HARARE – Zanu PF’s ugly and seemingly unstoppable tribal, factional and succession wars are increasingly taking bizarre turns as well — with the latest flashpoint for the troubled former liberation movement’s two major camps being a coffee mug!
So mortified was a party bigwig who spoke to the Daily News yesterday, as the coffee mug brawl escalated over the past three days, that he described both Zanu PF and party bigwigs as “petty and an embarrassment” to the country.
“I am distressed by what’s happening in our once-glorious party. I even had a cousin of mine who is in the Diaspora calling me yesterday (Tuesday) to establish whether indeed we were fighting over a cup, in a country facing so many serious national problems on the political and economic fronts,” the angry senior Zanu PF official said.
At the centre of the astonishing brawl — now cheekily referred to in some Zanu PF circles as “Cupgate” — are weekend images of Vice President Emmerson FROM P1
Mnangagwa holding a coffee mug inscribed with the words “I am the boss”.
This saw the Midlands godfather’s Zanu PF enemies going to town and interpreting, rightly or wrongly, the pictures as confirmation of the VP’s mooted presidential aspirations and his Team Lacoste faction’s alleged plot to take power irregularly.
Analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday expressed mixed views about the pictures, with many of them saying the furore over “Cupgate” merely manifested the fact that Zanu PF’s succession wars were worsening and becoming more intractable.
Afghanistan-based analyst Maxwell Saungweme said Zanu PF had become “a theatre for political comedy, considering this noise that has been created by a mere coffee mug”.
“In a serious nation, those pictures would not be read to mean anything. But in Zimbabwe, a nation in constant need for both humour and conspiracy theories, the pictures are being read to mean that he (Mnangagwa) knows that he is the real boss in a country where the current president is 92 years old and no longer in control.
“The pictures can also be taken to mean that he (Mnangagwa) is aware of the fact that the emperor will soon be departing and he (the VP) will soon be in charge,” he said.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer Eldred Masunungure said the Mnangagwa pictures could be interpreted in a number of ways, just like the way musician Jah Prayzah’s song Mudhara Vachauya (whose meaning, loosely translated, is that the boss or old man will come) had been interpreted.
“Assuming that there is a political angle to it, Mnangagwa is sending a message that he is the ultimate winner in the struggle to succeed Mugabe.
“He, however, can use one of the various interpretations to the message to deny that he wants to take over. It is unlike Mnangagwa to come out in the open and declare his interests, as he prefers to have other people doing this for him,” he said.
The respected analyst also said that it appeared Mugabe’s shrill calls for Zanu PF members not to abuse social media had fallen on deaf ears, as the party’s succession wars were playing out “loud” on social media.
Yet another analyst believes that Mnangagwa’s pictures meant that he had finally decided to come out in the open, to challenge for power in Zanu PF, ahead of next year’s crucial national elections.
“I think he (Mnangagwa) and those around him are getting more impatient. They have waited for Mugabe to show the way, but realise that he has no intention of retiring. They realise that he may have to be nudged,” UK-based and Kent University Law School lecturer, Alex Magaisa, said.
“Mnangagwa is not getting any younger, and if Mugabe runs and wins in 2018, by the time he finishes his term Mnangagwa will be an octogenarian and his chance may have gone.
“I don’t think he is prepared to wait and pass the chance of a lifetime to be president. His lieutenants who have an eye on the prize and associated benefits certainly can’t wait,” the former advisor to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said further.
Another political analyst, Dewa Mavhinga, said people must not read “too much” into the matter as the Midlands godfather’s presidential ambitions were “obvious and known”.
“Since the liberation war days, when Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s personal assistant, it was known that he had ambitions to climb higher. The only challenge is that Mugabe has not vacated the highest office for the last 36 years,” Mavhinga said.
A senior Zanu PF official told the Daily News late last year that the alarming escalation in the party’s deadly factional and succession wars over the past few months represented a desperate “final push” to take all the spoils by the two main camps in Mugabe’s bitterly-divided former liberation movement, .
“Listen, we are well past the stage where comrades in the opposite camps can be expected to act rationally. One camp now has to lose and be destroyed completely for this (the wars) to end, like what happened to (former vice president and now Zimbabwe People First leader Joice) Mujuru’s group.
“Neither Zacc (the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission) nor the courts can conceivably be expected to end this war until the succession issue is resolved through the defeat of one of the factions.
“They are now in a final push of sorts, to borrow an MDC expression. In fact, Zacc and the courts have become the new theatres for the fatal brawl,” the consistently reliable bigwig said.
Other analysts and Zanu PF insiders have also told the Daily News previously that they feared a complete implosion of the former liberation movement, as well as the imminent eruption of intra-party political murders.
Academic Ibbo Mandaza said “the implosion of Zanu PF is now complete”, adding, “it is ominous in terms of the party’s factionalism and its implications. The factional fights have now become very antagonistic”.
Political analyst Gladys Hlatywayo said then that the succession wars which were devouring the ruling party had reached “a decisive phase where it is now dog-eat-dog”, with no more “pretence” on both sides of Zanu PF’s bitter factional divide that all was well in the former liberation movement.
“It’s now crunch time in terms of Zanu PF’s deadly succession politics. It is truly gloves off now. The party’s elite consensus has irretrievably broken down and it is now dog-eat-dog,” she added.
Masunungure said it was clear that “the centre can no longer hold in Zanu PF”.
A Zanu PF politburo member said the party was “in tatters” and that its mindless tribal, factional and succession bloodletting had now turned into “a zero-sum game” as its bitterly-opposed combatants savaged each other to the death.
“Honestly speaking, I cannot see where we can go from here as a party. This could be it for the party as we know it. Everyone can see that the nightmare season of long knives is getting bloodier by the day and no one appears to have the appetite and capacity to stop this horror show.
“Zanu PF is in tatters and the (factional and succession) fights have become a fatal zero-sum game, a deadly fight in a tunnel where the only outcome possible is death for all. Who will be next?” the anguished bigwig asked ruefully, echoing the sentiments of many in the troubled party.
“I have said to you before that things are not looking good and I think they took a turn for the worse over the past few days. Many comrades are noting the fact that whereas previously, people pointed fingers elsewhere and found scapegoats among Gushungo’s (Mugabe’s) lieutenants for Zimbabwe’s problems, now they are looking squarely at him.
“Indeed, this current crisis is very different from anything that Zanu PF has had to deal with since Herbert Chitepo was murdered in Zambia and (Ndabaningi) Sithole was kicked out of the party in the 1970s.
“In fact, many people fear that Gushungo now faces more or less the same challenge that Ndabaningi faced in the 1970s. This is why some comrades believe it could be ‘mene, mene, tekel, parsin’,” another source said.
The biblical quote “mene, mene, tekel, parsin” is found in the Old Testament where words appeared on the wall during Belshazzar’s Feast (Daniel 5:25), and which were interpreted by the prophet Daniel to mean that God had doomed the kingdom of Belshazzar.