ZANU PF must keep succession battles away from government and the people

Tanonoka Joseph Whande

10 May, 2012

The fierce, chaotic jostling for control of ZANU-PF should be of concern to every Zimbabwean because the instability in ZANU-PF and the greed of those in contention to succeed Robert Mugabe will end up affecting the nation, not just that political party.

Nothing could be more dangerous to Zimbabwe than a destabilised ZANU-PF and we are holding our breath that these people, who have abused the country for decades, take their incongruous battles somewhere else because, to be honest, we are tired of them and there is nothing I would welcome more than the demise of this political party.

ZANU-PF has had its day in the sun; it has done its part and now only exists to frustrate progress and peace as it attempts to cover up its disappointing failures.

It is a matter of public record how this political party, led and controlled by one selfish man, has failed our nation and developed an attitude of paranoia as it attempted to blame someone else for their failures.

Populist rhetoric and constant reference to the war of liberation, blaming former colonial powers do not wash any more.

America presidents are given a mere four years to turn around and improve the fortunes of their vast country. After that, a president is either kicked out of office or has his mandate renewed by the electorate.

Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF have been failing to rule and to bring decency to our nation for more than thirty years and yet they still talk about the war of liberation and blame former colonial powers for their own shortcomings.

It would be understandable if they were saying ‘look how we have improved your lives since we threw the colonialists out’. But when the country looks back to colonial days with nostalgia, then we know how much Mugabe and ZANU-PF failed us.

Be that as it may, I find that one of the most meaningless, retrogressive and selfish practices by African leaders is their fear of grooming a successor, not only at party level but at national level.

A deputy to an African president must always behave as if uninterested in succeeding an incumbent president. He or she is not allowed to cultivate a constituency of their own or else they are viewed as opponents of the incumbent. Because of that, all decisions concerning a political party and the nation are left to one person who, most often, does not find it necessary to consult with anyone else except their spouse.

I am particularly worried about succession battles within ZANU-PF, primarily because their internal fights will affect government, army, police and service delivery by civil servants.

This party, which has never had any use for its own constitution, let alone that of the nation, seems to be imploding simply because they cannot follow their own constitution.

The culprit is, once again, Robert Mugabe and his paranoia in grooming a successor.

Given his advanced age, where did he think it was going to end? Now it is too late because even his own lieutenants are no longer afraid of him and pay little attention to him as they jostle for advantageous positions to succeed him.

Sooner or later, they will confine him to State House grounds while they simply take over the country and do as they please with the nation and the people.

Those who continue to proclaim allegiance to Mugabe do so only for expediency not because any meaningful support for Mugabe. But it is clear that Mugabe himself no longer commands the fear and allegiance of his party’s followers like before.

It is never a good idea to give limitless powers to an individual. Now Mugabe, having kept the lid on emerging younger leaders and surrounded himself with two vice presidents, still no longer has enough power to control those he admits are imposing their friends on the people.

Now he cannot even take meaningful sides with anyone otherwise he too would belong to a faction. Indeed, his is one of the five factions within ZANU-PF.

Irresponsibility comes in as many forms as there are responsibilities, none is worse that those men and women who take the oath of office to uphold the constitution of the nation and to safeguard its welfare but then use such authority to abuse the people.

I have noticed that, once in power, the one who took the oath of office is the first to minimize the importance of the oath and, in effect, abuse the office for which an oath has been taken.

Robert Mugabe, like all other African leaders, was suspicious of any successor and thwarted the emergence of any possible successor. African Vice-Presidents are mere messengers of their presidents and dare not practice or wield much authority. Even in the event of a national crisis, African Vice presidents do not rush to be in charge; they keep a careful distance, thereby creating a dangerous loophole that can easily be exploited by enemies of the nation.

They also do not wield much authority over state arms such as the police and the army as long as their president is alive.

Nothing could be more dangerous as not only ZANU-PF but Zimbabwe is witnessing now.

ZANU-PF is overburdened with two vice presidents and so is the nation. This silly arrangement spreads around what little authority a vice president has to the point that power or authority is not concentrated in one leader in the absence of the president.

And it is the more dangerous when both vice presidents aspire to succeed an incumbent.

Now we hear that ZANU-PF has five factions, not based on ideological differences but split apart in support of various people who want to succeed Mugabe, regardless of what their constitution or party hierarchy says.

The heart of the matter is that ZANU-PF must keep its succession battles away from government and away from the generality of the people. It is an internal party issue that must not be allowed to affect government.

The nation cannot afford to be embroiled in power struggles of a political party whose presence in government is not on the back of votes but of political accommodation and expediency.

ZANU-PF and its partisan army generals must be reminded of the difference between their party and government.

ZANU-PF wasted opportunities to bring order within their party and cannot expect the nation to pick up the bill on their behalf.

ZANU-PF ignored a simple fact that succession planning affords the party and the nation the availability of experienced and capable successors who are prepared and able to assume leadership roles as they become available.

To this very day, when we say the cabinet…government…the party…the politburo…the commander…the Chief Justice…Police Commissioner etc, we mean Robert Mugabe, who also fancies himself as ‘the President and First Secretary’ of his party, because he makes all the decisions himself on behalf of all these people in various government branches, including parliament and the judiciary.

The situation is made worse by another practice in African politics which is that of removing the line between state-owned property and party-owned property.

For decades there has not been any distinction between what was ZANU-PF and what was government. The two were viewed as one, thus a single man personalized both the party and government.

Now he is old and ailing and appears not to be in total control of the party and there is no clear successor groomed for such an eventuality. The party is in chaos and more upheaval is on the way.

The men of the barracks are not there to keep order; they also fancy their chances of succeeding Mugabe. They are also a faction within the party. It is a free for all in ZANU-PF and these people must keep their wars away from the rest of the nation, away from the government.

But, for me, the worst part of it all is that I look across to the MDC corner and see that even in that party, no successor to Morgan Tsvangirai is allowed to emerge. Like in ZANU-PF, it is Tsvangirai at the top, then his loyalists then the party.

It is a shame, is it not?

Such a practice must not be allowed to exist in parties that seemingly have an abundance of brilliant young minds.

All Tsvangirai has to do is look at what is happening to ZANU-PF to see that a succession plan is good for everybody concerned, particularly an incumbent leader because it is one way of ensuring that their ideals and hopes for the nation are kept alive well after they have exited the scene.

For the sake of the nation, I hope cool heads will prevail in ZANU-PF.

I am Tanonoka Joseph Whande and that, my fellow Zimbabweans, is the way it is today, Thursday May 10th, 2012.

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