HARARE – Barely a month after holding its damp squib “elective” congress that was supposed to end the brutal factional and succession wars devouring Zanu PF, the party has booted out en masse its interim Mashonaland East provincial executive committee — as the ghost of former Vice President Joice Mujuru continues to hound the party.
This prompted a senior party official from the province to describe being a member of the former liberation movement as akin to being “in Hell” at the moment.
The central committee member told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that so fouled and riddled with “toxic suspicion” were relations in the party that “no one trusts anyone”.
“I’ve never witnessed such toxic suspicion in the party like this, not even during the terrible days of the struggle when we were in Mozambique.
“No one trusts anyone, not even those of us who spent years struggling together in exile. I had personally hoped that the ouster of Mai Mujuru from power would have calmed things down, but it continues to feel like Hell on earth,” the official who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation said.
The veteran politician spoke as the party’s Mashonaland East Province’s interim executive committee, led by Phineas Chihota — and which controversially took over from Ray Kaukonde’s team late last year — was itself booted out yesterday, and a 15-member interim committee imposed in its place.
This followed a meeting between newly-appointed Zanu PF political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, and the interim Mashonaland East executive committee in Marondera — leading to the acting committee being booted out and being succeeded by what the demoralised official described as the “new acting, acting provincial executive committee”.
“What is happening in the party is now a circus. Can you imagine that we now have a new acting, acting provincial executive committee?” the disbelieving member said, bemoaning the continued imposition of “unpopular and unelected leaders” in the province.
The new executive committee installed by Kasukuwere is led by former Mashonaland East governor and resident minister, Aeneas Chigwedere, whose deputy is Mashonaland East minister of State, Joel Biggie Matiza.
Speaking during the meeting Kasukuwere said the province should come up with new structures, adding that a new substantive provincial executive should be in place by April.
Kasukuwere is on a nationwide tour aimed at extinguishing the party’s never-ending fires at national, provincial and district levels — following ongoing votes of no confidence that have led to the controversial suspension of scores of party bigwigs on account of their perceived support for Mujuru, and that camp’s alleged plot to illegally oust President Robert Mugabe from power.
In the run-up to last year’s congress, Zanu PF removed all but one of its 10 provincial chairpersons in an unprecedented move that paved the way for hardliners linked to Mugabe’s quarrelsome wife, Grace, to take charge of the party and the government.
But with the stunning turn of events in Marondera, party insiders say more heads are going to roll as Kasukuwere continues with the latest, and more confusing crusade.
While Chihota downplayed the significance of the dissolution of his interim committee yesterday, analysts say the infighting in Zanu PF is set to get worse as those who targeted Mujuru were now themselves the new targets.
Just last week, there was more mindless bloodletting in the Matabeleland provinces, with police having to be called in to a Matabeleland South provincial coordinating committee meeting in Gwanda to quell disturbances that had erupted there.
The chaos ensued after prominent party members, who were “suspended” ahead of the party’s damp squib “elective” congress in Harare late last year, somehow attended the tense meeting and later flatly refused to leave the gathering when prompted to do so.
Among this group were former regional party spokesperson and Insiza South legislator Malaki Nkomo, Bulilima West legislator Lungisani Nleya, Senator Alma Mkhwebu, former deputy chairperson of the women’s league Clara Langa, and former secretary for lands Jabulani Phetshu Sibanda.
These members lost their party positions after they were accused of working with Mujuru to oust President Robert Mugabe from power, leading to controversial votes of no confidence being passed against them. The members only left the meeting reluctantly after police arrived at the venue and forced them out, amid their loud protestations that although it had been reported that they had been suspended, they had not been presented with any documents to either indicate or confirm the alleged suspensions.
And as this chaos was playing itself out, the anarchy devouring Zanu PF in Matabeleland North province continued unabated, after five members from Hwange were “suspended” for allegedly participating in demonstrations during an accreditation exercise ahead of the December congress.
Although Mujuru appears to have taken her brutal ouster from power by the combined forces of Mugabe, Grace and supporters of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in her stride, this has not stopped her Zanu PF enemies from continuing to want to destroy her completely.
Political analysts say this betrays the fact that although Mujuru appeared to be down and out, her detractors realised that she remained a force to reckon with both within Zanu PF and outside the party — and thus needed to be dealt with “once and for all”, so that she could never bounce back in future.
Mujuru was fired in December last year at the instigation of Grace who had threatened to deal with the former VP herself if her nonagenarian husband did not dismiss her.
Mugabe himself has openly admitted that Grace now tells him what to do.
Analysts also told the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, last week that Zanu PF’s continuing infighting, and growing speculation inside the party around the possibility of Mugabe relinquishing the reins of power before the end of his current term, betrayed the fact that many ruling party bigwigs were desperate for the nonagenarian to leave office. At the same time, there was almost 100 percent agreement among the analysts who spoke to the newspaper that it would be “nothing short of a miracle” if Mugabe willingly handed over complete power to one of his lieutenants anytime soon.
These sentiments came amid the political storm ignited by fraud-accused businessman and prominent Zanu PF member Energy Mutodi, who sensationally claimed on social media last weekend that Mnangagwa would succeed Mugabe by March this year.
Rather disappointingly, the musician-cum-politician did not say how his cryptic New Year wishes would come true.
Piers Pigou, southern African director of the International Crisis Group, said it was likely that speculation around Mugabe’s imminent departure and Mnangagwa taking over would escalate within Zanu PF, even as some senior party apparatchiks tried to argue, unconvincingly, that “succession was a non-issue”.
“But unless there has been a significant and rapid deterioration in his (Mugabe’s) health, it would make little sense for him to pull out … but the possibility of running out of steam is ever present given his age,” he said.
Mugabe took over from Malawi’s Peter Mutharika as Sadc chairman in
August last year, after the regional bloc controversially endorsed the outcome of Zimbabwe’s disputed 2013 elections.
The African Union will be conferring a similar honour on Mugabe this year, with the analysts saying regional and continental leaders were in a way also suggesting that these honorary positions were some sort of “golden handshake or farewell incentive” for him to hand over power in Zimbabwe.Dailynews