ZIMBABWE – HARARE – With Zanu PF’s seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars continuing to rip both the ruling party and the country apart, one of President Robert Mugabe’s long time friends and comrade, Cephas Msipa, has urged him to groom a successor to put Zimbabwe on a stronger footing.
Writing in his explosive book titled: In Pursuit of Freedom and Justice, Msipa criticised Mugabe for failing to promote the necessary debate on his succession, and suggests that by failing to do so, the increasingly frail nonagenarian is responsible for the turmoil ravaging Zimbabwe.
A constant theme throughout the book is the country’s fragile democracy and the myriad political and economic challenges that its citizens continue to encounter, which prompt Msipa to ask the question, “is this the freedom we suffered and sacrificed for”?
“Sometime in 2003, several senior members of Zanu PF asked me to persuade President Robert Mugabe to name and groom the person who would eventually succeed him.
“These people were not wishing Mugabe to go away, they were only saying that one day he will go, as is the way of all flesh,” Msipa reveals in the book.
He also says that he used his long-standing friendship with Mugabe, and the comfort of the knowledge that he would not be suspected of harbouring any ulterior motives if he raised the sensitive issue with the president, to approach his old friend with the proposal.
“I regret that I was unsuccessful in this bid as the president insisted that his successor would be democratically-elected by Zanu PF members through the appropriate structures. In theory, Mugabe is correct but in practice what he suggests may not work.
“I remain convinced that the current contentious approach to the succession is wasteful, destabilising and inappropriate for a country with such a fragile economy,” Msipa writes ruefully.
Citing past examples where Zanu PF has tried to chart a number of succession and democracy paths, the former Midlands governor says that “if the past is anything to go by, the attempt to democratise the party has been met with hostility”.
He also says bluntly that Zanu PF is to blame for the economic rot afflicting Zimbabwe.
“By and large, Zanu PF leaders and members seem oblivious to the critical bearing their conduct has on the nation, and particularly on the economy.
“Zanu PF conduct looms large in the minds of potential investors, and the constant upheavals and bickering within the party give the impression of instability,” Msipa writes.
He says the effects of the so-called Tsholotsho Declaration of 2004, which resulted in a number of senior party officials being expelled from the party, pointed to the fact that “no one was to challenge the power of the president to install his anointed appointees into any position”.
Shooting from the hip further, Msipa dismisses the various charges that have been levelled against former Vice President Joice Mujuru as a mere “barrage of sensational publicity centred on unproven allegations of corruption, sabotage and assassination plots, and peppered with accusations of witchdoctors unleashing charms”.
And warning that the country could soon descend into an ungovernable abyss because of conflict within the top echelons of power spawned by the unresolved succession issue, Msipa says Mugabe has the means to end the deadly factionalism devouring Zanu PF.
“In all this, Robert Mugabe has the power to remove causes of factionalism. That has been my call and it will remain my call,” he writes emphatically.
Analysts say the respected Zanu PF elder’s book could set the cat among the pigeons within government and ruling party circles as it spotlights democracy deficiencies in the country, as well as how authorities did little as an estimated 20 000 innocent people, mainly in Matabeleland and the Midlands, were brutally killed by the Fifth Brigade in the early 1980s.
The book dismisses the official massaging of narratives on the Gukurahundi atrocities as “a moment of madness”, saying as the massacres happened over a period spanning more than five years, they cannot therefore be described as such.
“Innocent men, women and children perished in their thousands. They were accused of either harbouring dissidents or supporting them. It turned out to be a massacre of people perceived to be PF Zapu supporters.
“The fact that the people were Ndebele-speakers was regarded as sufficient proof that they were PF Zapu supporters and therefore dissident supporters,” reads part of the book.
He also described the statement that the massacres were “a moment of madness” — which is attributed to President Robert Mugabe — as absurd, adding that three decades after Gukurahundi was launched, it still raised “more questions than answers”.
“Gukurahundi was not a day’s event or a ‘moment of madness’. It began in 1981 and continued until 1987 when the unity accord was signed.
“There were meetings at which the matter was raised in my presence, and Mugabe insisted that the matter be discussed so he could learn more about what had happened and was still happening.
“The question is why did he not know what was happening when it was in the media and many human rights organisations and churches were publicly protesting (about it),” Msipa writes.
Despite the two men enjoying a decades-long friendship, Msipa was fired from Mugabe’s Cabinet during the Gukurahundi era and placed under house arrest, something he says still puzzles him up to this day.
A man of steadfast principles and strong convictions, Msipa also says in the book that when Zanu split from Zapu in the early 1960s, he was allegedly approached by Mugabe to desert Nkomo, but refused.
“When the split occurred, Mugabe had approached me and asked if I would join Zanu. I told him I would not because I did not trust Ndabaningi Sithole.
“He then said to me, ‘I hope this will not affect our relationship’.
“Why should it?’ I replied, and indeed it in no way affected our friendship, which continues up to now. He remains my ‘muzukuru’ and I remain his ‘sekuru’”.
Msipa also touches on the disputed 2008 elections in his book and says it was during the presidential run-off elections where the “army was active” that he had decided to end his illustrious political career, as he had been appalled by the army’s involvement in the elections.
“At one election meeting, in Chief Mazvihwa’s area in Zvishavane, I was surprised to find myself sharing a platform with army commanders.
“I kept asking myself, ‘is this the freedom we fought for?’ … it was there that I made up my mind that I would never again participate in elections where people were openly threatened and intimidated into voting for any political party,” Msipa said.