Saturday, December 12, 2009

Is Chiwenga really a potential future contender for the Presidency?

It is one of Mugabe's weaknesses that he has always preferred to keep closest to him lesser individuals who he can control. The reason he has always played Mujuru and Mnangagwa off against each other is that each presents a real threat threat to his position. Neither Chiwenga or Chihuri present any such threat - both were saved from ignominy by Mugabe and their future would be nothing without him. Both men were considerably junior to the now much less powerful Zimondi in 1979. Mugabe hand-picked them not for their strengths but their weaknesses.

Chiwenga's major weakness of course was his failure to make the grade at the end of his training course in Gweru in the early eighties. This was such a personal setback that he was driven to kill himself - the only problem was that he failed in that as well. The bullet intended for his heart passed straight through his chest and out his back without hitting the intended target.

Often people consider failed suicide attempts to be really cries for help. There is no suggestion that this was anything other than a genuine attempt but it served as the most effective cry for help Chiwenga could possibly have made. The then PM, Robert Mugabe, took pity on him and got the instructors involved to reverse their decision. He then got Chiwenga promoted to Brigadier in the first batch of post-independence commanders of the army's four brigades. Rarely, if ever, has anybody's rapid promotion through the ranks been so genuinely accidental.

Chihuri's rise owes as little to competence as Chiwenga's and was if anything even more unlikely. In the late seventies, Chihuri was under arrest - but not by the white regime in the then Rhodesia for his activity against the Smith regime, but in Mozambique for plotting against Robert Mugabe! Indeed he was only released at the insistence of the then Governor, Lord Soames.

Although most former guerillas were integrated into the national army, Chihuri had to settle for the police which he joined as a lowly patrol officer. He progressed rapidly through the ranks despite (or because of?) a growing reputation for corruption - indeed despite being the officer in charge of Nyanyadzi police station in Manicaland when the police funds there were misappropriated, he was transferred from there to Mutare on promotion to superintendent while the case was being investigated - by Mutare CID. His subsequent rise to Commissioner was accompanied by further scandal, particularly during his period as Deputy Commissioner, and it is thought that the hold Mugabe has on him as a result ensures his long-term and unswerving loyalty.

The current rumours about Chiwenga's aspirations for the Presidency in the event of Mugabe's death may owe something to the recent downturn in the political fortunes of Emmerson Mnangagwa. Chiwenga is not someone with a political power base of his own but he would feel very vulnerable if his current political patron lost power - for whatever reason. Because of their close co-operation on the JOC, Mnangagwa would have been best placed to provide political top cover for Chiwenga in the future. But Mnangagwa's dramatic loss of influence in recent weeks might conceivably have caused him to consider other options. Whatever he might be considering however, he could never be a serious contender for the top job and if he tried to use his current position to secure it, neither the party or the people would tolerate it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Succession contenders rumoured to include Chiwenga

The party congress plenary has barely started in earnest but the waves from the struggle for power within the party are already breaking over the delegates. Such is the state of things that rumours are even starting to circulate that the Chief of the Defence Forces Constantine Chiwenga may himself have designs on the Presidency. Of course it is well-known that before the March elections last year Chiwenga made clear that the army would support the President against the election of sell-outs. Anyone would think it was election time again so feverish are the rumours.

The current rumours appear to have been sparked initially by the Pomona affair. The mysterious disappearance of some 20-odd weapons from the Pomona army barracks in late October resulted in the arrest of an MDC man and a number of service personnel some of whom have been reported to have died in custody. This has led to considerable concern in the army as some of those arrested, including officers and war veterans, are alleged to have been tortured and/or died in custody. There is a suspicion that all is not as it seems - it rarely is in Mugabe's Zimbabwe - and that the theft of the weapons was in fact a conspiracy dreamt up by the top brass for political reasons - to try to implicate the MDC in coup-plotting.

Whatever the truth to these rumours, there is concern reaching up to quite a high level in the military about the mounting professional cost to the army of the personal political agenda of the the CDF. It was the heads of the security forces, Chiwenga and Chihuri in particular, who persuaded Mugabe to mount the campaign of intimidation that led to his uncontested re-election last year - their concern then was for their own necks, not the interests of the party, the army or the police. That campaign caused real damage to all three - though Mugabe was re-elected his legitimacy suffered definitive damage, forcing him into power-sharing.

If Mugabe had embarked on a negotiating procees in the immediate aftermath of the March elections he could have negotiated much better terms for himself and the party. As for the army and the police, many of whom were already disillusioned with the recent direction of the party they were the ones who were obliged to bear the consequences of their participation in the intimidation with the people.

Although the senior ranks felt this less than those in the front line, they still felt it. But what has aggravated a lot of more senior officers recently is that their promotion prospects are beginning to be adversely affected. Chiwenga is increasingly surrounding himself with fellow Zezurus. In fact there is said to be deep resentment across the security forces, particularly amongst the Karanga, at the over-promotion fo the Zezurus. It is almost as if their leaders increasingly surrounded and threatened by the forces of change are retreating into a Zezuru laager.

Of course Chiwenga is something of a mirror of his master in this respect. Mugabe's security chiefs are all Zezuru - Chiwenga commanding the Armed Forces, Chihuri the police, Zimondi the prisons, even Bonyongwe at the CIO. Of all of these however those who would appear to have done least to earn their current power are Chiwenga and Chihuri. They therefore are prepared to do almost anything to ensure Mugabe stays put. Their power base stems from solely from their relationship with him. This has only added to the widespread resentment in the ranks below them in their respective services because of their past history on which I will comment further later

Leadership uneasy as delegates congregate for Mugabe's speech to Congress

Although both the Politburo and the Central Committee have ratified the nominations for the presidium, the plenary session of congress opened by President Mugabe today meets in an atmosphere of unprecedented dissension. So nervous has the leadership become that journalists from the independent media are reported to be being barred from covering the event at the Harare International Conference Centre.This suggests that few are confident that the nominations will be confirmed without some opposition from the floor tomorrow.

It is almost as if all the frustrations that have been building up in the party over so many years are finally boiling over at this very public event. I had earlier voiced concern at the party's propensity to shoot itself in the foot. It looks set to surpass itself on this occasion. The factionalism that has re-emerged in the last few days came to a head on Wednesday when the provincial chairman of Manicaland province, Basil Nyabadza, resigned in a huff following heated arguments over the nomination of members to the presidium. With such bitter and open dissent between delegates at all levels of the party, the President is facing a real challenge over the next 24 hours to unite the party as was so badly needed. The increasingly wild speculation has even included suggestions that the Chief of Defence Forces intends to throw his hat in the ring for the succession.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Momentum at Last?

Ephraim Masawi may deny it, but there is widespread discontent within ZANU (PF) - see Denford Magora's story. Mugabe's efforts to silence other voices have failed. But it is tragic that free speech can only enter the Congress in the form of SMS: will anyone have the courage to speak freely in the conference centre?

At long last is it possible that we will have a meaningful Congress? Will our party finally begin to address its biggest issue, the succession?

And with Daniel Molokele's report that Tendai Wenyika, ZANU (PF) Youth Secretary for Harare Province, has called for an end to Mugabe's rule and of the "taboo" against discussing the succession, are we finally seeing the signs of change in our party?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dark Cloud Hangs over Presidium Nominations as Congress Delegates Arrive

Reports are reaching me that last minute efforts are afoot to change the nominations for the Presidium. At the very moment when we should be trying to bury the bitterness that has been engendered by the party provincial elections we seem determined to resurrect it. This would be a real disaster, not simply because it would be re-opening wounds that might otherwise start to heal but also because the only alternative candidates under consideration would be even worse for the party than the current line-up. It appears that President Mugabe himself may be the one who is trying to effect these last minute changes, possibly under pressure from others.

We are not going to regain the initiative by nominating Didymus Mutasa for the party chairmanship in place of Simon Moyo Khaya Moyo as is being suggested in some quarters. The only thing that can possibly recommend Mutasa to Mugabe is his unquestioning loyalty. He is a man who does not even have the support of his province - although he likes to see himself as the leader of the Manyikas, he is not popular there. And he is even less popular in the country at large - the people hold him in no small part responsible for Operation Murambatsvina. And since then he stated publicly that Zimbabwe would be better off with fewer people - therefore it would not matter if a few thousand died of hunger. It is incredible to think that our leadership might possibly have become so far removed from reality that that they should even contemplate having such a man leading the party. If he were from ZAPU, there might at least be some rationale given the long-standing convention of having a ZAPU man in the party chairmanship. If the factions in the party were now competing to alienate as many potential supporters as possible, they could scarcely choose a better candidate than Mutasa.

Sadly, the problems our party is facing stem largely from the fact that Mugabe himself remains at the helm. But even he realised after the March elections last year that the people no longer wanted him. Without the intervention of the security chiefs, the country might have avoided the violence and bloodshed of the presidential run-off that has so discredited us in the eyes of even our natural allies in Africa and Asia who had always stood by us in the face of an onslaught of criticism from the West. Liberation movements don't like to see their fellow liberation movements beating up their own people.

By allowing himself to be influenced away from the path his instincts told him to go down, Mugabe sacrificed his legitimacy and that of the party forcing him and them into signing the Global Political agreement and ulimately entering the inclusive government. Those same security chiefs have done everything possible to resist the implementation of the global political agreement that we as a party have signed up to and SADC has endorsed. They do not seem to understand that it is only through participation in - and ideally long-term domination of - the inclusive government that we can regain the intiative and our legitimacy in the eyes of the people. There is nowhere else for us to go as party - and if we are going to have any chance of winning at the polls next time round, we need to embrace implementation of the global political agreement sooner rather than later in order to secure a constitution that suits us. The longer we remain spoilers, the more we lose influence.

The theme chosen for the Congress, "United in Defence of our Natural Resources and People's Economic Empowerment", emphasises the right points provided the party can present a convincing programme to deliver. The fact is that the majority of the Zimbabwean people did not feel at all "economically empowered" at the time of last year's elections. As a result ZANU failed to emerge electorally empowered. The perception of the people was that the only people benefitting from the defence of our natural resources and the land redistribution programme were those people directly responsible around the President. The redistribution of land was long overdue but it has been done in a completely unplanned way. The vast majority of the farms in the country have rightly changed hands but not necessarily into the most deserving ones. Although there has been a distinct improvement in the economy since inflation has been brought under control, this has not filtered through much to the rural areas and the party is not as closely associated with that improvement as it should be. This is partly because we appear such reluctant participants in the inclusive government.

Equally the people do not see themselves as experiencing the benefits of the defence of our natural resources. Our security forces have been most visibly involved in the defence of our natural resources in places like Chiadzwa and what do they see there? They see plunder as the army and the police ride roughshod over the local population. It is not the lower ranks who are primarily to blame for this - it is their commanders who remain engaged in protecting their own interest rather than those of the wider population.

The sums of money generated by the trade of diamonds from the Marange area are thought to be enormous - millions daily. But who has seen the benefits? Not the local community, not central government, not even the party, which has had desperate difficulty raising the funds to cover the costs of the Congress. Today's Herald reports the frustration of the delegates with the poor administrative arrangements - one complained "we are being harrassed by the people who are supposed to be assisting us". Now delegates to the party congress are experiencing what many people in the country have been feeling in recent years. The people who have been most directly responsible for the well-being and security of the people are those who have made them feel most threatened, vulnerable and insecure.

ZANU (PF) Must Unite to Survive

With the Congress only days away, there is an inevitable tension between the need to show unity in the face of threats to the party's dominance in the political life of our country and the need to face up to the long-term problems facing us. The sad truth is that we find ourselves in this situation precisely because we have avoided addressing the long-term problems for so long we have agruably left it too late to salvage anything from the consequences.

What are the long-term problems we have failed to address? First and foremost, it is the succession issue. Arguably it is our failure to address this issue that has led to all our other problems. In President Mugabe we had a leader who stood head and shoulders above all his counterparts in Africa - at least until Nelson Mandela became President in South Africa in 1996. By this time of course, President Mugabe had already been in power for sixteen years. If there had been a mechanism, expectation and inclination for a change of leadership then, Mugabe's own legacy and the future of ZANU (PF) would both be looking much more secure today than they are.

So why has it been so difficult for us to change our leader in time to secure our party's future? There are a host of reasons but the biggest has probably been fear. No-one who has ever presented a serious challenge to Mugabe's pre-emininence has ever prospered. Whether the challenge has come from outside the ranks (as with Joshua Nkomo), or within (as with Sithole, Tongogara, Tekere, even Simba Makoni), it has invariably failed - sometimes with very unpleasant consequences for the challenger. At best a challenger could expect to lose any prospect of future political power, more often he is consigned to the political wilderness or worse still killed. The only way round this problem is to make the Presidency largely ceremonial and put a limit on not only the term of the President but on the number of terms he can serve.

If the President is ceremonial and is only in power for a limited period of power and the Prime Minister is leader of a party that has to be re-elected every four-five years, it is impossible for either to wield the long-term powers of patronage that inevitably corrupt the political process and those vying for power within it. Of course, such changes will not prevent the factionalism that has torn the party apart so much over the years but they would remove the need for so much of the factional warfare to be waged covertly.

Political parties will always contain within them individuals and groups with differing views and conflicting ambitions. Provided these can be aired, such differences should energise debate and with it the party. It is when different factions plot behind the scenes to destroy their rivals that the party gets damaged. This is what has happened to ZANU over the last 10-15 years and has been so much in evidence this year in the build-up to the party congress at the party provincial level.

This is why it is so important that we put the factionalism behind us now and focus on addressing the long-term issues. However uninspiring the nominees for the top posts may be, we will only tear ourselves further apart if we try to change them now. We must unite around them and require them to unite around a new way forward.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Congress Begins

With the Congress now upon us, our focus should be placed on how we can develop as a party. Most importantly, we need to deal with the twin issues of succession and leadership. We need to establish a process by which power within the party moves smoothly between one leader and the next. As long as there is uncertainty about the process, we will see infighting and back-biting.

There has been enough infighting already in the battle for influence that has accompanied the selection of the contenders for the Presidium and the Chairmanship of the Party. Both Emmerson Mnangagwa and Didymus Mutasa, are said to be deflated at being outsmarted by the Mujuru faction. Mnangagwa, whose influence with the President looked secure a mere couple of months ago, must now be seeing the Presidency slipping away from him. But does anyone really consider Joyce Mujuru a suitable alternative? The party needs to find an alternative who is also a credible figure internationally.

It is alarming that these are the two most credible alternatives we have. How is it that a party that had so much young talent when it came to power almost thirty years ago finds itself so bereft of such talent now? The party has stagnated with the passage of time because the leadership has been more concerned to preserve their position then to secure the party¿s future. Those who have identified the need for renewal have ended having to leave the party as a consensus to challenge the status quo has always eluded it

With Mugabe now 85, we can delay no longer. We have at the very least to identify and agree on the mechanisms for appointing a successor to Mugabe. What would happen if he were to die tomorrow? The party would not unite around either Vice-president, still less so the country.

As well as strong leadership, the party also needs improved accountability. This Congress will fall short of the celebratory success that it usually is. Where has all the money gone? We need to root out the corrupt elements within the party. Corruption bleeds funding away from the party and it gives us a bad reputation which our enemies can exploit.

Anyone inside ZANU (PF) who is honest with himself knows that these are important issues.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Politburo Dates Changed Again

What a farce. The dates of the Congress have again been changed. The Politburo will now be held on Wednesday 9 December, the Central Committee on 10 December, with the Congress being 11-12 December.

Rumours have it that Didymus Mutasa failed to consult President Mugabe or the party chairman when he moved it to the 15 December. And, as we now know, President Mugabe will be attending the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit.

Such an obvious lack of organisation only serves to make Morgan and the MDC more competent. We have a negative public image around the world, all this does is give the MDC more impetus to make us look disorganised and the MDC the ideal party to be in power. Let us stop this infighting and miscommunication and give the Zimbabweans the democratic government they truly deserve.

What does it say about a party when it cannot even organise its own events?