The glue that had appeared to bind Zanu PF after it got rid of “criminals” around toppled despot Robert Mugabe seem to be peeling off at critical stages when President Emmerson Mnangagwa is about to test his popularity at the forthcoming polls after assuming the reins of power in December last year.
As first reported by the Daily News last week, the resignation of retired brigadier general Ambrose Mutinhiri from both his constituency (Marondera West) and the party — a few weeks after Mugabe had briefed African Union (AU) Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat that his removal in November last year was “unconstitutional” — has exposed new fault lines within Zanu PF.
His surprise resignation also comes at a time when Mnangagwa has been dragged to the Constitutional Court by a group of Zimbabweans who are challenging his legitimacy.
Mutinhiri, who hand-delivered his letters of resignation to the Zanu PF headquarters and to Parliament on Friday, upped the ante, accusing Mnangagwa of using the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) to grab power, in what analysts said could be representative of the unspoken sentiment in some sections of Zanu PF.
Mnangagwa came to power in November last year through the intervention by the ZDF, which followed his expulsion from both government and party.
Following the takeover by the army, Mugabe resigned in the subsequent days at a time his party had also started instituting impeachment proceedings.
However, there have been concerns over Mnangagwa’s legitimacy, even though regional and international bodies have embraced him.
In his resignation letter addressed to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda and copied to Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu, Mutinhiri, who is a senior Zipra commander, said Mnangagwa’s government was “illegal”.
“As a trained soldier, a former freedom fighter, a former Zipra commander during the liberation struggle, a former diplomat and a former Cabinet minister, I am too aware of not only the values and ethos of Zimbabwe’s armed liberation struggle and the subsequent role the founding commanders of the liberation envisaged for the national army in independent Zimbabwe but also of the functions and limits of the ZDF as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe authored through a people driven process and adopted after a national referendum as recent as 2013.
“The fundamental values and tenets of both Zimbabwe’s heroic liberation struggle and the Constitution of Zimbabwe dictate that executive authority is derived from the people and not from the gun. In other words, the enduring principle of Zimbabwe’s armed liberation struggle and constitutional democracy is that politics must always lead the gun. The ZDF coup of 15 November 2017 violated a cherished heritage of our liberation struggle and of our hard-won constitutional democracy,” Mutinhiri said.
Efforts to get a comment from Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo could not yield any results as he was said to be in a meeting yesterday.
Political analysts that spoke to the Daily News yesterday said Mutinhiri’s stance could be testimony of the bottled disgruntlement of many within Zanu PF and could have the effect of increasing the momentum within the MDC Alliance, under the youthful leadership of Nelson Chamisa.
“It makes those pro-democracy activists who supported the coup to change their mind given than one of the Zanu PF inner circles confirmed the coup. It’s also a sign that all is not well. It also confirms factionalism in Zanu PF along the lines of seating MPs and those in military aspiring to take over the seats. It also confirms that a coup is not a sustainable power transfer strategy and once a coup is done a precedent is set and another coup will happen,” political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said.
Many of Mnangagwa’s allies were left disgruntled after being snubbed from key government positions despite biting the bullet for the former vice president during the Mugabe administration.
His elevation to presidency, created a crisis as some of his allies felt the spoils only benefitted army officials, who were awarded with key government posts.
A retired army commander and brigadier, Mutinhiri was born February 22, 1944.
He was trained in Russia during the Rhodesian Bush War and was known for training the best calibre of soldiers during this period, even the late general Solomon Mujuru testified that he was trained by Mutinhiri.
He served as minister of Youth Development and Employment Creation and Provincial Affairs minister for Mashonaland East.
Zanu PF is said to have panicked because of Mutinhiri’s resignation, amid unverified reports that its national chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri has beseeched party organs to reach out to members of the Gamatox faction who were shunted aside by the party in 2014 for hobnobbing with former vice president Joice Mujuru.
This comes as retired brigadier general Agrippa Mutambara, leader of the Zimbabwe People First, has issued a scathing statement, dismissing reports that his party officials had defected to Zanu PF.
“Fellow Zimbabweans, it would be more honourable to quit politics than to board a sinking titanic. Zanu PF is a sinking titanic,” said Mutambara, in a statement.
Political analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa said the stance taken by Mutinhiri is evidence of the fault lines within Zanu PF.
“I think it shows there are a lot of people within the party who are not happy with what is happening. Although, previously we had retired army personnel joining politics, the situation is now different because serving army generals are influencing the direction of the party.
“We are seeing the military system coming to the centre of politics. As a result, many civilian politicians are left disgruntled. It also looks like G40 members are still within the party. By resigning possibly he (Mutinhiri) knows he was going to be booted out,” Hamauswa said.
Another political analyst and University of Zimbabwe senior lecturer in the department of Social Science Tawanda Zinyama said Mutinhiri’s exit must not be underestimated.
“Yes, indeed it (his exit) does have an impact because Mutinhiri is a very senior guy in Zanu PF and secondly he is a member of Zapu and that affiliation alone has got an impact,” Zinyama said.
He also said Mutinhiri has got followers of his own, who are going to leave Zanu PF because of his exit, adding that in the country’s 10 provinces there are like-minded people, who are also contemplating leaving the ruling party.
“Zanu PF may say, it’s just an individual who has left, but he is not an individual, there are many that follow him. And given that we are heading towards elections, a party cannot afford to lose even a single person, because politics is a game of numbers,” he said.
He however, said the legitimacy issue being raised by Mutinhiri in his letter may not gain traction with regional and international community such as the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the AU have already embraced Mnangagwa.
He said what has only been left is for Mnangagwa to win the forthcoming elections to legitimise his position in power.
In his letter, Mutinhiri said an illegality was perpetrated by a “few rogue elements” in the command structure of the ZDF, who abused their positions, resulting in last year’s events.
“Our national Constitution clearly defines the role of the ZDF and outlaws any of its serving members from engaging in partisan politics as was witnessed on 15 November 2017 when some rogue elements in the command structure staged a coup in the name of ZDF under the shocking pretext of averting a Zanu PF electoral loss in the forthcoming harmonised elections,” he said.
Mutinhiri, who has in the past been tipped to be appointed the country’s vice president by virtue of being the most senior surviving member of the Zipra command in line with the Unity Accord signed between PF Zapu and Zanu PF in 1987, said the ruling party has been hijacked and corrupted by fascist elements.
“I am a firm believer, as a disciplined former soldier and product of our nationalist movements, in the sanctity of democratic ethos and constitutionalism that put our people as the only source of legitimacy in the governance structures from local to national levels,” he said.
He further said the situation was also made worse by the Parliament, which he claimed failed to defend the Constitution in a “misguided attempt to justify a military coup”.
“I therefore condemn and despise any attempt at usurping the people’s power by those entrusted with the national duty to protect the country’s citizens and their leadership. I, like many others in the country and particularly in Zanu PF, refuse to be associated with such illegality in the false name of restoring legacy of (ex) President Mugabe, let alone that of our heroic armed liberation struggle,” Mutinhiri said.
He said the turning of guns against Mugabe was tantamount to turning guns at millions of Zimbabweans that voted him into power.
“It is therefore incumbent upon every patriotic, law abiding Zimbabwean to stand up and condemn the coup and make sure that, never again will such an affront on the Constitution be allowed.
“I am aware, as is everyone else who cares to look at the situation closely that Zimbabweans from all the country’s 10 provinces are not happy with the militarisation of our national politics. As such, I have chosen to be on the side of the people and to move forward with the people to restore normalcy, democracy, constitutionalism and legitimacy in Zimbabwe as a matter of national urgency,” he said.