Africa Watch

Joice Mujuru’s fight-back in Zimbabwe commences

Joice Mujuru fights back
Joice Mujuru.jpg

The appointment of Emmerson Mnangagwa as Zimbabwe’s new vice-president did little to alleviate tensions regarding the succession debate as the response of the faction supporting the disgraced former vice-president Joice Mujuru clearly shows.


Last week we reported on President Mugabe’s announcement that Emmerson Mnangagwa has replaced Joice Mujuru as Zimbabwe’s vice-president, confirming the justice minister as heir apparent and President Mugabe’s most likely successor.

It was also mentioned that Mnangagwa is by no means a unanimous and popular candidate and he could still face a challenge from the now disgraced former vice-president.

It did not take long for the challenge to materialise and the first shot in her counteroffensive has been fired – not by Mujuru herself – but by one of her backers, the former minister of presidential affairs and ZANU-PF’s former secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa.

In the same article it was maintained that a challenge by Mujuru at this stage might not pose a big threat to Mnangagwa but it would nevertheless be a mistake on his part to ignore the former vice-president as she can still count on considerable popular support.

This turned out to have been an understatement with the developments since and the almost panicky response by some ZANU-PF office bearers and influential party members, particularly those that benefitted from Mujuru’s downfall.

Some analysts are particularly alarmist and warn that President Mugabe faces possibly his biggest political challenge yet in his 35 years at the helm of Zimbabwean politics.

Irony

The irony is that the events of the past week, triggered by a statement by Didymus Mutasa have transformed the political landscape in Zimbabwe in such a way that the biggest opposition to the Mugabe regime will no longer be from the traditional opposition but from within.

A Zimbabwean newspaper, The Daily News, quoted ZANU-PF heavyweights, liberation war veterans and political commentators who claimed that the latest “frontal attack” on President Mugabe ”had never been witnessed before” and could split ZANU-PF down the middle.

The same newspaper also cited senior ZANU-PF members admitting that they were ready to join the Majuru faction to “restore ZANU-PF to its former self” and ”end the Mugabe dictatorship”.

Coalition of opposition parties

It is said that Mujuru is already under pressure from her supporters to start talking to opposition parties to investigate the possibility of future co-operation and forging a united front against ZANU-PF.

This will challenge Mujuru’s leadership as she has publically stated that she would "die in Zanu PF" and vowed to remain in the ruling party and "re-strategize" from within.

Expulsion from ZANU-PF could leave her with no alternative but to form a new party with or without opposition parties.

President Mugabe’s absence from the country (he is away on holiday), has contributed to the knee-jerk and panicky reaction which is aggravated by acting president Mnangagwa’s noticeable inaction and silence.

Mnangagwa will obviously refrain from anything that could harm his presidential ambitions and this challenge by the Mujuru faction could be a potential poison chalice.

Calls for the immediate expulsion of the remaining ZANU-PF heavyweights in the Mujuru camp from the ruling party, including the former vice-president, have reached fever pitch. It is expected that President Mugabe will decide their fate on his return.

Considering his tendency to deal severely with any opposition and criticism within ZANU-PF, there is almost total agreement that the Mutasa statement was likely to activate a vicious backlash from Mugabe. This could not only hasten an irreversible split in the ruling party but, according to Zimbabwean watchers, could “cause “serious violence, chaos and instability.”

The Mutasa statement 


On 13 January 2015 Mutasa, a ZANU-PF stalwart and former member of President Mugabe’s inner circle, released a comprehensive statement to the media which is highly critical of the president, his wife, and the ruling party on behalf of "all office bearers who have been unconstitutionally and unceremoniously removed from office without charge."

The statement endorsed, by the Mujuru faction, made it clear that it considers the December 2014 ZANU-PF party congress and its resolutions unconstitutional and illegal and will contest it in court.

In what many, particularly the ZANU-PF faithful, interpret as a highly provocative move, Mutasa has written to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) requesting intervention to help reverse the outcome of the congress.

According to the statement, “the crisis sparked by the decisions taken constitutes a serious threat to the stability of ZANU-PF, Zimbabwe and the region at large”.

Bad news

The Mutasa statement is certain to increase the tension and conflict between the different factions within ZANU-PF. This comes at a time when the ruling party should be focussing and concentrating its energies on the economy which continues on a precipitous decline.

Instead of a respite, it seems as if Zimbabwe is heading for another year of political and financial instability and uncertainty, which is bad news all-round.

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by Garth Cilliers

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