BY MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare
ASSASSINATION attempts, officials throwing furniture at their rivals, fist fights and the abuse of state resources to resolve intra-party disputes.
These are among the ugly scenes rocking the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) as it implodes ahead of its annual conference.
The ructions, the worst scenes of infighting since the last squabbling that led to the overthrow of then-party and country leader, Robert Mugabe (now late) in 2017, raise the spectre of violent national polls in 2023.
Next year will be the election of a new executive of the ruling party, another potentially explosive exercise in a polarised country with a history of violent elections, both national and intra-party.
The ruling party’s conference is slated for this month but district and provincial elections are dragging the liberation movement into the abyss.
ZANU (PF) provincial structures are already preparing for their elections ahead of the congress, with all the leagues including the main, youth and women assemblies’ elections expected to be held by this month.
The elective congress in December next year is when the party is expected to elect a new national executive or extend the mandate of the current one led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
There are rumours his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, is eyeing the post.
Factions aligned to the two strongmen apparently are jostling for top positions in the provinces.
Chiwenga, the former army general who doubles as health minister, masterminded the ouster of Mugabe almost four years ago.
Preceding the coup and post the overthrow, the party was torn into two factions – one siding with Mnangagwa and the other pushing for the then-First Lady, Grace Mugabe.
Days before the November 2017 coup, Mugabe dismissed Mnangagwa as vice-president for “disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability.”
He fled to Mozambique and then South Africa fearing for his life.
This triggered the coup.
Mnangagwa returned days later and the party nominated him to succeed Mugabe, expelled from the party alongside his wife and other officials.
It is signalled the demise of the so-called generation 40 (G40) aligned to Grace Mugabe.
As one political commentator said this week, each time ZANU (PF) holds its annual conference, “the country somewhat goes on pause.”
This is because a large number of those in government are members of the ruling party.
The conference offers a chance to consolidate their positions in the party as they prepare for the elective congress, just a year before national elections.
“It is so much like a drove fighting for a chance on the feeding trough,” the analyst stated.
Preparations for the conference have been tense and indicate rivals will stop at nothing at eliminating friends-turned-foes in the race for positions and influence.
Intra-party violence and intimidation spiked in September.
The most harrowing skirmishes have been in the Mashonaland Central.
In that province located in the northeast, Lazarus Dokora, an education minister under Mugabe, has reportedly suffered an attempt on his life as the race for the chairmanship hots up.
Current home affairs minister, Kazembe Kazembe, is allegedly the mastermind as he also eyes the position at the conference.
It is alleged some hit-men from the rival camp on September 13 used claw hammers to smash Dokora’s car intending to kill him.
He was not in the car at the time but the vehicle was damaged.
Police officers in the provincial capital, Bindura, are said to have disregarded his report as he attempted to open a case.
This indicates officers being sucked into the factional fights.
Dokora has since pulled out of the race.
At one point, Kazambe was accused of pointing a firearm at his rivals.
Tempers have also boiled over in the capital, Harare, where the infighting has spilled to the courts.
Current chairman, Godwills Masimirembwa, had a chair thrown at him, allegedly by his deputy, Godwin Gomwe, on September 24.
Masimerembwa sustained minor injuries during a melee in which his second-in-command accused him of creating fictitious party structures to facilitate the rigging of internal elections in favour of Harare’s state minister, Oliver Chidau, to take over the chairmanship.
Gomwe has appeared at the Harare magistrates court on charges of assault.
Bloody fights have also been reported in the eastern Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West.
In the Manicaland capital, Mutare, bordering Mozambique, about 200 party youths and war veterans recently besieged the provincial offices baying for the blood of chairperson, Mike Madiro.
They accused him of influencing the district election process.
Albert Nyakuedzwa and Enock Porusingazi have emerged as favourites to wrestle the chairmanship from Madiro.
Abuse of state resources for party campaigns has emerged in the region, particularly in the Buhera North constituency.
Incumbent legislator, William Mutomba, is alleged to have called in police to disrupt an agricultural show that party rival, Philip Guyo, sponsored.
In Wedza, in the Mashonaland East, fellow ZANU (PF) officials, Lovemore Makombe, and one Kahondo were involved in a brawl.
Both men are aspiring for the leadership of the district.
Makombe allegedly mobilised youths to disrupt a meeting Kahondo convened.
Mike Bimha, the acting national spokesperson of ZANU (PF), conceded violence had marred the jockeying for positions.
“We would want to take disciplinary action,” he told media.
Bimha hinted at provincial elections being postponed to focus on the divided party on preparations for its annual conference.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) expressed concern at the violence.
It documented ten cases of intra party violence within ZANU (PF) in September. This was a rise from four recorded in August, amid fears of a further rise until the explosive party concluded its elective process.
“This level of violence at the high level affecting the elite of the ZANU (PF) party hierarchy is troubling, considering that it is only internal,” the rights group said.
“It (violence) gives a strong, early warning that in an election where the party will be facing other parties, it is likely to use everything at its disposal, including state security agents, to thwart opposition to its rule.”
ZANU (PF) is again set to compete with several Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations.
The overthrow of Mugabe was the second time ZANU (PF), in power since 1980, imploded in over a decade.
In 2004, ahead of a congress, a faction loyal to Mnangagwa was accused of a plot to oppose the ascension of Joice Mujuru to the post of Mugabe’s deputy.
Some bigwigs behind the clandestine plan were fired.
Mnangagwa survived albeit appointed in a less influential position as Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities. – CAJ News