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A SIEGE mood has engulfed ZANU-PF ahead of its elective congress possibly in the third quarter of this year with the bitter succession contest, an erstwhile hot potato in the ruling party, assuming a life of its own despite attempts by President Robert Mugabe early this year to quash subtle manoeuvres to succeed him. Ever since President Mugabe spoke out gly against those girding their loins to take-over from him in the event that he retires during a televised interview to mark his 90th birthday in February, there have been epoch defining moments in the governing party that seem to suggest that the divisive conundrum can only end once a successor has been anointed.

With congress drawing nearer and President Mugabe not giving any hint regarding his options, as usual, ZANU-PF has been plunged into uncertainty once again at a time when the country’s economy has entered a painful deflation mode. Whereas no one wanted to acknowledge the existence of factions in ZANU-PF in the past, the divisions are now so glaring that no amount of sugar-coating can hide their existence. Vice President Joice Mujuru and Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa ripped into those they perceive to be plotting to succeed the incumbent, describing them as “sell outs”.

The remarks were seen aimed at Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who, along with Mujuru, are said to be leading factions, scheming to succeed President Mugabe. Both Mujuru and Mnangagwa have denied leading factions. The latest outbursts seem to have been triggered by the confusion in the Midlands Province, Mnangagwa’s home-base, where a pro-Mujuru faction elected late last year, has struggled to find its feet due to resistance from a rival faction.

Despite spirited attempts to give the Midlands provincial executive traction, including at Politburo level, the infighting has continued to disturb the smooth functioning of the administration. Now, the resistance is subtly spreading to other provinces. Despite the denials, the divisions rattling ZANU-PF are more along tribal lines, with the dominant Zezurus pushing and shoving with the Karangas for power.

The other tribes, the Ndebeleles and the Manyikas in particular have been vacillating between these two tribes, although not always in unison since they are also battling their own internal fights over whom they should align with. Coming less than two months after President Mugabe read the riot act to the warring factions whose infighting nearly condemned ZANU-PF to the ranks of opposition in 2008, analysts reason that the longer the succession race drags, the more President Mugabe could lose control over who will succeed him.

“It is unclear at this stage on how long the President intends to hold onto power – and even his stepping down at the December 2014 congress is not assured and therefore uncertain,” observed political analyst, Trevor Maisiri.

The elective congress, which has traditionally been held around December, will be used to pick a new leadership at presidium levels and other senior party positions. A report by the United Kingdom-based Chatham House entitled: “Zimbabwe’s International Re-engagement: The long haul to recovery” digs into the state of the ruling party after it won last year’s elections.

“Within ZANU-PF, the factional strife among the camps of the different contenders is accelerating as its elite position for the party and national succession to President Mugabe recent reports suggest that Mnangagwa is in the box seat with the backing of the military and China… ,” reads part of the report. The report also fires a caveat that should President Mugabe see through his current term which expires in 2018, it is likely to be marked by increased hostilities and destabilisation within ZANU-PF.

“In what is likely to be a legacy presidency for President Mugabe, increased factional fighting over who will succeed him could lead to greater destabilisation… But although there is enormous speculation about who will succeed President Mugabe, and various stakeholders are jostling for current and potential future power, ZANU-PF has a tradition of consensus decision-making.”

Of immediate concern to President Mugabe is that the succession fights are now throwing spanners into current efforts to resuscitate the country’s economy and are even presenting themselves through inconsistencies at policy level. At government level, there has been rampant indiscipline that extends to Cabinet as evidenced by public spats between some of President Mugabe’s top officials.

A fortnight ago, one of President Mugabe’s ministers had a no holds barred go at his colleagues in the top echelons of the ruling ZANU-PF party. In a public broadcast aired live on ZiFM Stereo, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Christopher Mutsvangwa let it rip that he was displeased with his boss Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Joey Bimha, the Foreign Affairs permanent secretary, whom he accused of treating the ministry as a fiefdom and sidelining him in the process.

Mutsvangwa is thought to be a Mnangagwa loyalist while his bosses at the ministry are linked to the Mujuru camp. Mutsvangwa singled out the matter of the denial of a visa for First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe to travel to the EU-Africa Summit, which resulted in the President Mugabe boycotting the event. He said the duo had ill-aised the President and embarrassed the First Lady and if in fact they had consulted him, or at least allowed him access to the President, he would have aised to the contrary.

Perhaps, the most damning attack came from outspoken ZANU-PF Mashonaland West Provincial chairman Temba Mliswa who took aim at Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Jonathan Moyo of fomenting factionalism. Mliswa accused Moyo of being a Mnangagwa ally and of abusing the State media to fight the ruling party’s deadly factional wars.

Moyo responded by asking Mliswa to resign from his chairmanship saying the allegations sounded like they are coming from quarters that have been caught with their fingers in the till, in apparent reference to reports of a fallout between Mliswa and businessman Billy Rautenbach over a US$165 million consultancy fee that the Hurungwe West legislator claims to be owing from the businessman.

Even the fight against corruption has been mired in factional undertones. Both factions are attempting to protect their own from being exposed in what has become known as the salarygate. But as the factions engage in the dogfight, the economy has been thoroughly bruised. In recent months, the economy has shed more jobs on the formal market as wide-scale company closures take root, further reducing industry’s capacity utilisation. Further, the country has slipped into deflation for the first time since dollarisation in 2009.

Source : Financial Gazette