Zanu FP Succession: The ground is shifting under Mnangagwa’s feet

AS the ructions in ZANU-PF continue, and so does the intensity for contestation of State power.
\nA couple of incidences that have occurred in the past couple of weeks are indicative of the era that we have now entered; that of fierce struggle for State power.

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By Allen Hungwe

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zanuWe have seen the recent appointments of military personnel into positions ranging from permanent secretaries, ambassadors and principal directors in government. The last episode of concentrated military appointments in government last took place around 2006 to 2008 era when the ZANU-PF government wanted to bolster and consolidate its capture of State institutions.
\nSince then, such appointments have rather been sporadic and on an individual basis rather than institutionalised. The recent appointments point to the advent of a new political era of the struggle for State power inside ZANU-PF.

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We have also recently seen the “political football” game around the issue of civil servants’ bonuses. While Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa, made a public announcement, in the company of Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of Information and presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, that the bonuses would be cut for two successive years, President Robert Mugabe castigated Chinamasa for having imposed such measures without Cabinet approval.

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It is difficult to imagine how Chinamasa could have made such a mistake, and how the usually politically savvy Moyo would have been part of such an unprocedural slip-up. This incident may again indeed point towards the advent of the new political era in State power struggles.

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The recent spate of suspensions and attempts at suspending key ZANU-PF leaders by provincial structures is another indicator of the new political terrain we have entered in the contestation for State power.

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In the past, ZANU-PF suspensions have always been centralised, with the Politburo holding the totalitarian powers to impose such decisions. There is emergence of power diffusion with the provincial structures now more “empowered” to take such courageous stances as pushing for the suspension of key members; something that has always been the preserve of the Politburo, whose own power mechanics have traditionally been controlled by President Mugabe.

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The precedence for these provincial suspensions was set during the time when efforts were all focused on dislodging former vice president, Joice Mujuru, and her inner circle.

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That precedence has, however, set a permanent tone that has now seen provinces even challenging the party’s commissariat on certain decisions, again reflecting some weakening of the centralised control the party has always been known for.

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Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s obvious positioning for the presidency of the party and country is also incisive for the new political order.

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Ever since the power tussles between Mnangagwa and Mujuru came to the surface about 10 years ago, Mnangagwa has always worked through a complex camouflage of proxies who have represented his interests as well as run with them.

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He prefers to remain evasive about his ambitions and somehow indistinct in some of the tussling.
\nSince the ouster of Mujuru, he has come out of the shell and has openly now taken charge of his own ambitions and destiny.

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Unfortunately, the time that Mnangagwa worked evasively, he lost a lot of ground in terms of connecting with the ZANU-PF grassroots and its supporters at those levels.

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This is apparently one of the motivations behind his concerted efforts to now immerse himself in the grassroots, attain popularity overnight and build some cultic heroism image of self through popularising his liberation struggle exploits.

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There are public meetings where he is now being introduced by a long résumé, something that has all along been synonymous with President Mugabe only.

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So the highlighted issues are only part of the many others that provide a hint of the shifting political ground in Zimbabwe, especially around contestation for State power.

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In order to further interrogate these events and what they mean in this complex State power contest, we must firstly realise that, motivation for ZANU-PF membership and leadership has over the years evolved.

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Whereas there was an era where ZANU-PF membership and leadership were all motivated from identifying with the party ideals, this has seized to be.

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ZANU-PF has only become a convenient mechanism to access State power.

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The party is no longer an “end unto itself” it has become an expedient “means to an end”.

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That “end” being State power. In order to access State power, one has to be in ZANU-PF, and unfortunately this will remain so for some time to come.

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I don’t see elections, mass action, civil society actions, international pressure or any other such processes being able to push ZANU-PF from power, at least not in the immediate foreseeable future.

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The enticement of State power will ensure that ZANU-PF continues to employ the same State power to consolidate its hold on to power, by any means necessary.

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The only possible consequence is that the internal ructions and developments, outlined earlier, are re-shaping the contestation of State power within ZANU-PF itself.

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The enmass appointments of military personnel into key government positions reflect the re-emergence of the military as a critical factor in State power.

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Whereas the historical contestation has largely been seen as a Mujuru versus Mnangagwa entitlement, with the military only considered as “king makers”; this may have actually changed.
\nWe cannot rule out that the military, obviously frustrated by the current ructions and sensing opportunities at direct State power “proprietorship”, are now a critical and direct contender.
\nThe military may not be standing on the sidelines anymore, waiting to endorse Mnangagwa or whoever else, but may now be sensing opportunities for one of their own to enter the fray in this long winding presidential ambition trail.

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This obviously poses challenges for Mnangagwa who up to now seemed to be the only one headed for the top prize.

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The civil servants debacle also reflects the presence of some external influence on decision making, outside of the formal government processes.

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I am convinced the decision to cut bonuses was reached with some level of consensus by Cabinet and the presidency.

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I don’t think cautious legal minds as that of Chinamasa and Moyo would have omitted cardinal processes, especially in such tense political times, to make an announcement with such consequences and yet without currency of the presidency and cabinet.

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Even for President Mugabe to have to wait for Independence Day to reverse the decision, which had been made a week earlier, reflects that it may not necessarily be his own voluntary decision to reverse this, but may have rather been challenged by some other forces against what he may have originally been a part of.

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The provincial suspensions are no longer now merely about pushing out Mujuru allies as publicly claimed. They are now about pushing those with unclear allegiances or those who may not necessarily be on Mujuru’s side but considered threats against the State power ambitions of those that have remained in the race, post December 2014 congress.

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Apparently we also hear that even those who have largely been considered to be Mnangagwa allies are also facing pressure and attempts to oust them from the party.

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This indicates that, besides the common adage that Mnangagwa allies are finishing off the remnants of the Mujuru cabal, they are themselves also under threat from another contesting power centre.

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The ground is shifting and shifting fast. Apparently the most threatened by this shifting ground is Mnangagwa, given that he is considered as the most aptly positioned to now succeed President Mugabe.

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There, however, appears to be some emergence of other power centres outside of Mnangagwa and President Mugabe that are also pushing for State power.

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The question remains; who is this power centre now contesting Mnangagwa for eventual State power? – Financial Gazette