- Published: 14 January 2015
- Written by dailynews
President Robert Mugabe faces possibly his biggest political challenge since he assumed the leadership of both Zanu PF and Zimbabwe, with his one-time trusted lieutenants evolving into a formidable tag-team in a determined bid to pressure him to reverse his recent controversial appointments and expulsions.
The pressure could see Mugabe completely losing his tight grip on Zanu PF and ultimately leading to the 90-year-old losing leadership of the party.
Serving party heavyweights, liberation war pioneers and analysts yesterday said the latest "frontal attack" on Mugabe by disaffected members sympathetic to former vice president Joice Mujuru had "never been witnessed before" and threatened to sweep the nonagenarian out of power.
They also blamed Mugabe's wife Grace and some "Mafikizolos" (Johnny-come-latelies) for "the self-inflicted mess" that now confronted Mugabe and Zanu PF.
These sentiments followed the unprecedented move by many party stalwarts on Monday, including perceived allies of Mujuru, to confront Mugabe head-on — a development analysts say is set to shake the ruling party to its core, and possibly result in the party of liberation splitting down the middle.
The party heavyweights, led by former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, have bluntly called Zanu PF's damp squib "elective" congress that was held in Harare late last year "null and void".
They also, ominously, pooh-poohed all the party appointments and changes that were made just before, during and after the controversial congress — pitting themselves for a titanic showdown with Mugabe, Grace and party hardliners who led the assault on Mujuru and all party officials who were perceived to be sympathetic to her.
A press statement that was provocatively signed by Mutasa in his capacity as the ruling party's secretary for administration, said "in the broad interest of democracy and in defense of the Zanu PF founding principles", the disaffected party members called for the nullification of the entire process of "the so-called congress", deeming it constitutionally flawed.
They also agitated for the re-instatement of "the entire constitutionally-elected office bearers of the party in all structures of all wings, as at the 1st of July 2014".
The no-holds barred statement also called for the nullification of all "purported constitutional amendments drafted and rail-roaded immediately before this so-called congress", as well as the restoration of the "elective dignity of congress and the one-man one-vote principle as enunciated by our armed struggle and constitution".
The statement shook the local political world yesterday and prompted many serving Zanu PF bigwigs to proclaim in interviews with the Daily News that they were ready to join the disaffected members in their fight to "restore Zanu PF to its former self" and end the party's dictatorship.
"Just watch this space, we have suffered enough," said a central committee member who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation. Since the liberation struggle, people have been treated unfairly and there is no justice in the party. We want Zanu PF to return to its founding principles and values and it is time that we all joined hands and ended this dictatorship," the official added.
Former party spokesman Rugare Gumbo, who was initially suspended and then expelled altogether from Zanu PF, said he too yearned for the party's "return to democracy".
"We want to restore Zanu PF to its founding principles of democracy and constitutionalism," he said.
Asked if he was not afraid of confronting the often brutal ruling party bigwigs, Gumbo said, "Why should we be afraid? We want our rights to be respected. If you are afraid of such things then you should be afraid of your shadow".
A war veteran and former member of Zanla's High Command, Bernard Manyadza, described Mutasa's statement as a "watershed", as well as a necessary initial step towards restoring the country's battered economy and fouled politics.
Manyadza, whose nom de guerre was Parker Chipoyera, said the ruling party should now reconvene and restore structures obliterated during the party's turbulent build-up to its much discredited congress.
"That watershed statement has restored Zanu PF to its founding principles like when it was led by the likes of Cde Chitepo," he said.
Former Zanu PF politburo member, Dumiso Dabengwa, who now leads Zapu, said the ruling party ructions pointed to the need for all political parties to adhere to constitutionalism.
"Once you have a tendency to ignore your own party that will also extend to the country. I am glad that Cde Mutasa has challenged this. Once we have set down rules, people must respect them," he said.
Dabengwa said what Mutasa and "other comrades in Zanu PF are pointing to was the very reason why he had left Zanu PF.
"We are happy they have realised that Zanu PF has departed from its founding values," he added.
Asked if the bold move taken by Mutasa and others was likely to bear fruit, Dabengwa said, "The fact that they have confronted the leadership and make reference to the violations will have an impact on the country and the future of Zimbabwe".
Jabulani Sibanda, the popular war veteran who was also recently expelled from Zanu PF, chose to quote famed American leader, George Washington, saying, "Truth will ultimately prevail where pain is taken to bring it to light".
"The whole Zanu PF, including Zapu comrades, could have been wounded by Ian Smith bombardments, but what transpired last year was even more deadly to the revolution, this country and the future generation and to correct this is the only way that will initiate the resuscitation of the party," Sibanda said.
Pedzisayi Ruhanya, a media and democracy scholar, said the disaffected party members first had to challenge the Zanu PF political base in Mashonaland Central, West and East, where the party enjoyed its biggest support, if they were to win their war.
"They must be prepared to be incarcerated and they must be prepared to lose the property they gained during their time in Zanu PF. It would be advisable for them not to go to court because Zanu PF controls it (the courts). These people cannot go to Mugabe's court and expect it to nullify congress.
"This is not a legal battle, it's a political battle which can only be solved on the streets. Without doing that, they are living in cloud cuckooland because the only challenge Mugabe understands is in the streets of Mbare, Dangamvura and Tsholotho. Any other way is a fallacy," Ruhanya said.
He added: "This is how the MDC almost dethroned Mugabe in 2008. The MDC had become part and parcel of society, as they were everywhere.
They have to go to the rural areas, as that is the language Mugabe understands."
Alex Magaisa, a University of Kent law lecturer and former aide to Morgan Tsvangirai, said Mutasa's strong political statement showed that the Mujuru faction was beginning to fight back.
"If they are serious, they will field candidates in the by-elections to fight against the Zanu PF sponsored candidates," he said.
"They may also go to court to challenge the constitutionality of Congress and I think they have a sound legal basis since the party flagrantly violated the Zanu PF constitution.
"The events will have important ramifications for the Zimbabwean body politic, especially with Mugabe approaching the end of his career. He is the glue that has held them together, but even now, he seems to be losing the iron grip of old," Magaisa added.