Zimbabwe plunges into unprecedented chaos as centre collapses

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HARARE – As Zimbabwe teeters on the verge of total collapse, amid fears that the country could soon plunge into unprecedented chaos as Zanu PF’s brutal factional and succession wars escalate, analysts say it is clear that the centre can no longer hold in the ruling party.

Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, the analysts said the free-for-all rumpus devouring Zanu PF — widely seen as the worst ever to hit the party since it came to power 36 years ago — also showed that both Zanu PF and the country were on “auto-pilot” in President Robert Mugabe’s dotage.

At the same time, Zanu PF insiders insisted that the reluctance by the increasingly-frail nonagenarian to either anoint or help the party to settle on his successor was the main factor behind its seemingly-unstoppable and often mindless bloodletting.

“This is why not even the purging of (former Vice President Joice) Mujuru in 2014 has stabilised the party. We now have Team Lacoste (the party faction aligned to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa) and the G40 (ambitious Young Turks known as the Generation 40) tearing each other apart and taking everything down with them.

“Unfortunately too, the president, for unclear reasons, but possibly related to his advanced age, has not put his foot down to end this madness and anoint a successor.

“As a result, the sharks are taking matters into their hands and publicly campaigning for themselves or for their preferred candidates,” a despondent politburo member lamented yesterday.

The official spoke in the wake of last week’s tumultuous events which saw hawkish presidential spokesperson George Charamba,  described by his Zanu PF detractors as an “idiotic” Mnangagwa ally, openly shellacking the G40 as “foolish sucessionists”.

Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo was unavailable to comment on the party’s growing anarchy yesterday.

But a careful Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira — who was one of the few senior officials willing to openly comment on the matter yesterday — said given that Charamba, who as a civil servant is not allowed to be political, was both Information permanent secretary and Mugabe’s spokesperson, it was difficult to draw the line where his work began and ended.

“If I got him right, I think he said he was speaking (in his controversial Thursday radio interview) in his capacity as the spokesperson of the president and that is where it becomes difficult,” Mupfumira said.

But the analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday said the anarchy that was ravaging the ruling party was a reflection of an organisation “in an “advanced state of decomposition”.

Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said the level of indiscipline in the party, which reflected the internal battles for supremacy, also showed that “the centre cannot hold anymore”.

“Unless and until the real problem afflicting Zanu PF, the problem of succession is resolved, chaos will continue to rein supreme, with rules being bent and broken at every turn to achieve various factional objectives.

“The future that awaits the party is bleak and that of continued fragmentation as it has been proven beyond doubt that former VP Mujuru, who was accused of being a faction leader was not the problem, as we are now hearing from Charamba who is mentioning sucessionists in the party,” Masunungure said.

Afghanistan-based analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, was even more scathing in his analysis of Zanu PF’s ructions, saying these were “a manifestation of a deeply-divided and factional party without anyone in control of the ship”.

“The centre no longer hold in that party with its tired president whose wife (First Lady Grace) appears to support the G40, while most of Mugabe’s own close aides, including Charamba, are on Lacoste’s (Mnangagwa’s) side.

“Thus, Mugabe is caught between a rock and a hard place as he can’t fire all his close lieutenants and he can neither discipline the people from the G40 like (Higher Education minister Jonathan) Moyo.

“He is in a dilemma and he is being forced to witness his party being taken down by these busy bodies fighting each other,” Saungweme said.

He also bemoaned the fact that the ruling party’s deadly infighting was paralysing government functions at a time that the country was faced with a myriad problems, including rising poverty levels, looming hunger and growing joblessness.

“Both Zanu PF and the government are very dysfunctional and chaotic at the moment. They are fighting even as we are facing drought and dealing with a collapsing economy on auto pilot.

“All this needs urgent and serious attention from the ruling party and the government, but they are too busy fighting and have no solutions at all.

“The likes of Charamba and Moyo, with nothing to do in their dysfunctional party and government, have found somewhere else to expend their energies — which is engaging in an unproductive war where they rip each other apart.

“The war betrays a redundant government with redundant officials who have nothing to do despite the fact that the country’s woes desperately need government intervention,” Saungweme said.

Renowned academic and publisher, Ibbo Mandaza, also questioned why Mugabe had recently admonished senior members of the country’s security sector for involving themselves in Zanu PF’s politics while he was himself failing to do the same with his spokesperson.

“Charamba should just resign immediately because he is offside. He is way off the mark because he is in breach of the law which is clear that as a civil servant he cannot participate in politics.

“It is a reflection of the extent to which national institutions and the constitutional provisions under which they operate have been subverted that all this is happening. Where is the Civil Service Commission in all this drama?

“Mugabe on the other hand chooses to be discrete when dealing with such issues, while publicly telling the security sector to stay away from politics as the likes of Charamba are breaking the law. Why does he not rein him in?” Mandaza asked.

A Zanu PF central committee member said the fact that Zimbabwe was once again “on the brink” politically and economically, was not a matter of speculation — as developments of the past few years were reflecting that clearly.

“While it’s sad for me to admit this, it does not matter which way one looks, the signs of anarchy are everywhere in our country. Notwithstanding the propaganda, the party is in trouble and the economy is dying.

“As you have seen recently, the government is also broke and cannot pay its obligations. On the other hand, companies are collapsing like dominos and the rate of job losses has reached catastrophic levels? That’s why something will have to give sooner rather than later,” he said.

Meanwhile, economists say average incomes in Zimbabwe are now at their lowest levels in 60 years, with more than 76 percent of the country’s families now having to make do with less than $200 a month, well below the poverty datum line of more than $500.-DN