Weaken-and-rule stategy

Some time ago I argued that Zanu (PF) would not collapse - but cumulative developments have fatally weakened that position. When I posited that argument, my main assumption was that dynamics in the party tended to be formed by popular and sentimental considerations, rather than personal tendencies.

Tawanda Majoni
Tawanda Majoni

In that regard, supporters would mainly be guided by party values—convoluted or real—rather than the machinations of power-seeking individuals. I also argued that history had shown that Zanu was capable of surviving factionalism, right from the time of its formation in 1963. Thus, despite the acute factionalism in the party, the main structure would always survive.

However, it is increasingly becoming clear that the Zanu of old is structurally and spiritually different from the Zanu (PF) that exists today. The party has become, fundamentally, a personal fiefdom of President Robert Mugabe. He is the bedrock, wall and roof of the party. Everything else clings around him.

This is so because Mugabe has successfully employed a weaken-and-rule strategy. He suffers from a typically African power egocentrism. This is a trait that essentially entails a political leader believing that he and no other is capable of leading and, consequently, any possible internal and external challenge should either be removed or diluted.

The recent virtual elevation of Grace Mugabe to the position of secretary of the Women’s League is the latest proof of Mugabe’s weaken-and-rule machinations. Due to his growing disillusionment with both Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose turf wars to succeed him were undermining his hold on power, Mugabe came up with his wife as the newest tool to counter the two.

Of course, the thrusting of Grace into the political fray came with its own simulation. Mugabe wants his followers and the rest of the world to think that he is fighting factionalism, so Grace must be sold as a balancing act. Needless to say, some in the party, among them the so-called war veterans, are going to buy that propaganda, hook, line and sinker.

The truth is that Joice had become too powerful for his liking and he had to find willing tools to use to undermine her. He knew there was no love lost between Oppah Muchinguri and Joice, and he also knew that the likes of Edna Madzongwe and Olivia Muchena were willing bootlickers who would have no problem being used to rally behind Grace and create a buffer against Joice.

Joice’s main sin is that she was growing away from the expected duty to see Mugabe as infallible. Given the party’s rules, she was the most likely person to take over from Mugabe, and her support base was solidifying. Joice was already counting the years down to 2018 and her time at the helm of the party. But nationalist founder statesmen don’t like that. She didn’t keep that to herself, that’s the problem.

These recent words by Joice must have jolted Mugabe to the edge of his seat: “We know that the president will soon be 90 and God might decide to call him. He has taught us a lot and how to lead the party. Zanu (PF) will never die because President Mugabe is no longer there; there are people who now can lead the party.”

On the other hand, Mugabe saw Mnangagwa growing a head bigger than the one God gave him. It is an open secret that the party’s legal affairs secretary and an erstwhile confidante of the president has always itched to push the Old Man out of his seat. If there was any doubt, the attempted Tsholotsho palace coup of 2004 removed it all. You don’t want to go out hunting with the Crocodile—as Mnangagwa is known—because, on a lean day, he will take you home as bush meat.

Mugabe has built his fortress with much skill, using the weakened factions and other forces to fight each other while he sits snugly at State House. He set the factions on each so that they would grovel before him. But now that he had grown to see through the grovelling, he had to establish another force through the elevation of Grace. The net effect is that all who had their eyes on the throne will trample on each other to massage Grace as Mugabe continues to sit snugly at State House.

Whether he will die doing that does not matter to the Old Man. He revels in his capacity to weaken others as he rules till the donkeys go to the kraal to sleep. To him, power is all about keeping it, not using it to strengthen his party or serve the people. This is where the tragedy lies. The roof, wall and foundation will soon crumble, crushing those that are clinging to the deity he has become. That will be the demise of the so-called revolutionary party.

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Post published in: Analysis

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