Themba Mthetwa | The struggle over ZANU PF succession has affected the texture of the democratic processes in Zimbabwe. The ramifications of the succession process are integral to the apparent disconnect between the actual practice of democracy and power egos of individual ZANU PF politicians.
The Zimbabwe government of ZANU PF has for many years used the military as a component of its political power base and authority. Retired military personnel and active informants are deployed to work in civilian arms of governance. The danger has been that the civil political processes and resolutions to political contests tended to incorporate the use force with the security services routinely called out to deal with domestic situations that needed civil intervention. The military by virtue should remain neutral and submit itself to political guidance but this balance in civil and military relations the in case of Zimbabwe is disturbed as the military is used as means of civil governance. This state of affairs is due to corrupt civilian politics and the protracted quest to protect illegitimate election outcomes. ZANU PF government regularly uses the coercive instruments of the police, army and intelligence agencies and militia groups to sustain its hold on power against the wishes of the people.
The result of the succession battles in ZANU PF can mean a generational shift with the old guard making way for a new generation of politicians. This power dimension may provoke generational tensions and conflicts in power struggles. The military can then play a major part in maintaining either the old guard or the new generation of leaders. The prevailing scenario in Zimbabwe politics where politics has become increasingly militarised, the military may as well support the installation of a successor of its choice that it will be able to control.
Military take overs are likely where the rule of law has collapsed; where due democratic processes are malfunctioning; where the constitutions is no longer respected or followed; where the existence of a judiciary has been tainted by political meddling and where power is centred on one person whose wishes and desires are the only ones that matter. Zimbabwe currently fits within this category and it makes it a fertile ground for opportunities for a coercive transfer of power.
The military is the trump card in the ZANU PF succession matrix. What is important at this stage of the succession battles within ZANU PF is not what the security personnel is saying in public but how they privately feel and think about the future leadership. The stake in the ZANU PF succession matrix is currently between Grace Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa. Private succession deals with individuals in the army by both Grace and Emmerson to proper up for support by the security service chiefs is very likely to be taking place now. The success of either Grace or Emmerson in winning the support of the army will depend on how attractive the offers are each one is proposing the to security chiefs and within the junior ranks.
As a matter of principle the deals are likely to include lucrative material rewards, financial packages and fringe benefits, protection to kept or attain top position and greater influence in governance. It is now almost impossible in Zimbabwe for the security services to abstain from meddling in the power matrix as the political culture has always drawn the security chiefs into the political processes by President Mugabe
The struggle over succession and divergent views between and the security services versus the aspiration of the public represents interesting key features of the succession matrix in ZANU PF. It revolves around three alternative power centres. These power centres include the influence of the military; the emergence of a new generation of political leaders (G40); and the preservation of the values of the liberation struggles by the old guard (team lacotse).
G40 which is believed to support Grace Mugabe appear to be attempting to form a new patronage movement based on the strategy of the youth and women movement as the core support base to exclude the old patrons of the liberation struggle. The eventual exclusion of President Mugabe from the G40 movement will come natural as the belief is that he is nearing the end of his life span. It is important to note that the current face of G40 movement is in fact President Mugabe. Old guard President Mugabe has turned away from the sacrifices of the liberation struggle in preference to the youth and the women wings. President Mugabe has been inducted in this extrovert G40 to work in unison with his wife. Team Lacoste which is believed to support Mnangagwa appear to seek to maintain the ethos of the revolution struggle and aspiring to recycle the old guard who feels that the sacrifices of the liberation struggle will be in vain if G40 took charge of the patronage ZANU PF system. Both the G40 and Team Lacoste are similar in that they both offer a one centre of power governance model that scarcely resonates with public sentiments in modern day politics. The one power centre negates the interests and wishes of the general populace but perpetuates the interests and wishes of one person.
Emmerson Mnangagwa was recorded introducing Chiwenga to the public at a rally in March 2016 describing Chiwenga as the “Commissar” but also emphasised that Chiwenga was not allowed to address people because of his position as soldier. Saviour Kusakuwere was the ZANU PF commissar then. Mnangagwa said, “The person I want you to meet today is our commissar. Do you know Chiwenga? Stand up Chiwenga so that people can see you.” Grace Mugabe on the other hand responded at one of her rallies by saying “Chiwenga! Come and shoot me!” At another separate rally Grace said, “No one can stop me. You will have to kill me to stop me”. It was not clear what actually provoked her to openly make the pronouncements but it is believed that she was infuriated by the Mnangagwa and Chiwenga association.
In August 2016 Commander General Constastine Chiwenga spoke to the media during the commemoration of the Heroes’ Day, “We are reading kumapepa paakatanga kuti when you want to destroy ZANU PF you need to do it within. They told us they will have youths who will take over. Was it not written? Do you think we are blind? Is it not happening now? They wish to destroy ZANU PF from within.” The statement was perceived to be directed to Prof. Jonathan Moyo who is believed to the brains behind the G40 and part of the think tank to the succession ascendance of Grace Mugabe. Was Commander General indirectly firing warning shots to Grace Mugabe by attacking a member of her faction? Time will tell.
The relationship between Grace Mugabe and Chiwenga based on her speech could be described as hostile while that one of Mnangagwa and Chiwenga again based on Mnangagwa’s speech can be described as cordial. Can this be a measure to gauge the position of the military in view of these two aspiring presidential ZANU Pf candidates based on Chiwenga’s verbatim? May be not? No security service personnel have come out making statements linking itself to Grace Mugabe. The view is that President Mugabe the face of G40 may be secretly setting up a group of security details designed to shield Grace Mugabe should she face resistance within the traditional army chiefs and the public in her bid to take up the presidency. Mugabe has done it in the past with the formation of the 5th brigade which was used to kill thousands of innocent people of Matabeleland just for the preservation of a one centre of power. The elite group of pro-Grace Mugabe security personnel is at most not likely to involve the current leadership in the security sector chiefs for reasons associated with their links to the liberation struggle and the war vets association. The war vets are currently in a war of words with President Mugabe openly asking him to step down.
The grand philosophy of the security chiefs that does support presidential aspirants without liberation credentials is yet to be tested in the case of Grace Mugabe if she happens to continue to pursue her aspirations of the top leadership in ZANU PF. Grace Mugabe does not have the liberation credentials, a position that goes against the ethos and values proclaimed by the security chiefs in the past about Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC. The security services commanders made up of the army, police and prison services have in the past held a joint televised declaring that they were not going to salute Morgan Tsvangirai if he were elected president of Zimbabwe because he did not have the liberation credentials. This position and declaration by the security chiefs was not contested by President Mugabe when it was announced. President Mugabe might have been the brains behind it. It will be interesting to know if President Mugabe still holds those same views today with his wife aspiring to be the next President of both ZANU PF and Zimbabwe.