Home » Governance » The Zanu-PF Congress – the Triumph of the Securocrat State [column]

Was Mugabe party to the Tsholotsho affair until Solomon Mujuru and his allies stepped in? One of the casualties in the Tsholotsho saga confided in me years afterwards, indicating that “someone high up” had quietly encouraged the aenture. If so, then it might help to explain why, hardly a year or so after this Congress, the succession issue battle in Zanu PF was becoming an ugly battle between Mugabe and Solomon Mujuru.

THE 6th Zanu PF Congress has no doubt been a major landmark in the history of contemporary Zimbabwe. Therefore, it is an occasion about which to reflect on both its historical backdrop in the form of succession politics ever since the 1990’s, and the implications for Zimbabwe as the post Mugabe era is being born, against the background of the entrenchment of a securocratic state.

The Centrality of The First Family

Of course, central to the drama itself is the person of Mugabe and his wife Grace. For, how else to explain and describe the 90 days leading to the Congress, a period during which the First Lady so unceremoniously intervened and changed a succession outcome that had been all but sealed ever since Joice Mujuru was elected Vice President of Zanu PF at the 2004 Congress? The earlier suggestions that the First Lady’s campaign was merely an aberration were soon dispelled as the President himself laid into the act, virtually leading the pack as the politburo quickly confirmed this and that “vote of no confidence”, suspension or expulsion. A process completed at the Congress itself, with husband and wife – imperious and therefore in total control of the appointments in a would-be “elective” Congress – managing and concluding the slate that purports to be Zanu PF’s ruling elite for the next five years.

The Purge of The Majority: PartyState Conflation

Almost concealed and forgotten during that ceremony of splendour and fanfare, were the many casualties of one of the most vicious of succession wars of our time. (Only in Kenya under Daniel Arap Moi was there a similar succession-related purge, an occasion that heralded the process towards the Rainbow Coalition which yielded Kibaki as President in December 2002.) So, in the case of Zimbabwe in 2014, pre-empted and purged within weeks and days of Congress were 9 (out of 10) elected provincial chairpersons, some 100 (out of 160 legislators), about 10 (out of 20) politburo members, including Vice President Joice Mujuru herself. And within days of the conclusion of the congress, the Vice President was dropped from her post and Cabinet, along with at least 12 others who had been axed as part of the purge confirmed last Saturday.

It would be difficult to envisage such a scene in a conventional political environment, let alone expect an organisation to survive another day when it has purged itself of 90% of its provincial and senior leadership. But this, in essence, betrays the nature of “political parties” in post-independence Africa: these are mere movements, organisationally and ideologically vacuous sheer election platforms, surviving only in the event that they win state power with which they conflate into an insurmountable burden of incumbency.

For, it is the extent of that conflation, of whatever had remained of Zanu PF by the late 1990’s, and the state that explains how the latter’s resources were quickly mobilised and deployed to salvage the situation. What with a new “city” erected in a matter of days as the venue for Congress, and adorned and named after the President and First Lady 12,000 “delegates”, far in excess of the usual 3,000 to 4,000 elected and official number that normally grace a Congress and all for an estimated $8 million when Zanu PF is said to be $11, 5 million in the red.

Why Joice Mujuru Had To Be Purged

When all is said and done, there is this inescapable reality that Zanu PF under Robert Mugabe had long ago lost the social base in the form of the legitimisation that comes with popular support in the population that Joice Mujuru represented the party’s revival in a society which, perhaps unfairly in this regard, identified all its misfortunes and tribulations with the person of Robert Mugabe and that neither the nonagenarian, his family, individual politicians opposed to Mujuru for personal reasons, nor those dependent upon Mugabe’s patronage for their survival, were confident of a future under her. Also, as became evident during the vicious campaign against her at the hands of the First Family in particular, and the state media in general, Joyce Mujuru had become the eye of the storm in the opposition forces in Zimbabwe, within Zanu PF itself, the MDC’s, MavamboKusileDawn, ZAPU and civic society generally.

With respect to Robert Mugabe himself, the political crisis at hand lends credence to the rumours, reports and conclusions that he had not won a single election in his own right since those of 2002. The publication, during this furore of the Khampepa Report on the 2002 presidential election in Zimbabwe, only fuelled these suspicions likewise Mugabe’s gaffe about Tsvangirai winning 73% of the vote in the 2008 election and George Charamba’s jibe that many a Zanu PF member of parliament would not know how they won in the 2013 elections.

Certainly, the history of disputed (andor rigged) elections is almost synonymous with Mugabe and yet this simultaneously projects the man who has nonetheless held out, since 2002, in the face of a national convergence against him a SADC (sub-region) whose main objective of “facilitation” in the Zimbabwe political process since 2002 has been the search for an appropriate exit for the veteran nationalist and an international community (read the West) for whom “sanctions” were designed to effect “regime change”.

Origins of Succession Politics: The Depletion of Zanu PFMugabe’s Social Base

In historical terms however, Robert Mugabe might be the proverbial scapegoat, albeit a willing one, in a post-liberation Zimbabwe which, given the well-known vagaries and pitfalls associated with the post-colonial state, gradually lost its social base. For, such are the historical paradoxes of political independence in Africa: the contradiction between socio-political emancipation and progress on the one hand, and the continuity of the colonial economy on the other how, in Zimbabwe, the education revolution, for example, became both the budget crisis and unemployment nightmare by the turn of the 1990’s and how the attempt to resolve such a structural problem through ESAP in turn gave birth to mass unrest, the 9 December 1997 “stay away”, the food riots of January 1998 and the birth of the opposition MDC in September, 1999.

Herein lie the origins of succession politics in Zimbabwe, in particular the belief within the Zanu PF leadership, then and now, that the mere change of leader at the top would simultaneously deal a blow to the opposition, improve relations with the international community, and grow the economy. This was quite apart from the leadership rivalry and conflict between Mugabe and his former fellow detaineescomrades such as Edgar Tekere and Enos Nkala during the 1980’s. Nor the narrative of how Mugabe emerged, against the background of a military-dominated ZANU in the 1970’s, to become the unchallenged leader at independence and beyond, largely on the strength of his alliance with Rex NhongoSolomon Mujuru, the “kingmaker” who, from the 1990’s onwards, became a thorn in the flesh for Mugabe, in the vain crusade to have the veteran nationalist step down.

The 1999 Congress: The Expectation That Whoever Became National Chairman Wold Succeed Mugabe in 2002

Therefore, the 1999 Congress was the occasion for the first succession-related-battle, however muted, subtle and indiscernible as it might have been. Solomon Mujuru, was at the centre of it. With no clear alternative to Mugabe in mind at the time, the plan was to put in place a new National Chairman who, given the perceived unsuitability of the two Vice Presidents Simon Muzenda and John Msika, would become Zanu PF’s presidential candidate in 2002.

As it turned out, the major undertaking on the part of Solomon Mujuru and his allies (prominent among them, Eddison Zvobgo and Josiah Tungamirai) was to pre-empt Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Solomon Mujuru wanted him to be Zanu PF presidential candidate in 2002 … The late John Nkomo

John Nkomo of (PF-ZAPU) won the contest and thereby fuelled hopes that the other part of the Patriotic Front would soon have its turn for the party and state presidency. Whatever the case, the main import of the 1999 Congress was to underline, at least in the minds of the “kingmakers”, that the succession process had begun in earnest and to ensure that Emmerson Mnangagwa goes nowhere near the throne.

The case against Mnangagwa’s candidature appeared difficult to ascertain precisely, except for factors mostly political: the more specific related to what was perceived as his junior position in the nationalist and military hierarchy at the time the unfair aantage he had earned as both Mugabe’s personal security aide since 1977 and Minister of Security since 1980 and the perception that, as one close to the President, he was not only the latter’s favourite but also likely to maintain and sustain that leadership style about which opposition to Mugabe had grown over the years.

Perhaps, it is fair to add also the lingering perception among citizens in any given country, that a former Minister of Security is hardly one to be trusted in a democratic dispensation and, in the case of Emmerson Mnangagwa, his detractors cite his role as the security supremo during various atrocities such as Gukurahundi. But for Eddison Zvobgo in particular, Emmerson Mnangagwa lacked the political stature and credentials with which to contest a presidential election and win.

On the other hand, however, Emmerson Mnangagwa painted the ideal figure in the eyes of Western factors for whom a “g” and “no-nonsense” type of leader was required, in conformity with the “eurocentric” conception of the African nation-state which would otherwise descend into tribal wars, unlawlessness and the consequent threat to (their) economy. Both the latter consideration and his historical relationship with Mugabe (with whom he lived briefly in the early 1950s when Mugabe was on a teaching stint in Mberengwa) appeared to have always rendered him a g candidate for succession, assuming the incumbent had his unfettered way.

As history would have it, Mugabe has survived beyond the 2002 elections even if, as has already been explained, these were as disputed as the subsequent ones of 2008 and 2013. In retrospect, it appears self-evident that Robert Mugabe has never considered retirement or succession as an option. “These are words”, said Edgar Tekere, some years ago, “which don’t exist in Mugabe’s vocabulary.”

Post-2002: The Abortive ‘Exit Plan’

All the same, the 2002 election and its immediate aftermath appeared to have dented Mugabe’s confidence and, as will be discussed shortly, this might have caused him to consider an “exit plan” by the end of that year most of his politburo members – especially the likes of Solomon Mujuru, Dumiso Dabengwa and Eddison Zvobgo – had not been enthusiastic about his bid for re-election, leaving him to rely for his election campaign, on the likes of Jonathan Moyo and other “young turks” who had been appointed to cabinet after the 2000 general elections.

Also, according to some sources, Obasanjo and Mbeki acknowledged Mugabe had lost the election and, it is said, Mugabe had quietly mandated the South African president to help search for the successor from among the Zanu PF leadership (with Simba Makoni featuring g in 2002-3 till Joice Mujuru’s election as Vice President in 2004).

By January, 2003, the military leadership in Harare had almost succeeded in organising a “safe exit” for Mugabe, with a little help from the Western capitals. This refers to a story broken in the Sunday Mirror (of which I was publisher) on 12 January, 2012, a subject which received a more detailed analysis by Blessing-Miles Tendi (in the Journal of Southern African Studies, Dec. 2013).

Through the services of a former Rhodesian soldier, one Colonel Lionel Dyck and his business associates, General Vitalis Zvinavashe sought to establish a power- sharing government to be headed by the then Speaker of Parliament, Emmerson Mnangagwa, with Morgan Tsvangirai as one of the Vice Presidents. (My enquiries at the time also revealed that Dumiso Dabengwa had been approached with an offer to be the other Vice President, but he declined). The plan, according to Dyck’s own confession to Tendi, was designed to address the “crisis of political legitimacy alongside deepening economic decline”, following the disputed March 2002 election:

“I said to Zvinavashe that the solution was to give Mugabe a chance to retire properly. ‘What if I get permission from the international community for Zimbabwe’s constitution to be changed to allow Mugabe to handpick a successor?’, I said to Zvinavashe. Zvinavashe said if I can do it, I should do it. So I went around speaking to the (British) Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the American Assistant Secretary for Africa (Walter) Kansteiner. It was interesting, talking to the Brits and Americans, that they were quite happy for Zanu (PF) to continue in power for as long as Mugabe was not there. I kept relaying my dealings with the Brits and Americans to Zvinavashe. Rex (Nhongo) knew what we were up to. He was thrilled with the plan for Mugabe to leave office but cold on Mnangagwa. Rex and Mnangagwa were not cosy.”

Morgan Tsvangirayi refused to be part of what he described as a “dirty plan” designed to “legitimise the rogue regime”. Both Zvinavashe and Mnangagwa denied involvement once the story hit the headlines. Mugabe described the Zvinavashe-Dyck “exit plan” as “foolhardy” and “counter-revolutionary”.

Yet, could such a plan have gone that far without Mugabe’s consent, let alone knowledge of it? There is more than meets the eye here: some suggest that the plan might have carried the day were it not for Solomon Mujuru’s opposition to it. Certainly, it was Solomon Mujuru who leaked the story to the Sunday Mirror and might have also leveraged on Morgan Tsvangirai to jettison what appeared a done deal. And, so, with Solomon Mujuru now out of the way, might it be possible for Mnangagwa to emerge finally as the successor? Or, as some cynics are suggesting, could there be a link between the demise of Solomon Mujuru in 2011 and the political misfortunes of his widow in 2014?

The 2004 Congress

To the extent that Solomon Mujuru remained a major factor in the politics of succession in Zimbabwe, should explain in part the emergence of Joice Mujuru as Vice President at the Congress in 2004, even though both Mugabe and his wife declared, during Congress closure last Saturday, that it was an outcome which the First Family celebrated. Significantly, Oppah Muchinguri constituted a major agency, through the Women’s League, for Joice Mujuru’s ascension to power in 2004. Therefore, equally significant that she is the one who mobilised the First Lady into that campaign that resulted in Joice Mujuru’s fall in 2014.

Mugabe knew about and encouraged Tsholotsho plot? … Jonathan Moyo

The question is whether Mugabe was serious and sincere when he declared, at the conclusion of the 2004 Congress that the new Vice President should aim “higher”, thereby virtually anointing her as his successor, at the expense of Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Tsholotsho gang, which had been unceremoniously stopped in its track, three days before the 2004 Congress. Or, was Mugabe party to the Tsholotsho affair until Solomon Mujuru and his allies stepped in? One of the casualties in the Tsholotsho saga confided in me years afterwards, indicating that “someone high up” had quietly encouraged the aenture. If so, then it might help to explain why, hardly a year or so after this Congress, the succession issue battle in Zanu PF was becoming an ugly battle between Mugabe and Solomon Mujuru: from the standoff at the Zanu PF Conference in Goromonzi in 2006, to the Extraordinary Congress in December 2007, and, finally, the “Bhora Musango” campaign of the elections of 2008. And, of course, these happenings around the 2014 Congress.

No doubt, the campaign to unseat Mugabe (in favour of Joice Mujuru) intensified in anticipation of the 2008 harmonised elections. While it will remain an issue for debate and speculation whether an alternative candidate to Mugabe would have saved Zanu PF in 2008, the incumbent had by 2007 become an obvious liability to both the Party and country, a view widely shared as much in his own Party as in the nation at large. Yet Mugabe stood his ground and defied the odds: he survived the humiliation of the Goromonzi Conference in December 2006, fought off Solomon Mujuru and his allies at the fiery politburo meeting in March 2007, and emerged triumphant at an Extraordinary Congress, in December 2007, an event which had been billed to replace him as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2008 harmonised elections. (A fatal mistake had been made by Solomon Mujuru and his allies who included most of the party leadership: the vote was by show of hands instead of the secret ballot which would have certainly seen Mugabe pack his bags on that day.)

The MavamboDawnKusile Factor

Mugabe’s anger at the happenings since the Goromonzi Conference was palpable during his birthday interview in February 2007, coinciding as this occasion did with the publication of Edgar Tekere’s autobiography, A Lifetime of Struggle. Some analysts within the State have tried to establish a relationship between Tekere’s book and the emergence of the MavamboKusileDawn (MKD) movement. There was no such link whatsoever, except that Edgar Tekere represented what George Charamba had described dismissively and disparagingly as “renegades” (The Herald, 6 December, 2014), former members of the national liberation movement who constituted by 2007 a significant opposition to Robert Mugabe, even though only few of them made concert with the MDC. The MKD idea began with representatives of these many disgruntled comrades, following a public meeting at Rainbow Towers on 4 December, 2007.

Neither Solomon nor Joice Mujuru were involved in the MKD formation. On the contrary, MKD was an expression of anger at Solomon Mujuru’s “act of cowardice ” at the failure to achieve the desired outcome at the Extraordinary Congress, the need to reassert the principles and objectives of the national liberation struggle, and thereby pre-empt a victory by the MDC at the elections in 2008. For some of the comrades, MKD was seen as a possible future opposition, made up as it would be of comrades from the liberation days, against what happened in 2007 as an inevitable MDC victory in 2008.

Deployed to ensure Zanu PF MPs won but Mugabe didn’t? … Mavambo leader Simba Makoni

Even though the MKD mission became distorted and less focused in the months leading to those elections, it is nevertheless true that it found support across the spectrum of Zimbabwean society, among the former members of the national liberation movement, inside and outside the state, and in Zanu PF itself. To that extent, MKD will have been contributed to the “Bhora Musango” phenomenon which resulted in Mugabe losing the presidential election while many of the ZANU PF candidates secured their seats in parliament.

The Post-2008 Elections: A New Lease of Life For Mugabe and The Entrenchment of The Securocrat State

So, an election outcome which would have otherwise marked the end of Mugabe’s long political career turned out, most ironically, to have been a new platform for a period during which he has demonstrated a remarkable resolve to stay at the helm of power indefinitely. The events around the 2008 elections had also highlighted the fundamental role of the securocratic state, built over time against the backdrop of the liberation war history, the depletion of the social base without which the state became more central, and a patronage system – especially since 2000 when the land reform programme became also the gravy train for many of the military and security elite – which strengthened loyalty to Mugabe and Zanu PF (now conflated with the state). The “diamonds story”, beginning as it did at the height of the economic meltdown in 2007, will have fuelled the securocracy which might have run aground for lack of resources were it not for the revenues obtained, illicitly and otherwise, from the sale of diamonds.

Besides, the 2008 elections exposed the danger of an uncertain future had the MDC been allowed to succeed in its mission. Hence the resolve and impunity with which the securocrats unleashed violence, across most of the traditional Zanu PF areas, during the period between the March and June “run off” elections. It was a poignant reminder, for the foreseeable future, that securocracy is a viable alternative to electoral and democratic enterprises. And so patronage and violence (or the threat thereof) became the twin pillars of Mugabe’s rule: the securocrat state underpinned the period of the Government of National Unity during which the MDC was rendered weak and impotent, while the securocrats arduously and systematically prepared for the 2013 elections and, in many respects, therefore, the Zanu PF Congress in 2014 marks the triumph of the Securocrat state.

Conclusion: Whither Zimbabwe

The situation has all the hallmarks of a conventional dictatorship in the political economy definition of the term: a decisive and thorough going purge of any one – or anything – that purports to be opposed to the First Family and its state an amazing disdain for, and apparent obliviousness to, the political and economic realities that constitute the Zimbabwe crisis a relentless determination to rule ad nauseam, regardless of the consequences.

That, in short, describes the Zanu PF Congress outcome, the purge of an elected Vice President and several of her Cabinet colleagues, and the marginalisation, by exclusion from the Central Committee of the party, of at least 100 (out a total of 160) legislators. Significantly, those purged out of the leading ranks of the party include a large proportion of former liberation combatants, especially those who constituted the provincial executives of Masvingo, Manicaland and Mashonaland Central Provinces. Indications are that the cleansing will not end here, to be extended to the state bureaucracy itself, the defence and security forces. There appears no end in sight for this relentless logic.

The new leadership which Mugabe is putting together in both party and state will, of course, include elements who have been central in the evolution of the securocrat state. They are part and parcel of the latter, particularly ever since the bloody campaigns of the post-2008 elections, and will have been the instruments for the current “clean up”.

There are immediate concerns that arise herein. Firstly, whether the purge that has accompanied the recursion of the Zanu PF Congress in a well-thought our plan, originating in the violent campaign of the post-2008 elections and consolidated during the GNU and at the choreographed 2013 plebiscite. If so, what has been the role of illicit revenues from the diamonds since 2007, and which of the external factors are complicit in support of this securocratic enterprise.

Second, if all this is designed to safeguard the interests and future of the First Family in the first instance, will the new “custodial” leadership live up to both the political and economic challenges at hand, and when Mugabe finally departs in the not too distant future?

Time will soon tell.

Source : New Zimbabwe

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