Dawn of a New Era?

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Alex T. Magaisa

Congress week is finally upon us. This is an important week both for Zanu PF as a party, and for Zimbabwe, as a nation. It is important for Zimbabwe not only because Zanu PF is the ruling party but because it has held that role for a generation and more importantly, because in that period, Zanu PF has reconstructed the State in its image so that one could say that Zanu PF is the State and the State is Zanu PF.

They are so closely wedded together that what happens in Zanu PF has impact on the State and the entire body politic. It was the historic mission of the two MDCs to break Zanu PF’s stranglehold on the State during the 4 year Inclusive Government, but it is a mission that they, very sadly, failed to accomplish.

Some will argue that Congress is a damp squib, in that the major decisions have already been made and Congress will simply go through the motions and rubber-stamp those decisions. Although in terms of its Constitution, Congress is Zanu PF’s supreme organ, the reality is that its role is no more than that of Parliament, which by and large, simply rubber-stamps decisions made by the executive. Where Cabinet is the executive authority in Government, the Politburo is the executive arm of Zanu PF and its decisions are generally adopted without scrutiny or question by Congress.

This indeed, it would be true to say, is the same of other Zimbabwean parties, as we saw at the recent MDC-T Congress, where constitutional amendments were also passed by Congress without serious scrutiny. One day, we shall discuss the trend in both parties towards centralisation of power and try to understand why there are such commonalities. For now it suffices to say that Congress will merely endorse decisions that have already been made. It is impossible to imagine how Mujuru can possibly retain her position.

Even if there are Mujuru loyalists who are not comfortable with what has been going on, any resistance is likely to be muted because of the obvious danger in Zimbabwean politics, of being in opposition to the majority view. It will have to be some very brave and independent-minded persons who will stand up to challenge the goings-on in the party. But even that resistance will merely be of token significance.

The strategy was to decimate and kill off any resistance from the Mujuru faction long before Congress. This was achieved without any serious resistance. Now, Mujuru’s backers are nursing wounds and bruised egos. Some, like Jabulani Sibanda, the former War Veterans leader, are in police custody, probably to disable him from any attempts to mobilise sympathisers to disrupt Congress.

The fact of the matter is that Mujuru’s fate is sealed, as is that of her allies, unless Mugabe plays the card of benevolence and rescues them. He would lose nothing, and if anything, that would buy their gratitude. It would allow him to play the two factions against each other, as he has done for many years. But it is unlikely that he will provide a life-boat. From the conduct of his wife, this was personal. And there is no room for forgiveness.

But if they are dumped, and everything so far points to that circumstance, they will be at the mercy of the hounds, just as Grace Mugabe threatened a few weeks ago, when she demanded that Mujuru should resign or risk being “baby-dumped”. With all the multiple allegations that have been strewn in the State media in recent weeks, there is every possibility that without power, she and her allies will be vulnerable to arrest and the new government will simply justify its actions on the basis of the rule of law and a new commitment to stamp out corruption.

After this week, and with a new year coming, Zanu PF will seek to re-style itself as a new outfit – the New Zanu PF, so to speak. The demagogues will come all-out to proclaim a new era and the anti-corruption drive will escalate to new levels, targeting mostly the under-fire politicians who will have lost power and influence. Because most of them have been thoroughly corrupt, there will be no shortage of charges and the Prosecutor General will be very busy with high-profile show-trials.

Internationally, the new approach will be to re-engage, to inspire confidence that it is cool to deal with Zanu PF again. Already we have seen during the course of the year that some European countries seem to have warmed up to Zanu PF. The likelihood is that they will warm up to it even more, wanting to believe that Zanu PF would be a changed party.

After Congress, it will become officially clear who is likely to succeed Mugabe in the long run and there will be competition to appease him. It is difficult to see how the Mujuru group will recover after this debilitating experience. And given those indications of who might take over post-Mugabe, there will be jostling within the international community, hoping for new forms of engagement with the new Zanu PF. The problem for the opposition is that all this is happening not because of any challenge that they are posing. Indeed, one of the most conspicuous aspects of this whole saga is that the forces of opposition have been mere observers for the most part.

The anticipation in the opposition is probably that these events will break Zanu PF down, leaving it weaker than before. Somehow, I do not think that will be the case. Zanu PF has never relied on numbers for elections or retaining power. They have relied on their control of the State and its institutions and agencies. There might be a thought that the dumping of Mujuru and her allies will dilute Zanu PF’s stranglehold on the State and its institutions, and create a window of opportunity, but I do not think that will happen very easily. This is because those in such institutions will naturally gravitate towards the dominant and winning faction. In any event, the losers will be vulnerable to the power of the winning group and instead of resisting after the event they might choose to take the pain of defeat in silence, hoping they will be left to enjoy the benefits of past glory.

Post-Congress will be the era of a redefined Zanu PF which will seek to present a different face to the world. Mugabe will still be there but with a new team, most will look beyond him, seeing him more as a placeholder, warming the seat for the heir-apparent. Whether that will translate into changed fortunes for the country is an entirely different matter. I do not think much will change – because while the people may change, the system remains the same, faithful to its ways, methods and tactics, as we have seen in recent weeks, in the manner that the Mujuru faction has been battered and despatched.

For its part, the opposition will have to take a step back and realise that they will now be dealing with a new animal, perceived differently by the rest of the world. And in all this is that Zanu PF has gone through its troubles of managing the thorny succession issue without any threat whatsoever from the opposition.

wamagaisa@yahoo.co.uk

This article was originally published on http://newzimbabweconstitution.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/dawn-of-a-new-era/

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