HomeEditorial CommentWill Mugabe die with Zanu PF?

Will Mugabe die with Zanu PF?


PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s health has been a subject of speculation lately.

Mugabe has been in power for 34 years. No other topic has become more interesting than the succession debate.

Robert Mugabe

This is an important issue for the party and the country. It is validated by the fact that the president is ageing and since no man has ever defied nature, Zanu PF cannot not run away from this.

However, Mugabe, who turned 90 on February 21 and recently won a watershed election, has vowed that it is not yet time for him to quit. He is publicly accepting endorsements for his presidential candidature in 2018.

By the time the next elections are held, he will be 94 years old. If he wins the election, it means that by the end of his five-year term, he will be 99 years old. Of course, Mugabe has not beaten the record of the late Samoan head of State Malietoa Tanumafili II, who died in office at the age of 94 in May 2007. However, he is the oldest leader in the world at present.

The issue of succession has brought out two major questions that Zanu PF must answer.

First, does Zanu PF have a clear succession plan?

And second, how is Zanu PF dealing with the divisions in the party that are brewing underground and manifesting publicly like warts in the face because of succession issues?

We all know how much of a taboo it has been for anyone in Zanu PF to discuss Mugabe’s succession.

The entrance of the First Lady Grace Mugabe into mainstream politics has created an uncomfortable mood in Zanu PF as she is threatening anyone who is suspected of seeking to succeed the ageing dictator.

The heap of insults, accusations and threats that the First Lady has thrown at Vice-President Joice Mujuru is unprecedented and is a clear indication of boiling cauldron in the corridors of Zanu PF headquarters.

These issues are serious and must not be ignored by Zanu PF. The “revolutionary party” now lacks the dynamism of modern politics by maintaining in critical positions the lethargic old guard who are stuck in the past.

Instead of taking the chance to inject new blood into the party, Zanu PF has become comfortable in retaining the old guard, denying the party a chance to embrace modern political ideas. Zanu PF is now a political museum frozen in times gone by.

When African liberation movements took power, their governments were often driven by militaristic mindsets, operating along the lines of command and obedience, which trends are still evident in Zanu PF. Democratic discourse within the party in search of the common good is arguably frowned upon and detested.

For Zanu PF, the importance of succession has never been more crucial than it is now. Yet this is the most feared topic. The only discussions about Mugabe’s succession have been very silent and in the background.

Those who have dared to speak about it have ended up regretting, as did former Finance minister Simba Makoni and ex-Home Affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa

But succession is a very critical issue. If handled properly it allows for smooth transition, but if not, it results in infighting, factionalism and manipulation of the majority by power-hungry political vultures.

A classic example of smooth succession is how Nelson Mandela handed over power to Thabo Mbeki in 1999. The symbolic importance of this is that the founding father of the new South Africa handed power to his successor.

Smooth succession is now embedded within the ANC and at every point, the next leader of South Africa is predictable.

Even the Bible teaches us about succession. One of the good examples of succession issues in the Bible is the story of Samuel.

1 Samuel 8:4-5 says: “So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have’.”

Samuel was the last of the judges who ruled Israel. He was an upright and just man who always trusted in God. However, as he grew older, the Israelite elders were worried about the continuity of Israel as a nation.

It is clear that all the 12 tribes of Israel were in unison on the succession issue, and there were no factions or jostling for positions. It was not that Samuel no longer had the qualities.

The truth was that Samuel, as old as he was, had a string of outstanding contributions to Israel that could not be rivalled.

Samuel, even at old age, was still respected by the Israelites and he was the only person honoured to appoint his successor.

The sons whom he had appointed to take over from him were very incompetent and the elders wanted him to appoint them a successor, bringing Israel in line with its neighbours.

The problem is that we are beginning to see simmering tensions with the party, as some of Mugabe’s lieutenants have stepped up an internal fight for prime positions to take over the party when he retires or nature takes him.

There is serious factionalism in the party. There are so many people who are said to be secretly jostling for the post should the president go. As long as there is no clear route for the party to take, disintegration begins to set in, or it becomes a fate that looks increasingly inevitable.

If the party has no succession plan, it is a potentially dangerous situation that may cause serious chaos in the country. Imagine what would happen if Mugabe dropped dead before anointing a successor.

All those sparring for the position behind the scenes would seek to come out along with their followers and sympathisers and such divisions would mean the end of the party.

Liberation parties have been known not to recover once they go down. It would then be difficult to see how eventually Zanu PF would avoid the fate of Zambia’s UNIP, MCP in Malawi and Kanu in Kenya.

But there can be no denying that Mugabe is an outstanding leader, revered and respected by not only his subjects, but also his colleagues in Africa and beyond. He is even respected by his enemies.

There can be no denying that Zimbabwe still needs his position in the driving seat in order to attain the vision that the country aspires for.

This visionary leader has successfully steered the party through turbulent times, especially through the crisis of the last decade, in these times when most liberation parties are either struggling to survive or have gone down.

He literally had no opposition in the first 20 years of his reign, until he embarked on land reforms that threw the country into chaos.

During his first 20 years in power, he won several accolades for his outstanding leadership, including several honorary degrees, some which he has been stripped of since he fell out with the West.

His reason for staying on is that his vision of an economically independent Zimbabwe has not yet been achieved. To him, political independence of a country is just half the phase of total independence.

Having led the country to political independence over 30 years ago, the Zimbabwean leader has now vowed to lead the country once again to economic independence.

The country’s economy, which was once in the hands of the white minority – who made up about 20% of the population – has to be shared with the 80% natives, who have always been loitering on the fringes.

As Zanu PF moves closer to its December elective congress, it is important that they resolve on a successor in order to save the party and the country.

Ndodana Moyo is a blogger and Journalism Student

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