Opinion: Fighting Over Succession In Zimbabwe Is Costing The Economy

Opinion: Fighting Over Succession In Zimbabwe Is Costing The Economy

From ZimbabweIndependent. Opinion piece by Elias Mambo.

The major focus for Zimbabwe’s Zanu PF officials seems to be positioning themselves strategically for life after President Robert Mugabe.

The preoccupation for Mugabe seems to be constantly finding ways to balance the interests of warring parties and playing one faction against another, in the process ensuring he maintains his vice grip on the fractious party

Zimbabwe has experienced massive company closures since 2013 with a record 6,000-plus people losing their jobs in one week following a controversial Supreme Court ruling last week on a labor case. The ruling confirmed employers’ rights to give their employees a three-month notice of employment termination without reason and without the need to fork out a retrenchment package.

This comes as the country’s economy struggles with unsustainably high government debt, massive disinvestment, de-industrialization, low productivity and a rampant informal sector that is not contributing through taxes.

An indication that economic issues are on the back burner is the fact that the Zanu PF politburo — the de facto supreme decision-making body — has rarely discussed the economy since the 2013 elections. But this seems not to be the main worry for those in power as infighting in Zanu PF continues to grow.

In the build  up to Zanu PF’s December 2014 congress, former vice-president Joice Mujuru, ex-secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and spokesman Rugare Gumbo, were purged for allegedly causing divisions in the party and plotting to topple Mugabe by different means, including assassination.

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Many analysts interpreted the development to mean Mugabe had settled for Mujuru’s long-time rival, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose faction teamed up with a group loyal to first lady Grace Mugabe to derail Mujuru’s presidential bid.

But after consolidating power by purging Mujuru’s allies and uprooting the structures she had set up in all provinces, the former allies have now turned against each other. Factional wars have intensified yet again, taking away the attention from economic issues.

Among other factional fights, last week Zanu PF appointed a team led by Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi to deal with infighting in Manicaland province following factional fights which resulted in the ouster of interim provincial Chairman Samuel Undenge, who has since been reinstated.

Two weeks ago, the party’s Youth League nullified a vote of no confidence on provincial youth chair, Kelvin Manyengavana, who was later reinstated.

In Mashonaland Central, Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha alleges he has received death threats through a bullet parcel from unknown persons who want him to resign immediately “or else we get you.”

To cap it all, Mugabe last month warned that people pushing for either one of the country’s two vice presidents, Mnangagwa or Phelekezela Mphoko, to become Zimbabwe’s next leader are creating another “Gamatox” phenomenon and must cease such divisive activities forthwith. “Gamatox” refers to the faction loyal to ousted Mujuru.

“If you are choosing between my two vice presidents, you are beginning your own Gamatox,” said Mugabe. “If you say you want this one to succeed, you are already bringing division within the people and this so soon after our election.

Former Industry Minister Welshman Ncube this week said government officials are caught up in the power struggle and in the process have failed to play a meaningful role in pushing for economic recovery.

“It is clear that the Zanu PF regime is clueless on how to get the Zimbabwe economy back on track. When they meet, instead of discussing ways of fixing the country’s problems, all they ever do is fire each other,” Ncube said. “They seem to be permanently caught up in a time warp of factional and succession blood-letting.”

And last week Grace, who insisted she harbored no presidential ambitions, accused Zanu PF bigwigs of fueling reports that she was eyeing the presidency.

“I have never — in any way, in any place, at any time — said I would want to be the president of this country,” she said adding, rather cryptically: “Yes, questions have been asked before and I have answered that ‘I am also a Zimbabwean and who has a right more than Grace Mugabe?”

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said as long as the succession issue is not solved, there would be little focus on the economy.

“It is sad that at each and every meeting Zanu PF concentrates on succession rather than on coming up with solutions to problems of the day,” he said. “It’s a tragedy that the ruling party and government is entangled in power struggles and no one is paying attention to the economy and social challenges the country faces.”

While the Zanu PF congress succeeded in getting rid of Mujuru and her allies through suspensions and expulsions, it did not address the root cause of factionalism — the unresolved succession conundrum. The claim that ousting Mujuru and her allies would end Zanu PF factionalism, dismissed by many Zimbabweans right from the outset, has since been proved baseless, at a devastating expense to the economy.

Read more at ZimbabweIndependent.