PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is now casting a lone figure at the helm of both the country and Zanu PF following the axing of most of his long time liberation war comrades from the party.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA/MOSES MATENGA
Zanu PF recently fired former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, former presidential affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, former party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo and many more party bigwigs with liberation war credentials.
Of his old comrades, only VP Emmerson Mnangagwa remains close after his elevation to the post at the party’s December congress. Most of those surrounding the 91-year old leader are newcomers with little if any liberation war history.
The new faces in the party’s influential positions continue to push for the victimisation of those who used to have senior positions both in party and government, with the latest being the 87 officials who were suspended from the party as announced on Thursday by spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo.
Mujuru, Mutasa and Gumbo, together with many other party heavy weights, MPs and provincial executives were either fired or suspended on allegations of plotting against Mugabe. The disgruntled members are now linked to a new movement, People First, which aims to present Mugabe with a formidable challenge in the 2018 general elections.
People First said Mugabe had been misled into ditching his old comrades by newcomers who were pursuing their own agendas such as securing power for the Young Turks who call themselves Generation 40.
Before the departure of Mutasa, Mugabe himself once lamented in an interview with ZBC that he was lonely and had his presidential affairs minister as the only companion in his Cabinet.
When he was 89 during the period of the inclusive government, Mugabe said the only person who came close to him in terms of maturity and age was Mutasa and described other Cabinet members like then Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu and Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa as “kids”.
Mutasa is 11 years Mugabe’s junior and Mugabe stands as one of the oldest and longest-serving on the continent having been in power for 35 years.
“You take my Cabinet as it is. There is no one I can talk to about how we used to approach girls or how we would go to this and that place, riding bicycles. There is no one. There are others like Mutasa. He comes close, but others are just children, the likes of Shamu and Chamisa. You feel that loneliness. You have lost others and sometimes you think of it and it makes you very lonely.”
Mugabe’s loneliness has now been worsened by the departure of some of his comrades who fell in the wave of succession wars. He had earlier lost most of his age mates to death. These include the late Vice-Presidents Joshua Nkomo and Simon Muzenda, Ndabaningi Sithole, Charles Chikerema, Morris Nyagumbo, Enos Nkala, Herbert Ushewokunze, Edgar Tekere and Nathan Shamuyarira, among others.
The analysts said the influence of war veterans and other senior officials in the party was slowly diminishing; a position the war veterans’ camp say is a matter their leadership was seized with.
Spokesperson of the People First project — a grouping largely comprising those who fell victim to the post congress purging, Rugare Gumbo yesterday said Mugabe was complicit to the destruction of the party by listening to liars.
“It’s [the coming in of non-war veterans in the leadership of the party] a betrayal of the struggle and people who died for this country and war veterans who are here today who should be running the party,” he said.
“It seems Mugabe likes that because he is the one who appointed these people. I agree he is now very isolated but it is his choice. He was lied to by these people and pushed into a corner but he did not know these people had their own agenda. The results are coming out now.”
A Zanu PF insider, perceived to be a Mujuru ally, said Mugabe was failing to hold the party together due to old age and listening to “lies” from ambitious young men in the party.
“He is literally a strong personality but surrounded only by weak personalities with competing and not cooperative interests,” the official said.
The party hierarchy in the politburo used to be anchored by war veterans with Mugabe at the top, followed by Mujuru, Khaya Moyo, Mutasa, Gumbo and others whose liberation war credentials remain unquestionable.
In place of Mujuru — who Mugabe seemed to have blessed to take over in 2004 — Mnangagwa, a war veteran, took over with observers say he was used by the Young Turks to remove Mujuru before knives were drawn against him.
Mugabe abolished the post of chairperson in Zanu PF and appointed Phelekezela Mphoko, who has been out of the party for long, as VP while Khaya Moyo, the former chairman, was demoted to spokesperson.
In place of his onetime confidant Mutasa, Mugabe brought in Chombo, a non-war veteran while in place of another war veteran Shamu, Mugabe appointed Saviour Kasukuwere whom he tasked with rebuilding the party, a position most feel should have been held by a former combatant with experience in political mobilisation.
Observers said though the old grouping had differences, they had a common agenda unlike the current crop of new leaders who have clashed with war veterans and senior officials and had their personal agendas.
Academic Ibbo Mandaza said Zanu PF might not survive its changing faces and risked fading away with the young Turks in the post Mugabe era.
“What we have learnt from all this is that Zanu PF is not a political party, but a movement which by nature is fractious. It is bound to mutate with different tastes only held together by state power,” Mandaza said.
“In the absence of state power the factionalism could lead to implosion and with Zanu PF, I do not see the likes of [Saviour] Kasukuwere and even Emmerson Mnangagwa having their own social base. They do not have one and [their political careers] will die a natural death with the demise of Mugabe.”
He added: “Mugabe is the centre of state power and for now those close to the power makers [Mugabe and his wife] will benefit, but conversely when he goes they will also fall.”