PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has crushed internal resistance to his continued controversial leadership of the deeply-divided Zanu PF, mainly using the state security services ahead of the party’s annual conference in Mutare next month.Mugabe’s leadership of Zanu PF and the country has in recent years been coming under serious challenge particularly from within the Soviet-style politburo which he appoints, indicating his increasingly declining authority and control of the party.
A briefing to the Zimbabwe Independent by senior Zanu PF officials, including politburo members, this week, shows Mugabe has suppressed –– at least for now –– all those who had clandestinely been plotting to force him out. Zanu PF officials say he has overstayed his welcome and run the country down. Mugabe has been in charge of Zanu PF since 1977 and the country since 1980.
Zanu PF insiders said Mugabe was now going to be endorsed with no trouble in Mutare next month for the first time since he survived plots to oust him in 2004 and 2007.
Mugabe’s undemocratic plan to extend his stay in office by two years from 2008 to 2010 without going to elections was also blocked by the party in 2006.
However, Mugabe has since those setbacks managed to regain control of his faction-torn party and is now in charge, although his age and health problems remain flash points.
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“This time around he is going to be endorsed easily because there is no one opposing him to continue as the party’s leader and candidate in the next elections,” a senior Zanu PF official said. “What happened, particularly in 2004 and 2007, would not be repeated because everyone has learnt their lesson. It is going to be a mere formality for him to be endorsed in Mutare.”
Several Zanu PF structures have already endorsed Mugabe although they are yet to officially nominate him as the party’s candidate in elections through the secretary for administration’s office and endorse him at conference.
“Mugabe now has support of his party’s principal structures which include the congress, conference, central committee and its administrative organ the politburo, national consultative assembly, women’s league, youth league, provincial coordinating committees, provinces, district coordinating committees, branches and cells or village committees,” another senior Zanu PF official said. “This is how he has recovered after all those problems which he encountered in the past few years.”
Since his leadership was re-affirmed at the party’s volatile special congress in 2007, Mugabe now needs to be only endorsed by the conference next month to become the uncontested candidate of the party in presidential elections.
The 2007 extraordinary Zanu PF congress, which was forced on Mugabe by politburo members, almost degenerated into chaos with the late vice-president Joseph Msika and John Nkomo threatening to walk out in protest over war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda’s presence and activities.
“We are going to declare the president of the party who was elected at the last congress as the state presidential candidate of the party,” a politburo member said. “That is not in doubt at all.”
One of the functions of the Zanu PF conference is to declare the president of the party as the presidential election candidate.
Another Zanu PF official said Mugabe had pounded into submission the two main factions led by retired army commander Solomon Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa. The Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions have been fighting each other for years in a bid to position themselves to produce Mugabe’s successor. In the process, Mugabe’s position has come under threat, mainly in 2004 and 2007, when he survived internal intrigues to remove him.
Mugabe unleashed serious reprisals against Mnangagwa’s supporters in 2004 after they tried to plot leadership changes in the party in the aftermath of the so-called Tsholotsho political coup conspiracy, resulting in six provincial chairmen being suspended.
Other high profile political casualties of that bloodbath included Jonathan Moyo who was only readmitted to the party at last year’s conference.
In 2007 Mugabe rode out serious challenge for him to relinquish power, particularly to step down and avoid being the 2008 presidential election candidate, from politburo members led then by Dumiso Dabengwa and Simba Makoni before they left the party in 2008. Dabengwa especially challenged Mugabe in several politburo meetings in 2008 and even had heated exchanges with Mnangagwa over the issue.
Zanu PF politburo member Oppah Muchinguri fought hard then to defend Mugabe and even suggested he should be declared life president. The late vice-president Joseph Msika had to intervene to stop the debate in which Dabengwa had opposed the proposal. The Independent has documents showing all this.
However, one of the Zanu PF officials who spoke to the Independent this week said Mugabe has now succeeded in using the security services, mainly the army, to run the party to ensure his political survival both internally and nationally.
“Besides internal party structures of control, he is also using the army to enforce military discipline and no one is raising their heads now to go up against him, the official said. “Both the main factions of the party have learnt a lesson from the past.”
Zanu PF officials have confirmed that a group of soldiers — code-named Boys on Leave — has been deployed to work with the party ahead of elections. The team is led by Air Force of Zimbabwe Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena who was said to be working with a team of 300 army officers scattered around the country.
Former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) director internal, Sydney Nyanhongo, is also part of the team and is now working directly with Zanu PF.
Muchena, who assumed his current position in the Air Force in 2002 after the army helped to retain Mugabe during the controversial presidential election that year, is now based at Zanu PF headquarters in Harare and is working with six senior officers to re-organise and revive Zanu PF structures before the elections, perhaps next year.
Sources said Muchena’s team also includes three top commanders stationed in each of the country’s 10 provinces.
These commanders were being assisted by three soldiers per district deployed around the country. Zimbabwe has 59 districts and 1 200 municipalities. The soldiers deployed at district level were stationed in all the 59 districts.
These soldiers, sources said, helped Zanu PF to control the chaotic and partisan constitution-making process.
“Besides, they have re-established discipline in the party and this has helped the old man (Mugabe) to remain firmly in charge,” the Zanu PF official said. “All the security structures, the army, police and intelligence, are loyal to him and using them in the party has helped check the ambitions of the faction leaders.”
The army helped out Mugabe mainly during the presidential elections in 2002 and 2008. The Zanu PF politburo resolved after the March 2008 elections in which the party lost control of parliament to MDC-T and Mugabe was defeated in the first round of polling, to use a “warlike” strategy to win the elections. A campaign of violence and intimidation followed resulting in MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulling out of the polls. State security service chiefs said they would not respect Tsvangirai even if he won. They insinuated they could even oust him through a coup if he won.