The fall of Zanu PF bigwigs in the just-ended primary elections shows that a faction linked to former president Robert Mugabe will have a say in the future of the ruling party, analysts have said.
By Everson Mushava
*Additional reporting by Bloomberg
Mugabe was toppled in a coup in November last year and most influential members of his G40 faction — mainly comprised of young turks with no liberation war history — were forced into exile.
They include former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, ex-Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao.
Mnangagwa’s closest allies Abedinico Ncube, Mike Bimha, Christopher Mutsvangwa, Martin Dinha, Paul Munyaradzi Mangwana, Christopher Chitindi and Amon Murwira were some of the heavyweights that lost in the controversial Zanu PF primaries.
Mustvangwa accused the police, which he said were still influenced by G40, of orchestrating his defeat in Norton and has warned that Mnangagwa will lose the next elections if he does not tackle emerging problems in Zanu PF.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer Eldred Masunungure said the results of the primary elections showed that although G40 leading lights had been pushed out of Zanu PF, their ideas still held sway in the ruling party.
“Even if it was defeated, the legacy of G40 still lives on; the principles that inspired G40 have been taken on board by Team Lacoste (Mnangagwa faction),” he said.
“However, the voting-in of youthful candidates can also be motivated by the reality that they are facing.
“They are facing a youthful adversary in the form of the MDC-T whose leadership belongs to the more youthful generation.”
The MDC-T is led by 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa who took over from the late Morgan Tsvangirai in February.
Chamisa, who leads the MDC Alliance — a coalition of opposition parties — has structured his campaign to tap into Zimbabwe’s rising crop of young voters.
“Lacoste, which is largely constituted of the older generation, is recognising the idea of fusing the older and the youthful generation coming from the G40 faction and largely the MDC because they are their opponent in the forthcoming elections,” Masunungure added.
“The youthful generation becomes the new demographic battleground in both Zanu PF and MDC-T as long as Zanu PF projects a new youthful image.
“The MDC has a new challenge on their hands. They can no longer claim the youth vote, which has become a new frontier for contestation.”
Harare-based political analyst Alexander Rusero said Zanu PF’s power dynamics had been reduced into a contest between Mnangagwa and Moyo.
“What we can make from the voting out of the old guard is the G40 idea was perceived to be a good idea in bad hands,” he said.
“Moyo was advocating generational consensus, but the idea was caught in a messy factional fight.”
Rusero said the emergence of young candidates would present a tough challenge for the MDC-T, which was seeking to tap into youthful voters.
“All that the MDC-T was riding on has been stolen by Zanu PF,” he said.
“Even social media has been invaded by Mnangagwa.
“Zanu PF has liberalised its approach, hence the ‘open for business’ mantra.
“Mnangagwa is trying to balance power between the old guard and the young and, therefore, the MDC-T should fight hard to secure a new niche market.
“It is no longer the people’s obligation to vote for them because they did not want Zanu PF, but for their ideas and what they stand for.”
However, Ibbo Mandaza, a veteran political analyst, warned against reading too much into the voting patterns in the just-ended Zanu PF primaries.
“The polls show support for individuals recognised in communities, not party and political parties, and there will be a real war on the opposition’s hands,” he said.
“The old guard were easy to beat because they were identified with Mugabe.
“This election is all about the youths versus the old and we can expect Mnangagwa to fall the same way.”
The primaries in some areas took place amid chaos after ballot papers arrived late or were delivered to wrong locations.
In several wards in Mashonaland West province, brawls broke out and opposing sides threw bottles at each other, according to Jairos Wirirani, who went to vote in the small farming town of Raffingora, north of Harare.
“It’s not surprising that the old guard is falling,” Rashweat Mukundu, an analyst at the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said.
“We’re seeing a reconfiguration of politics in Zanu PF, and by extension Zimbabwe.”
Before the ouster of Mugabe, who had ruled the nation since 1980, Zanu PF usually imposed approved candidates.