AMBITION is like a dog, which when hungry, can bite its master, so goes an African proverb.
With a bit of hindsight, President Robert Mugabe had this wise African proverb in mind when he and his hangers-on on purged ambitions politicians in Zanu PF, culminating in the humiliation of his second right-hand person for the past 10 years Joice Mujuru being thrown in the political wilderness during last week’s sixth congress.
To ensure that he has a firm grip on the party, Zanu PF mandarins fast-tracked amendments to the party’s constitution to ensure Mugabe has the last say and keeps checks the ambitious such as Mujuru and her perceived sympathisers.
May a brief history of Zanu PF might shed light on how Mugabe has managed to manipulate process since he was invited to assume leadership of the party in 1977.
Zanu PF can be divided into two phases – the pre-Mugabe leadership phase (before 1977) and the post-Mugabe leadership phase (after 1977 to-date).
The first period, there was open contestation for positions and elections were held constantly and openly for leadership positions, including the dare re chimurenga, which was replaced by the politburo after 1977.
When Mugabe took over in 1977, he centralised power, including bringing the military wing of the party under the dominance of the political wing.
He began a new era of “leadership by appointment”. The politburo membership became by appointment – and that culture has somehow continued.
This one-man centralization has also meant that those with ambition for leadership, as long as they are not anointed and endorsed by him, were game for purging.
This is the history we see from the time of contestation between Zapu and Zanu and the breaking away of the Patriotic Front before the 1980 elections.
This is what befell people like Josiah Tongongara, Herbert Chitepo, Edson Zvobgo, Margaret Dongo, Simba Makoni, Edgar Tekere and now Mujuru – among others.
Ambition is a dangerous game in Zanu PF especially if it does not stoke the ego of Mugabe. The recent decision to give Mugabe powers of appointment of the politburo and presidium basically shuts the door on any of those with ambitions that may not be endorsed by Mugabe whose antics confirm he is a very paranoid leader who is insecure and suspects everyone around him.
So being ambitious around him is a crime. It is just a crime to be ambitious in Zanu PF. Only his wife Grace appears to have immunity to that crime.