BY ALOIS T MASEPE
History will record that both Zanu PF and the MDC did not have functional leadership succession plans when the time for a change-of-guard in respect of Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai came knocking on the door.
Both political parties resorted to and fell victim to the ancient and caveman “smash and grab” formula of settling disputes.
As a result, the two political parties imploded and splintered into hostile and feuding factions.
When the late and former president Robert Mugabe tried to roll out his succession and endgame plan at the end of 2014, Zanu PF splintered into three distinctive factions (the Joice Mujuru faction — Gamatox, the Emmerson Mnangagwa faction — Crocodile/Lacoste and the Robert and Grace Mugabe faction — the Generation 40 (G40), which tried to out-wit and out-manuovre each other in the struggle for the control and soul of Zanu PF.
In 2015 the G40 faction consigned the Mujuru faction to the slaughterhouse and ejected them from Zanu PF.
After the decimation of the Mujuru faction, the G40 faction turned its guns on the Mnangagwa faction, including the war veterans leadership, in 2016.
There was gnashing of teeth and wailing in Zanu PF during the above period as the G40 storm troopers, led by Grace, viciously purged the Gamatox and Lacoste factions from Zanu PF.
It was scotched earth political warfare and no prisoners were taken.
In the struggle against the Mnangagwa faction, the G40 juggernaut initially appeared to be smashing and pounding its way to the helm of Zanu PF, but in the end, the Mnangagwa faction totally outmanouvred and out-gunned the G40.
It met its Waterloo in November 2017 when Mugabe was compelled to capitulate.
The G40 leadership scattered and was exiled.
When Tsvangirai died of colon cancer on February 14, 2018 the MDC disintegrated into three factions led by Thokozani Khupe, Elias Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa.
The factions engaged in a short, but brutal and bloody dog-eat-dog political skirmish, which was ultimately won by the Chamisa faction.
Chamisa was at the helm of the MDC from February 2018 to March 2020 until the Supreme Court ruled that he used the hammer — instead of the party constitution — to assume the MDC leadership in February 2018.
The MDC has since morphed into two political parties, the MDCA (led by Nelson Chamisa) and the MDC-T (led by Douglas Mwonzora).
The above defines the helter-skelter manner in which both Zanu PF and the MDC settled the succession issue.
The centre failed to hold and both parties split up and the scenario today is that, in Zanu PF, we have the Lacoste faction leadership in full control of Zanu PF and government whilst the G40 leadership is outlawed from the party and is languishing in the cold terrain of opposition politics.
On the other side of the political divide, the MDC-T managed to dislodge the MDCA from the Harvest House (the MDC head office) and is in control of the party affairs.
That is not all! Another important political phenomenon that emerged from the internal struggles of the two political parties is the change in the alignment and arrangement of the national body-politic.
There is a discernible political transition underway in the post-Mugabe and Tsvangirai era: a metamorphosis that is changing and reshaping the long-established national political dynamics is certainly taking place.
It is evident that from 2015 to 2017, the Mnangagwa faction of Zanu PF politically embraced and cross-pollinated with Tsvangirai’s MDC and the two parties engineered the capitulation of Mugabe from power and the scattering of the G40.
It must be pointed out that Tsvangirai and the MDC played a pivotal role in the mobilisation of the popular approval and endorsement that greeted the military intervention in November 2017.
The MDC also played a key role in co-sponsoring (with the Mnangagwa faction) the crucial impeachment process that finally persuaded/compelled Mugabe to step down from power on November 15, 2017.
It can be said that the Mnangagwa faction and the MDC were/are co-authors and co-midwives in respect of the birth of the “second republic”.
But that is not all! Following the death of Tsvangirai and Chamisa’s taking up of the reins at the MDC — the Locaste-MDC political pact came to an end.
For reasons yet unexplained, Chamisa’s MDCA made a volte-face and turned its back on the Mnangagwa faction to embrace the G40 faction of Zanu PF.
It would look like an understanding was reached to sponsor Chamisa’s presidential candidacy in the August 2018 general election.
This theory finds credence in the fact that just before the 2018 election Mugabe publicly came out to say he supported Chamisa’s presidential candidature to take over the state presidency.
It should be observed that Mugabe did not say he was backing an MDC-A election victory; he limited his support to Chamisa’s presidential aspirations.
Arising from the above, Chamisa scored very highly and ran-neck and neck with the Zanu PF candidate (Mnangagwa) in the presidential election race.
Curiously, the MDC-A, performed poorly against Zanu PF candidates in the parliamentary election contest.
It is interesting to observe that in the 2018 elections, the total number of parliamentary votes cast for the MDCA was 1,7 million whilst, in the presidential election, Chamisa achieved 2,1 million votes against 2,4 million votes for Mnangagwa.
The above indications are significant developments in the national body-politic and its dynamics.
They signal a fundamental shift in the make-up of the national political matrix and emerging new alliances across the political divide.
The emergence of Mwonzora as leader of the MDC-T in December 2020 is also another significant development given the fact that he rejects the political culture of sabre-rattling and animosity in preference of the politics of engagement, dialogue and rational disputation under the banner of national brotherhood.
Mwonzora’s narrative has found resonance with the people and other political stakeholders, including the new dispensation leadership of Zanu PF.
The situation in the political arena points to the MDC-T striking a political understanding with the new dispensation leadership at Zanu PF on the basis that the two worked together in ensuring the capitulation of Mugabe and in facilitating the advent of the second republic in November 2017.
The burning and critical questions are:
l Given the support afforded to the Mnangagwa faction by the late Tsvangirai and the MDC in ejecting Mugabe from power and in ensuring the birth of the second republic, how come Tsvangirai and the MDC were not part of the “new dispensation” government after November 17, 2017?
l Was the political pact between the MDC and the Mnangagwa faction genuine or just a marriage of convenience in a subterfugeous feja-feja political game?
l Did Tsvangirai fall victim to duplicious and subterranean wapusa-wapusa political games engineered by the Mnangagwa faction?
On the G40-MDCA Alliance the questions are:
l Since there are indications that Zanu PF is luring back to its fold members of the G40, will the MDCA-G40 pact endure and hold fast against the overtures from the ruling party?
l If the G40 rank and file troop back to Zanu PF, how will the MDC A react to the changed scenario?
In fact, how will the MDC A and MDC-T react to that new political reality where the Zanu PF faithful in the Gamatox, G40 and Lacoste factions decide to regroup, close ranks and reunite?
Currently the situation is very fluid but, as 2023 beckons, the situation will solidify.
- Alois T Masepe A pro-democracy veteran and political commentator. Contact number: 0772339207