Harare East constituency has emerged as the new frontier for the vicious factional fights inside Zanu PF that have, like a cancer, refused to be washed away, even in the aftermath of a brutal internal purge that saw many liberation stalwarts falling by the wayside.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
It is the seemingly ethnic fight for supremacy between secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo and youthful political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere that has captured the imagination of a politically weary public.
Zanu PF’s former Mashonaland West provincial chairperson Temba Mliswa aptly summed things up when he said Kasukuwere and Chombo have brought their fight to the capital “Harare the game changer”.
“It is all about the fight to succeed President Mugabe, but I must tell you now my understanding of the internal dynamics in the ruling party is that there will not be another Zezuru leader after Mugabe. There is a growing south-south cooperation between the Manyikas, the Karangas and those from parts of Matabeleland.
“Chombo thinks he has Mashonaland West under his control while Kasukuwere has Mashonaland Central. Now they are fighting for Harare in their bid to make sure they have the two nominations that will be required in the event of a leadership fight that is eminent given the President’s age,” said Mliswa.
Under the revised Zanu PF constitution, in the event that Mugabe either decides to retire or goes by natural wastage, the party’s communist style Central Committee would need to sit and elect a new leader. Contestants for Mugabe’s throne would need nomination by at least two provinces to enter the vicious contest to take the coveted crown.
Academic and political scientist Eldred Masunungure said there is a lot of political capital riding on Harare.
“Remember that for 15 years, Harare has been a no-go area for Zanu PF and the coming by-elections present a perfect opportunity for factions in the party to flex their muscles. It is a political trophy that whichever faction will win can display in their cabinet.
“We have also seen Vice-President [Emmerson] Mnangagwa strategically withdrawing and now concentrating his efforts at capturing state power. He has done that effectively well if you ask me. Mnangagwa is literally running the country despite [co Vice-President] Phelekezela Mphoko’s arguments that they are equal in terms of power.
“Mnangagwa has allowed the small fish like Kasukuwere to fight in the smaller battles and win, but meanwhile he is winning the war at a much grander scale. While the likes of Kasukuwere celebrate Harare East, he is taking home Zimbabwe as a trophy,” said Masunungure.
Masunungure also pointed to a sinister ethnic dimension to the power struggle in the ruling party.
“There is also the ethnic dimension to this nasty fight; the Zezuru gladiation as to who will step into Mugabe’s ethnic shoes once he is gone. Kasukuwere might want to present himself as the natural heir but then Chombo has thrown in the gauntlet.
Harare is cosmopolitan but still within the confines of the Zezuru speaking environs of the country.
“It is the most populous province and the character and demographics of the people who live in it normally gives direction as to how the rest of the country looks at politics. Kasukuwere and Chombo see an impending vacuum because the Karangas have Mnangagwa while the Ndebeles now have Mphoko. Although there is still confusion in Manicaland, that province has never had a warlord,” said the University of Zimbabwe lecturer.
In the past month or so since Mugabe proclaimed dates for by-elections triggered by a decision by the opposition MDC-T to recall 21 legislators, the fight for control of Zanu PF has moved to Harare East, previously held by former Finance minister and firebrand MDC-Renewal secretary general Tendai Biti.
Following the conclusion of primary elections almost without incident, chaos erupted when the provincial executive led by Goodwills Masimirembwa protested against Kasukuwere’s “imposition” of Terrence Mukupe. Mukupe was described as a newcomer, had his name withdrawn from the altar by Chombo but got support from Kasukuwere in an unprecedented Electoral Court challenge against the ruling party’s decision, moments before the nomination court accepted his papers. The court ruled in his favour before Zanu PF was uncharacteristically forced to eat humble pie and accept someone who had been described as a US Green Card holder.
In the ensuing melee, Kasukuwere was accused by veterans of the liberation struggle of seeking to overthrow Mugabe but the Environment and Climate minister hit back calling the struggle stalwarts “drunks that do not think”.
While Chombo, who was appointed as Zanu PF secretary for administration in December, is seemingly emerging from the woods, Kasukuwere has long been touted as harbouring presidential ambitions. He reportedly leads a group of Young Turks known as “G40” or Generation 40, which Mliswa derisively wants to describe as “Gay 40”.