Zanu (PF) has eaten its own sons

Fifty one years after its formation, hardly any of the founding Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) members remains in the party, with most of them having been muscled out along the way over power struggles.


Zanu was formed on August 8 1963 at the house belonging to the late Enos Nkala, in Highfields, then a hotbed of African nationalism.

Its founding fathers, in addition to Nkala, included Ndabaningi Sithole, Henry Hamadziripi, Mukudzei Midzi, Edgar Tekere, Leopold Takawira, Simon Muzenda and Robert Mugabe, who came in as the information and publicity secretary after a teaching stint in Takoradi, Ghana.

Others, like Nathan Shamuyarira, Didymus Mutasa, Maurice Nyagumbo and Rugare Gumbo joined the party after its formation.

Power struggles that continue in the party to date have been the hallmark of the evolution of Zanu, which was rechristened Zanu (PF) in 1980 to avoid confusion with Ndabaningi Sithole Zanu.

Nkala, the host when the party was formed following a split from the Joshua Nkomo led Zapu that had been banned by the southern Rhodesian government, fell out of favour with Zanu in the late 1990s after a vehicle scandal now known as Willowgate.

Numerous Zanu (PF) stalwarts were fingered in the scandal which involved selling cars received through a cheap government scheme at exorbitant prices.

Nkala was bitter with his muscling out over Willowgate and became critical of Mugabe and Zanu (PF). He reconciled with Mugabe shortly before his death and was buried at Heroes Acre.

Maurice Nyagumbo was controversially accused of being involved in the scandal and subsequently committed suicide, although his death was accompanied by conspiracy theories.

Rumour said he did not commit suicide, but his death was stage managed after it was discovered that he was too close to the late First Lady, Sally Mugabe. Others said Nyagumbo was, indeed, guilty of laundering cars obtained from Willowvale Motor Industry but was a front for Sally who was shipping the cars to South Africa for a huge profit.

They said Nyagumbo’s sin was that he knew too much about Sally’s involvement. Most of the founding fathers either died too soon to be buried at the Heroes’ Acre or were side-lined for their criticism of Mugabe.

Chitepo died in March 1975 when his car was blown up in Zambia in an assassination. Many alleged that he was killed by a clique in Zanu who did not want him to be leader of the party, while others said he was assassinated by Ian Smith’s Rhodesian forces.

His death came at a time when power fights in Zanu (PF) were intensifying.

Ndabaningi Sithole, who like Chitepo came from Manicaland, was deposed to make way for Mugabe and Muzenda. He later joined a transitional Zimbabwe-Rhodesia government and was seen as a sell-out by Mugabe’s party.

He then formed Zanu (Ndonga) which dismally contested the 1980 black majority elections that Zanu won with 57 seats.

At one time, Sithole was accused of attempting to assassinate Mugabe and he had to flee into exile in the US; when he returned and passed on, he was denied hero status.

Edgar Tekere was part of Zanu (PF) for more than a decade from independence but he became too critical of Mugabe and later formed the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM).

When he died, virtually a pauper and unable to buy basic medicine for himself, Zanu (PF) said he had deviated from the party’s founding values. He was, however, buried at Heroes Acre.

Tekere accompanied Mugabe into Mozambique during the liberation war, where he subsequently led the party and its military wing, Zanla.

Rugare Gumbo and Mutasa are senior members of Zanu but they have gone through dark patches in the party. Gumbo, Henry Hamadziripi and Mukudzei Midzi were jailed by Mugabe in Mozambique in 1978 for rebelling against his leadership. Hamadziripi and Midzi both died as paupers and were denied burial at Heroes Acre.

Even though Mutasa is now the Zanu (PF) secretary for administration and Gumbo secretary for information and publicity, they were side-lined from the party for lengthy periods, bouncing back only as political balancing acts along regional and factional lines.

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