Home » Governance » Succession Question – Unpacking the Tribal Factor [opinion]

I NAIVELY included the following words in my article entitled: “Conversation on succession in Zimbabwe,” with no idea that the editor of the NewZimbabwe.com would choose to change the title to: “It’s Karanga Time – Stupid!” http:www.newzimbabwe.comnews-19582-Succession+… news.aspx. The phrase was extracted from the following paragraph: “Hon. Hungwe knows the true destination of the bus in which Hon. Mnangagwa appears to have no visible competitor after making President Mugabe the true leader of his faction. It’s Karanga time – stupid!!!!! Hon. Mujuru is now history and the process to alienate her completely with any organ of state is underway and appears to be irreversible.”

After some exchanges with Mr. Chofamba Sithole this morning, I feel compelled to address the issue of tribe as it relates to contemporary Zimbabwean politics in general and to members of Zanu PF in particular. At the outset, I wish to point out the context in which the Karanga word was invoked. I invoked the term because the true import of the constitutional amendments that were introduced at the last Zanu PF congress and the elevation of Hon. Mnangagwa to the position of Vice President has yet to be digested.

For a long time, Hon. Mnangagwa’s name has been associated with the succession issue within Zanu PF and the fact that he is now a Vice President regardless of how it came about is significant. Indeed, when Hon. Hungwe, the recently promoted Secretary of Production and Labour of Zanu PF, could not have been delusional when he introduced Hon. Mnangagwa at a gathering in Zvishavane to celebrate the elevation of Hon. Mnangagwa to his current position as the “Holy Son of Man.”

He was reported to have said that: “This man who has been made VP has various names that we all know but some of the names you don’t know them… He is known as the Son of Man… I can tell you that I received several texts from Bishop Andrew Wutaunashe (Leader of the Family of God church) telling me that the Son of Man will be ordained VP way before these things happened and I just told him that I had heard him because I know he is a Man of God.”

Hon. Hungwe is reported to have told the gathering that “Cde Mnangagwa behaved like a real crocodile which does not hunt for its prey but lies in wait in shallow water to strike prey that come for a drink. It’s a matter of calculation because a crocodile does not hunt but waits for its time…those who wanted it to strike in 1980 got it wrong. It only caught at the right time.”

So what time is it to Hon. Hungwe? It can only be Hon. Mnangagwa’s time. Who is Mnangagwa and who was at the celebration in Zvishavane and not Zvimba? It cannot be denied that Hon. Hungwe is a Karanga. It can also not be denied that Bishop Wutaunashe is also Karanga. It can also not be denied that geographically, Zvishavane is situated in Karangaland.

It can also not be denied that Mnangagwa contested against the late VP John Nkomo to be elected the National Chairman of Zanu PF. It also cannot be denied that following the late VP Muzenda, his name was touted as the successor to VP Muzenda.

Some argued at the material time that there was a tacit agreement that the President amp First Secretary of Zanu PF would be Zezuru deputised by a Karanga in the person of the late VP Muzenda. Naturally with the exit of the late VP Muzenda, there was expectation from the Karanga members of Zanu PF that the most senior Karanga, Hon. Mnangagwa, would step into the shoes of the late VP Muzenda. This was not to be as the Zanu PF women’s league, led by the former VP Mujuru, had other ideas. In fact, they asserted the gender card that proved to be more potent than the tribal card.

One would also accept the entrenchment of tribal politics in the DNA of the members of Zanu PF. If one accepts the premise on which the Unity Accord between the former Zanu PF and the former ZAPU, one can appreciate the construction of what is now referred to as the “Presidium” although in the run up to the Zanu PF congress, the word was taboo as it was used in a narrative that would have seen certain people promoted and others maintain their positions on the basis of seniority.

In fact, the Presidium was broadly defined to accommodate the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the two parties. As a consequence of the Unity Accord, the ZANU team assumed the Number 1 amp 2 positions with the former ZAPU leadership assuming Number 3 amp 4 positions.

This then paved the way for the two parties to unite. The first to exit was the late Father Zimbabwe, Dr. Joshua Nkomo. This created a vacancy at Number 3. In terms of ZAPU politics, his deputy now the National Chairman of Zanu PF, the late VP Msika, was then elevated to Number 3 leaving a vacuum at the Number 4 level.

On the ZAPU side, it was always known that underpinning the Unity Accord was a tribal construction that placed the former ZAPU as a Matabeleland party. It is worth noting that ZANU had failed to convince the people of Matabeleland that it could be trusted to protect their interests.

Accordingly, it was felt that it was important for the sake of national unity to have the people of Matebeland represented in the top hierarchy of Zanu PF notwithstanding the fact that on the ground the people of Matabeleland felt otherwise as reflected in their voting patterns. It is significant that Hon. Mnangagwa was nominated for the post of National Chairman and he did contest against the late VP Nkomo but lost.

It has always been the contention of many Karanga speaking members of Zanu PF that it was the wish of the late VP Muzenda that he be replaced by Hon. Mnangagwa. With the exit of the late VP Muzenda who is no longer available to speak for himself, it was the expectation of the Karanga team that nothing stood in the way of Hon. Mnangagwa’s elevation.

Then the Tsholotsho declaration unravelled whose tribal connotations necessarily need to be understood. In fact, in response to the constitutional amendment of the party’s constitution, the Tsholotsho team devised a plan involving the total overhaul of the top leadership of Zanu PF that involved the filling of the Number 2 to 4 positions with a new team.

It was argued then that the unity accord’s shelf life had come to an end and a new team needed to assume office to secure the future of the party post-President Mugabe. This plan threatened Number 3 amp 4 incumbents especially having regard to the fact that the gender challenge had been addressed constitutionally. When confronted with the inevitable collapse of the spirit of the unity accord, President Mugabe was forced to act in the manner he did to protect the spirit of unity. The Tsholotsho team comprising: Hon. Mnangagwa, Hon. Chinamasa amp the late Hon. T. Lesabe eventually understood the limits of ambition and the rest is now history.

Although it has been argued that Hon. Mnangagwa is the driving force behind the Mazoe Crush Project, it would appear that the project has its own owners who may have different views and aspirations. What they sought to achieve was to prevent the succession issue being resolved through the VPs. This was successfully achieved with the assistance of Hon. Mnangagwa who was evidently quick to recognize the “tsunami effect” of the Mazoe Crush Project and the fact that the authors of the Project were focusing on removing Hon. Mujuru and less so on the successor.

It would appear that without a spirited effort, there was no way of preventing former VP Mujuru from retaining her post. In fact, the trio i.e former VP Mujuru, SK Moyo and D. Mutasa seem to have reached an agreement that they naively thought would be acceptable to President Mugabe. They never saw the surprise entry of the First Lady. It would be recalled that the President who was so embarrassed by the Youth League congress was forced to request his wife to intervene with food. This humiliating experience exposed the President to the true state of affairs in the party.

People who know Hon. Mnangagwa would confirm that he could never act in the manner that the Mazoe Project has been executed. With the active participation of the First Lady, the scope of the project broadened to turn the party upside down. However, one lingering problem was the fact that the prevailing constitution provided a window for former VP Mujuru to escape the onslaught.

This then called for the constitutional amendment to remove the gender limitation clause. Having achieved this objective, it was necessary to frame the relief as an attempt to respect the unity accord meaning that the ZAPU nominees would not be the business of the former ZANU. That then left SK Moyo in the open. With respect to D Mutasa who obviously was using the tribal card to assert his ambitions on the make-up of the Presidium, arguing that the Presidium also need a Manyika flavour.

It is also instructive to highlight that the construction of Zanu PF’s constitution makes it difficult or impossible for anyone who is not from the Mashonaland provinces (including Harare) with four provinces in total and Matelebeland to assume the position of President of Zanu PF. Accordingly, the alliance between the Zezurus and Ndebeles is vital to secure the Presidency hence the intervention of both Hon. Zhuwao and Hon. Prof Moyo whose views on succession ought to be considered carefully.

With this knowledge, they were naturally surprised to learn of the celebrations when in truth and fact, their contention is that Mnangagwa’s shelf life is limited and, in any event, under the current Zanu PF constitution there is no way he can overcome the limitations imposed on anyone who is not Zezuru or Ndebele from assuming the position of President.

In light of the above, one can understand the death of the unity accord. For the first time, the Presidium will exclude the National Chairman. This amendment must have been informed by the desire to exclude SK Moyo from the Presidium when it was common knowledge that he had behaved as if the VP post was in the bag.

As things stand now, the Presidium has two former ZANU and one former ZAPU notwithstanding the fact that the credentials of Hon. Mphoko are being questioned. So there is a Karanga, a Ndebele and an incumbent Zezuru. With respect to succession, one would assume that the elevation of Hon. Mnangagwa places him in the succession pathway.

According to Hon. Prof Moyo and Hon. Zhuwao this is not the intention and certainly it is not part of the project suggesting that the post of President may very well be reserved for another person. When I used the words: “Karanga time” it was a cynical way of reminding people like Hon. Hungwe that they should be satisfied with a permanent Number 2 position. The article was written to open debate on the significance of Prof Moyo’s contention that the recent developments in Zanu PF and the state cannot and should not be construed in any way as having paved the way for Hon. Mungagwa to be the Number 1.

What is being suggested is that Hon. Mnangagwa is the choice of the President and that his relevance will terminate with the exit of the President. It would appear that they have no problem with him celebrating the Number 2 position, a position he could never achieve through democratic means as has been shown previously when he attempted to go for the National Chairperson and VP positions.

It is my take that although tribalism has been managed carefully by President Mugabe, this may not be the case after his exit. Surely, one does note Hon. Mnangagwa’s team to be naiumlve, especially after what has visited former VP Mujuru. They also are not immune to mud being thrown at them so that when the time comes they will not be saleable to party members and the general public.

When Zhuwao speaks of the need to create a “think tank”, being a tank in which thought leadership is exercised and informs choices, one must take note of the implications. The tank may very well contain poison for perceived potential stumbling blocks to the Mazoe Crush Project, including the VPs.

Source : New Zimbabwe