IN June 1999, President Robert Mugabe was widely quoted in the local and international press and by the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs as saying: “Zimbabweans would have to groom his successor as he had no intention of creating a dynasty.”
It resonated well with many Zimbabweans because a dynasty has no place in body politics of Zimbabwe.
I hope our fears of a Mugabe dynasty are misplaced, baseless and a figment of our imagination. Maybe it is about time the president took us into his confidence and allay these fears and reassure the nation in the context of reported factionalism, bitter rivalry and recent whirlwind tours around the country by First Lady Grace Mugabe.
To discerning Zimbabweans it is clear that a dynasty is not synonymous with democracy.
The current confusion engulfing Zanu PF is reminiscent of the Kenya African National Union (Kanu) drama in mid-60s. The back-stabbing and political manoeuvring is a stark reminder that politicians occupy artificial space.
Theirs is perpetual insecurity, hence shifting alliances, naïvety and betrayal.
Those familiar with East African politics will recall how Vice-President Jamarogi Oginga Odinga was humiliated and emasculated by his fellow colleagues within ruling Kanu political party.
This happened under the watch of the founding father of Kenya Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
On his return from England, Kenyatta made a speech denouncing “politicians” who accepted bribes.
Tom Mboya was assigned to draft a new Constitution. This was a key move in thwarting Odinga’s ambitions.
Since it would be hard to choose any other Vice-President but Odinga without splitting the party, the best strategy was to cut down powers of the vice-president and deny him the right of succession.
Mboya was a good choice for the job. Kenyatta did not fully trust him (he was, after all, another ambitious politician), but he rightly figured that Mboya and Odinga could not work together.
Temperamentally and ideologically, they were natural rivals.
Mboya was cool, reserved, modern, pragmatic and hard-working. He scorned Odinga’s histrionics and sloganeering, just as the other despised Mboya’s seeming intellectual arrogance.
The new Constitution was submitted to Parliament in October. Odinga’s supporters could not oppose it publicly, as supposedly loyal members of Kanu, but hoped to defeat it and call a new general election.
One reason was that Kenyatta and his lieutenants persuaded Kadu’s leaders Ronald Ngala and Daniel Arap Moi, to dissolve their opposition party and join Kanu.
At the party’s reorganisation conference, the delegates overwhelmingly approved a new party constitution abolishing Odinga’s post of deputy president of Kanu.
In the government reshuffle that followed, Odinga became vice-president, but found himself stripped of his powers. The constitution decreed that Parliament would choose the new president in the event of Kenyatta’s death. Moi got the Home Affairs ministry, Odinga’s old job.
Kenyatta’s strategy was to avoid getting publicly identified with any faction. He wanted Odinga to bear the responsibility for splitting Kanu.
Mboya suddenly announced that a Kanu conference would soon be held.
The delegates overwhelmingly approved a new party constitution abolishing Odinga’s post of deputy president of the party.
Odinga didn’t wait for the conference to end. He walked out in rage — out of Kanu, into Kenyatta’s trap. Kanu had not expelled him; he had rejected Kanu.
In the words of a Professor Immanuel Wallerstein, “unity at any price is an argument, nothing but an argument which the strongest faction uses”.
In Kenya when the mountain fell, they got Arap Moi, in Zimbabwe when Mugabe retires are we all to bow our heads and sing in unison, Grace?
Where is Kanu today?