President Emmerson Mnangagwa has banned members of Zanu PF’s political bureau — otherwise known as the politburo — from bringing cell phones to meetings, in what analysts say is indicative of the deepening mistrust in the governing party.
Last Thursday, the Daily News witnessed politburo members being searched on their way in, and made to leave their electrical gadgets — including cell phones — by the entrance of the Zanu PF headquarters.
As they made a beeline through the scanner, they were told by security agents to leave their phones behind, which were wrapped in bond paper inscribed with their names for easy of identification during collection.
Before the start of the meeting, the officials could be seen chatting in groups or pairs — betraying the emerging factional dynamics that are causing discord in both Zanu PF and government.
After narrowly escaping an assassination attempt in Bulawayo in June, Mnangagwa has been tightening his security measures, including instituting a top-to-bottom review of security agencies protocols after the incident exposed serious lapses in his close security.
The incident also triggered suspicions and divisions in his party, with the president himself claiming it was an inside job.
Zanu PF is also split between those in government and bigwigs domiciled at the party headquarters who feel that their Cabinet counterparts are not doing enough to correct the economic meltdown that has seen prices of basic goods skyrocketing and the bond note catastrophically losing its value on the black market.
After the meeting, the Daily News crew witnessed some of the politburo members, among them former Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, ex-Health minister David Parirenyatwa and former Information minister Chris Mushohwe collecting their phones from the security check point.
Analysts canvassed by the Daily News said Mnangagwa risks sliding into the old order when his predecessor Robert Mugabe banned the use of cell-phones in politburo meetings at the height of the battle to succeed him last year.
Mugabe even went a step further and banned the ruling party top leadership from using social media to communicate party information.
At the time, it was being suspected that members of the warring Team Lacoste and Generation 40 (G40) factions were leaking information to the media to advance their sectional interests.
G40, which collapsed like a deck of cards when the military moved in to depose Mugabe last November, was pushing for the 94-year-old’s fashion crazy wife to succeed her husband while Team Lacoste was campaigning for Mnangagwa.
With Mnangagwa taking over following a soft-military coup that cut short Mugabe’s 37 years in power there was optimism that Zanu PF would at long last take a more democratic trajectory.
But commenting on the development, analysts said Mnangagwa was increasingly becoming paranoid and that he no longer trusted his lieutenants.
“It’s a sign of paranoia as it has been a fact that proceedings of that structure leak out to the media while in session,” said Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst.
South African-based political analysts Ricky Mukonza said the mistrust could be emanating from the fact that the ruling party has not yet stabilised since the
departure of Mugabe.
“Add to that the current witch-hunt on those who are being seen as corrupt. The president cannot afford to take chances and allow people to bring devices that can be used to transmit what is supposed to be private deliberations into the public domain,” Mukonza said.
While Mnangagwa would want to portray himself as a reformed democrat, Mukonza said he cannot completely part with the ruling party and Mugabe’s way of doing things largely because it has been Zanu PF’s way of doing things.
He also suggested that Mnangagwa could have gathered intelligence to the effect that there were people who are not happy with his anti-corruption drive hence his decision to ban cell phones as a precautionary measure.
“This is a sign of mistrust among Zanu PF leaders and if not managed, it may further destabilise the party,” said Mukonza.
Renowned analyst Piers Pigou speculated that the development could just be a case of an institution looking inwards and not supporting its top leadership in the politburo.