ZIMBABWE – HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s warring post-congress Zanu PF faces another debilitating crisis, a second “Bhora Musango”, after it emerged yesterday that a number of the party’s legislators are readying themselves to join former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s People First movement.
Were this to happen, it would be a major blow to the brawling ruling party ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections, while providing a significant boost to the “original” Zanu PF formation that uses the slogan People First and that is presumptively led by Mujuru.
A well-placed source in the post-congress Zanu PF told the Daily News yesterday that “dozens” of the party’s MPs — many of them who stand accused of being Mujuru followers — were contemplating making good on their threats to quit the former liberation movement en masse for People First.
“While many of us were hopeful that the recent conference in Victoria Falls would calm the rampant factionalism in the party, things are getting worse and not looking good at all going forward.
“As you may know, more than 200 senior officials, a good number of them legislators, have either been expelled or suspended from the party over the past year, which has bred the ideal climate for more chaos and infighting.
“The worry we have is that if dozens of MPs resign en masse, and some say up to 100 legislators could join Mai Mujuru ahead of 2018 because many of them feel unwanted anyway in the party, things could get a whole lot worse both in the party and the country,” a central committee member said dejectedly.
Just this past weekend, the Zanu PF Mashonaland East provincial executive recommended the expulsion from the party of legislators Felix Mhona (Chikomba Central), Simbaneuta Mudarikwa (Uzumba), Washington Musvaire (Maramba Pfungwe), Phineas Chihota (Seke) and Tendayi Makunde (Murewa North).
Contacted by the Daily News for comment, Musvaire said Zanu PF would be shooting itself in the foot if it carried out this threat, alluding to the fact that many provincial and district officials were thinking of resigning from the party en masse in protest if this happened.
He said while he would “respect the party’s decision because I am very junior and they are my elders”, his Maramba Pfungwe constituency was in turmoil and a fertile ground for Mujuru to make rich pickings as the ruling party’s factional and succession wars continued to escalate.
“While we as leaders are trying our best to calm people down … those below us may not understand all this. We know the party leadership has not sanctioned our expulsion but rather lower ranking officials who lost to us in primary elections.
“What is saddening though is that all the party structures that supported us in the primary elections have been labelled Gamatox (Zanu PF code for Mujuru supporters) and district chairmen throughout the constituency are threatening to resign,” Musvaire added.
Another post-congress Zanu PF official said with Mujuru said to be launching her party in February next year, the ruling party was “clearly panicking” and hence the “irrational threat” to ruthlessly purge all officials who were suspected to be working with the former VP.
A legislator who has been “falsely accused of being Gamatox” also told the Daily News yesterday that he and many other Zanu PF MPs were indeed contemplating jumping ship “because we are not wanted”.
“If bad things can happen to the likes of (War Veterans minister Christopher) Mutsvangwa, imagine what can happen to little ones like us in this mad war. It is very clear that they want to finish us all one by one, and so we will not allow them to dictate to us.
“What our chefs (leaders) don’t realise is that what is happening is political suicidal and could backfire in spectacular fashion as it could open floodgates for en masse resignations not only by us MPs, but also by other party officials who have been labelled Gamatox,” the MP said.
Contacted for comment, People First spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said everything that was happening in the post-congress Zanu PF was “completely expected”.
“Those being threatened should be happy that they are being expelled. They are welcome to join People First, the people’s party where they will not be persecuted for associating with whosoever they wish.
“We expected that to happen given that the post-congress Zanu PF has run out of ideas. There are others from other parties, including PDP who are joining us and that pleases us because they are coming in droves,” the elated Gumbo said.
In the meantime, analysts say should the Mujuru MPs, who are said to number well over 100, proceed to jump ship, the move could trigger early national polls, which could crank up the heat on the bitterly-divided ruling party which is already reeling from its seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars.
Zanu PF is also under pressure from the looming pact among the country’s opposition parties following the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and other parties to demand key electoral reforms before 2018.
The agreement is widely seen as a prelude to a more comprehensive electoral pact, which could see all opposition parties rallying behind a single presidential candidate against Mugabe.
Mujuru also recently launched her Blueprint to Unlock Investment and Leverage for Development (Build), throwing Zanu PF into panic mode and even provoking the open ire of Mugabe, who bizarrely went on to threaten the independent media for propping up his former second-in-command.