HomeOpinion & AnalysisSunday Opinion: Zanu PF factionalism and the war inside Mugabe

Sunday Opinion: Zanu PF factionalism and the war inside Mugabe

Something big that we don’t readily see is happening in Zanu PF and to Zanu PF. When the politburo met on February 10, amidst a strong crowd outside the Zanu PF headquarters, the world expected political drama and spectacle, but only simple politics took place with the real big war remaining concealed inside President Robert Mugabe’s mind and heart. Except for Sarah Mahoka’s explosive oration, the whole event became an opportunity for Mugabe to show that even if there is infighting in the party, he remains the dear leader and the party is intact.


Later, when the madding crowd is away and when national and international attention is focused away, the party will pay attention to its painful pimples, blisters and smelly armpits. Even that will not solve the wrestling match that is taking place right inside Mugabe’s soul. It looks like a tussle between his body and his mind, an argument between his past and a possible future. What simplistically looks like spectacular battles between two feuding political factions is actually a struggle between destinies, and Mugabe must choose the winner — not an easy vote this one. The face of Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo and that of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa are only mirages that represent two powerful ideas that are engaged in a contest to the death; inside Mugabe.

Jonathan Moyo . .. trying to sell the future
Jonathan Moyo . .. trying to sell the future

Emmerson Mnangagwa: selling the past
A phrase escaped unstudied in Mnangagwa’s interview in China in 2015. He reasoned that a wise “leader takes the people where they must go” even if the leader himself and the people do not want to go there. That philosophy of leadership comes straight from the late Kim il-Sung, the storied Great Leader of North Korea whose speeches are Mnangagwa’s bible. Mnangagwa’s vision of a leader is that of Kim il-Sung, a leader that Mugabe himself celebrated once as a model but is presently ashamed of the enchantment.

For Mnangagwa, the future of Zimbabwe is in its past. When War veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa invokes the myth of Moyo as a son of Ndabaningi Sithole, he is not only being rude, but he is being religious and is beckoning a spirit of the past in Zanu. Mutsvangwa is inviting Zanu PF to the time Sithole was dethroned as a leader of Zanu for no idéological reason but his tribe. Visibly, Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao and Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere have refused to buy the past that Mustsvangwa is selling persuasively as a beautiful modus vivendi. Moyo truly escaped from a war in Tanzania but the war that he escaped, Mutsvangwa will not describe — it was not the war of liberation but a bloody ethnic genocide where Zanla guerillas were commandeered to slaughter their Zipra counterparts in Mgagao and Morogoro. It is this legacy of Zanu that Moyo, Kasukuwere, Zhuwao and many other Zanu PF futurists — including First Lady Grace Mugabe — are ashamed of, and which the Mnangagwa camp is trying to sell as the future. The belief in violence and even murder can be so blinding to those who embrace what can now be called “crocodile politics”. The irony that Moyo’s biological father was actually killed by the Fifth Brigade, a force from which Mutsvangwa is associated, escapes Mutsvangwa who goes on to give a political father in the shape of Sithole to Moyo. That Moyo is “peripheral” and “another kettle of fish” is the language of the politics of othering, exclusion and elimination that the “crocodile” camp believes in.

The Chimurenga legacy and spirit that Mutsvangwa “prays hard” and wishes that young Zanu PF foxes like Kasukuwere, Zhuwao and many others would embrace is not the Chimurenga of liberation, but that of the “struggles within the struggle” where liberation fighters killed each other for power. In political posturing, Zhuwao once claimed “research” was what guided his politics and vision. Led by Grace herself, many in Zanu PF are searching for ideas and a miracle that would erase the Zanu legacy of violence and bloodshed which Mnangagwa and his camp are selling to Mugabe and to Zimbabwe as the future. The Mnangagwa group is inviting everyone in Zanu PF to the armory and the muddy waters of political violence and murder while Grace , Patrick Zhuwao, Moyo, Kasukuwere and many other faceless voices, think that going to the library is better.

Jonathan Moyo: selling a future
Referring to the attempted bombing at her dairy farm at Mazoe, Grace Mugabe did not say her enemies wanted to kill her cows but she said “they want to kill my children.” Because of the past of violence and killings that Mugabe and Mnangagwa come with from Zanu and its struggles within the struggle, Grace fears for her children and their future, and that is why she finds herself together with those in Zanu PF who equally hate the legacy of violence. Reading, manufacturing of public political consent with jingles, songs and beautiful, even if sometimes powerless, ideas, is attractive to these so-called G40 characters. Most of these are victims of violence and some are too young and smart enough to be ashamed of the political strategies of their parent generation. Grace looks around Mugabe and reads the stories of the past and typical of what blinkered mothers and wives do, she does not say “did you really do this”? Instead, she says “your war-time friends got you to do all this”. She says to Mugabe, “who is going to protect me and my children from all these angry victims that the politics of violence, the degrees in violence have created”, making Mugabe feel terribly guilty and wish that the so-called G40 foxes were there 40 years ago to supply him with tricks, ideas and strategies of winning in politics without the creation of dead bodies that have produced angry enemies.

Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana is a Zimbabwean academic based in South Africa.

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