HARARE – As Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party is increasingly gripped by faction fighting, a once-splintered opposition is pledging to mount a united challenge to the 93-year-old leader in elections next year.
by Brian Latham
At the center of the infighting in the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front is its political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, a leading figure in the Generation 40 faction that backs Mugabe’s wife, Grace, as his successor. Party executive councils in seven of 10 provinces have publicly called for the ouster of 46-year-old Kasukuwere, whose aggressive approach to opponents earned him the nickname “Tyson.” They accuse him of corruption and undermining Mugabe’s government.
The pressure on Kasukuwere, who’s also minister of local government, and his G-40 faction, is coming from party officials loyal to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a 70-year-old former spy chief, as ZANU-PF struggles to find a leader who could eventually replace Mugabe. Street brawls between party members erupted on April 15 in the capital, Harare, with both sides attacking police officers who tried to stop the violence.
“This is clearly a coordinated effort designed not only to remove him, but to cause a mortal wound upon the G-40 faction,” said Alex Magaisa, a U.K.-based law lecturer and one of the authors of Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution. “The only person who can save Kasukuwere now is Mugabe himself, but with almost the whole country calling for his expulsion, it’ll be hard for him.”
Kasukuwere’s phone was switched off and his office said he wasn’t in when called to seek comment.
While the party insists that Mugabe will stand for re-election next year, extending his 37-year rule of the southern African nation, key opposition politicians have announced that they will form a coalition to challenge him. They’re making their unity bid at a time of deepening unrest because of widespread poverty, massive unemployment and the collapse of basic services.
Zimbabwe has been gripped by food shortages and a cash crunch that has delayed payment of salaries and prompted the central bank to introduce dollar-pegged bond notes that Zimbabweans dubbed “zombie currency.”
The situation is so bad that Education Minister Lazarus Dokora suggested parents who can’t afford school fees can pay with goats or their labor. A draft law before parliament would force commercial banks to accept cattle and other livestock as collateral for loans.
On Wednesday, Morgan Tsvangirai, a one-time union leader and head of the Movement for Democratic Change, announced plans to form an alliance with former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First party. A day later Tsvangirai signed an accord to re-unite with an MDC faction led by Welshman Ncube.
Tsvangirai, 65, has fought successive elections against Mugabe since 2000, posing the biggest threat to the former guerrilla leader. Mujuru, who served in Mugabe’s first cabinet and later became vice president, is the 62-year-old wife of the late Solomon Mujuru, who led the main guerrilla army against the then white-minority breakaway British colony of Rhodesia. – Bloomberg