Zanu-PF: Mil­i­tary ver­sus civil­ians

New fac­tions are emerg­ing in the rul­ing party as it pre­pares for na­tional elec­tions in ei­ther July or Au­gust

Mail & Guardian - - Africa - Lizwe Solomon

Zim­babwe’s rul­ing ZanuPF party launched its 2018 elec­tion man­i­festo in glitzy fash­ion at a Harare ho­tel on Fri­day May 4, but its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa, is not as­sured of a smooth ride into the elec­tion.

A date for the cru­cial na­tional elec­tions has not yet been an­nounced but Zim­babwe’s five-year elec­tion cal­en­dar stip­u­lates that the rit­ual should be held some­time in July or Au­gust.

The vot­ers’ roll, pre­pared un­der the new bio­met­ric reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem, is still be­ing fi­nalised.

Fri­day’s man­i­festo launch adds heat to an in­creas­ingly fever­ish mood that has gripped the coun­try ahead of the elec­tions, which, for the first time, won’t fea­ture for­mer pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe and for­mer leader of the Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai, long­time du­el­lists in this fix­ture.

Mu­gabe was top­pled in a soft coup in Novem­ber and was re­placed by Mnan­gagwa. Ts­van­gi­rai died on Valen­tine’s Day af­ter los­ing his bat­tle with can­cer.

The elec­tion will be his­toric in more ways than one.

But be­fore Mnan­gagwa be­gins to worry about fac­ing his main op­po­nents in the op­po­si­tion par­ties, he must get his own house in or­der.

Zanu-PF’s pri­mary elec­tions, held last week, a few days be­fore the man­i­festo launch, showed that the fac­tion­al­ism that haunted the party dur­ing Mu­gabe’s ten­ure is still alive and well — even if the fac­tions them­selves have changed.

There used to be G40 and La­coste, the fac­tions aligned with for­mer first lady Grace Mu­gabe and Mnan­gagwa re­spec­tively. Now we have a strug­gle for power be­tween the mil­i­tary el­e­ments that led the coup and the civil­ian wing sym­pa­thetic to Mnan­gagwa — mainly the vo­cal but largely pow­er­less war vet­er­ans.

So far, the mil­i­tary wing is com­ing out on top.

Mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity ser­vice chiefs com­mand huge in­ter­ests in po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness af­fairs in the coun­try, which they are keen to pro­tect and con­sol­i­date.

When Mnan­gagwa, seen to some ex­tent as a prod­uct of the army’s benev­o­lence, nes­tled into Mu­gabe’s place, he quickly re­warded the mil­i­tary with key po­si­tions in gov­ern­ment. He gave for­mer army com­man­der Con­stantino Chi­wenga the po­si­tion of vice-pres­i­dent, and re­tired ma­jor gen­eral Sibusiso Busi Moyo, the man who an­nounced the mil­i­tary takeover on Zim­babwe Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion on the morn­ing of Novem­ber 15, got the key po­si­tion of min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs.

For­mer air mar­shal Per­ence Shiri was re­warded with a port­fo­lio as land min­is­ter, and re­tired ma­jor gen­eral En­gel­bert Rugeje was handed the po­si­tion of na­tional po­lit­i­cal com­mis­sar in the party.

Mnan­gagwa threw more gifts at the army by way of pro­mo­tions of per­son­nel and re­wards in civil­ian roles.

It is an open se­cret that mil­i­tary head hon­chos are now firmly in line for suc­ces­sion in Zanu-PF, with Chi­wenga an­gling to suc­ceed Mnan­gagwa as early as 2023. Chi­wenga has been shor­ing up his own sup­port, cre­at­ing what is seen as another cen­tre of power.

This has, in turn, buoyed lesser sol­diers, who have tried to mus­cle out their civil­ian coun­ter­parts at var­i­ous lev­els in po­lit­i­cal af­fairs. They believe they are the real power in the party, not un­jus­ti­fi­ably, which brings into ques­tion the ex­tent of Mnan­gagwa’s con­trol.

Those who are less gen­er­ous think he is some­where be­tween a hostage and a stooge of the mil­i­tary.

The uneasy re­la­tions be­tween Zanu-PF’s mil­i­tary and civil­ian wings were high­lighted at the re­cent party pri­maries. There were wide­spread re­ports of mil­i­tary lead­ers at var­i­ous lev­els in­ter­fer­ing in the se­lec­tion of can­di­dates, of­ten ma­nip­u­lat­ing pro­cesses to favour for­mer ser­vice­men or their lack­eys.

This led to a number of civil­ian lead­ers, in­clud­ing Chris Mutsvangwa — a key Mnan­gagwa ad­viser — los­ing in Nor­ton, a con­stituency just out­side Harare.

Paul Mang­wana, largely ac­claimed to be the le­gal brains be­hind the coup and another top Mnan­gagwa ally, also fell by the way­side. So did Op­pah Muchin­guri Kashiri, the party’s chair­woman.

Mutsvangwa, a for­mer am­bas­sador to China, was so livid about his loss that he raised the red flag that Mnan­gagwa could lose the next elec­tion.

He had no kind words for Rugeje for us­ing po­lice­men as elec­tion of­fi­cials in the elec­tion, amid other ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Apart from pos­si­ble ma­nip­u­la­tion, the or­gan­i­sa­tion of the pri­maries was so chaotic that the ex­er­cise could not be done in a day, as planned, and had to be rolled over into the next.

Sources at­tribute this to Rugeje and his army co­horts’ in­abil­ity to con­duct civil­ian pro­cesses.

Much worse, said sources, is that the mil­i­tary el­e­ments have sought to dis­place other se­cu­rity arms such as the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Or­gan­i­sa­tion, which has ex­pe­ri­ence in han­dling se­cu­rity-re­lated civil­ian pro­cesses.

But Mnan­gagwa ap­pears un­fazed — some­thing not un­ex­pected of a man who with­stood a bar­rage of per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal at­tacks from Robert and Grace Mu­gabe at the height of last year’s fac­tion­al­ism.

Re­mark­ing on the chaotic pri­maries, he sim­ply said these were “teething prob­lems”. He has also down­played the emerg­ing fac­tion­al­ism.

The com­ing elec­tion is in many ways a le­git­i­macy show for Mnan­gagwa, at home and abroad.

He is seek­ing to com­plete the tran­si­tion from Mu­gabe’s rule by win­ning a pop­u­lar man­date that ban­ishes ques­tions about the source of his power. Only then he can flex his mus­cles, which could pos­si­bly in­clude deal­ing with over­am­bi­tious army el­e­ments.

The man­i­festo he launched on Fri­day has some lofty am­bi­tions on eco­nomic growth and so­cial ser­vice pro­vi­sion, and high­lights the im­por­tance of mend­ing re­la­tions with the international com­mu­nity.

The man­i­festo prom­ises to “trans­form Zim­babwe into a mid­dlein­come econ­omy by 2030. The party will fo­cus ag­gres­sively on re­open­ing the coun­try for busi­ness with the global econ­omy com­mu­nity so as to re­build our in­dus­tries, cre­ate more jobs, erad­i­cate the scourge of poverty and uplift peo­ple’s liveli­hoods.”

It prom­ises to at­tain an eco­nomic growth rate of at least 6% a year over the pe­riod from 2018 to 2023.

Mnan­gagwa says the party will ac­cel­er­ate the har­mon­i­sa­tion of in­vest­ment laws to im­prove the ease of do­ing busi­ness in the coun­try, in­crease the pro­vi­sion of ru­ral elec­tric­ity, build rail and road net­works and en­hance the science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, arts and math­e­mat­ics pro­grammes.

The man­i­festo con­tains some fa­mil­iar themes about the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle, black em­pow­er­ment and in­di­geni­sa­tion and up­hold­ing land re­form.

As am­bi­tious as it sounds, ZanuPF’s man­i­festo is more muted than that of the op­po­si­tion par­ties, which are promis­ing heaven, com­plete with bul­let trains, air­ports in ru­ral ar­eas and United States dol­lars in peo­ple’s pock­ets.

High hopes: Peo­ple use boards to make a por­trait of Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa at In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tions. Zanu-PF’s man­i­festo, launched by Mnan­gagwa, has a laun­dry list of is­sues the party prom­ises to ad­dress. Photo: Jeke­sai Njik­izana/AFP

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