and Mnangagwa seek to outwit each other,” he said. “The Mnangagwa faction has a mountain to climb though because the party’s presidium is populated by Mujuru loyalists who have in the past emphasised that there is a procedure and hierarchy to be followed on the succession issue.”
Pasirayi believes the fight between supporters of Mnangagwa and Mujuru would become more pronounced during the party’s forthcoming primary elections.
Profiles and backgrounds of candidates who will represent Zanu PF either as councillors or MPs in some provinces are going to be scrutinised, he said.
“Those candidates who do not show or demonstrate their loyalty to either faction will be blocked depending on which faction is powerful in a particular province,” he said.
Ncube said if factionalism was not addressed, disgruntled Zanu PF members would abscond from voting or would vote for a rival as happened in 2008, in what later became the “bhora musango” [sabotage] strategy in Zanu PF circles.
But Pasirayi differed saying the possibility of a protest vote in the forthcoming elections was distant.
“Unlike in the 2008 elections, Zanu PF MPs and councillors are solidly behind President Mugabe because they fear the reprisals and know the cover and protection that they got from him for their ill-gotten wealth,” he said. “Mugabe’s cronies will lead a ‘bhora mugedhi’ [pro-Mugabe] campaign this time around as a way to pay him back.”
Pasirayi said MDC-T’s chances in the coming elections would be determined by how well the party was able to articulate its electoral agenda and demonstrate that they are a viable alternative. It has so far lost key constituencies like the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), labour and students, who have helped in previous campaigns.
“So far, the MDC-T has not been able to coherently put together an electoral agenda that is pro-poor to debunk Zanu PF’s so-called indigenisation and empowerment programme,” said Pasirayi. “If the party leadership [MDC-T] is serious about winning the polls, there is need to build bridges with these key constituencies and craft a pro-poor national agenda that addresses the bread and butter issues of the majority poor.”
Ncube seemed to agree saying MDC-T supporters were not as well-motivated as they were in previous elections. Issues of corruption, nepotism and factionalism have also dogged the party in recent years.
“This election is going to be very close,” said Ncube. “The party that will win elections will have to do more in terms of motivating its supporters to go and vote but Zanu PF has to do more because it has misgoverned the country for the past 33 years.”