HARARE – President Robert Mugabe flies into the volatile Masvingo Province today for his youth interface rally amid ugly fighting within his deeply-divided Zanu PF whose factional and succession wars this week saw the military issuing a chilling warning to Cabinet minister and politburo member Jonathan Moyo over his criticism of a government-sponsored Command Agriculture programme.
Mugabe is taking his youth interface rallies to Masvingo, a hotbed of Zanu PF factionalism, to drum up support ahead of the 2018 national elections.
The ageing Zanu PF leader who is increasingly leaning towards the youth league for his 2018 campaign has held two successful rallies in Marondera and Mutare as part of his nationwide tours.
His rally at Mucheke Stadium comes at a time his party has been thrown into fresh infighting, triggered by a fall-out over the Command Agriculture programme.
At the same time, a rival grouping of ex-combatants wants Mugabe to punish War Veterans’ minister Tshinga Dube for publicly backing calls to have the aged Zanu PF leader name a successor.
The latest infighting is a sign of the widening rifts within Zanu PF blamed on the thorny succession issue which they said had now entered its decisive stage.
Expectations are that Mugabe would be forced to harshly reprimand the so-called successionists to heal the rifts in his party.
Political analysts warned that without a proper and clear succession plan, Zanu PF was likely to enter a dangerous period of bloodletting.
“If the infighting continues, the party system will explode possibly resulting in some assassinations. As long as the two seemingly equal factions (Generation 40 and Team Lacoste) continue to exist, Mugabe will not have to struggle to contain them. What makes the faction war to continue is the lack of consensus within the Zanu PF family on how to deal with the succession issue,” said Shakespeare Hamauswa, a political analyst.
Another political analyst, Gladys Hlatywayo said Mugabe was to blame for the divisions within Zanu PF which she said had now invited the attentions of the military.
“At 93 and after uninterrupted 37 years in power the president is supposed to have retired long back and given way for someone else.
“Pro-democracy forces have consistently warned the ruling party of debilitating effects of an unprofessional army but they do not listen. We now see the army getting involved in internal succession dynamics.
“This is a serious threat to peace and stability in our country because the army has guns. It remains to be seen if President Mugabe is able to resolve this thorny succession issue but I have my doubts,” Hlatywayo told the Daily News.
After months of relative calm, Zanu PF was thrown back into turmoil this week when Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa accused Moyo of attacking the Command Agriculture programme, days after we had also highlighted how it had flouted procurement laws.
This was followed by a strong warning from the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Constantino Chiwenga, who on Tuesday labelled Moyo “an enemy of the State.”
Moyo is said to be a key member of faction fiercely opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe — the Generation 40 — but he denies the claims.
Chiwenga issued a lengthy statement in a State-run daily, reserving his harshest criticism for Moyo, in comments that have attracted widespread condemnation among opposition political parties.
He justified his encroachment into civilian matters saying food security was one of the pillars of national security adding that an attack on the programme was an attack on the economy.
“When you attack the economy you become the enemy of the State,” said Chiwenga.
“This guy (Moyo) who is vomiting that nonsense, didn’t he get support from Command Agriculture?” questioned Chiwenga.
“He has some other forces behind him? Hasn’t he written books that he is going to destroy from within? We read. We are all educated. We read. He has said that.
“Everyone must see. He rebelled before. Not once. He rebelled when we were in the struggle, he ran away. When he ran away he did all his nonsense, his column in the Financial Gazette.
“And in his book, when he was teaching, his commentary on why he went to America — we know. When he left and went independent, was he repentant?
And we know now that the tweeting is coming from Baba Jukwa and company, we know that. But I think he has got to where we wanted him to. Let me leave it at that,” warned Chiwenga, ominously.
Apart from being rocked by Chinamasa and Chiwenga’s outbursts, Zanu PF has been also stunned by Dube’s public backing of the larger section of war veterans’ demands for Mugabe to name his successor.
Although Dube has since held a meeting with Mugabe who censured him over the remarks which he said were made out of ignorance, angry Zanu PF members who include a rival group of war veterans, want him sacked.
On Tuesday they held a demonstration at the Zanu PF headquarters were they warned Dube that they would mobilise all the provinces to push for his ouster.
Dube has said he will continue to serve as long as Mugabe wants him to — clearly reaffirming his support for his candidacy in next year’s elections — a position which is not universally shared right now in the divided party.
Hlatywayo, however, said there was nothing wrong with Dube’s backing for those calling Mugabe to name a successor.
“Tshinga Dube is well within his rights to suggest a discussion on the matter and I do not see the reason why he must be persecuted for stating the obvious,” said Hlatywayo.
Analysts have repeatedly said Mugabe’s failure to name a successor is driving the internecine fighting within Zanu PF.
Mugabe, on his part, has maintained that it is not his duty to choose a successor but Zanu PF via an extraordinary congress.
In his meeting with Dube on Tuesday, he repeated the same message, ‘schooling’ the former soldier on how the party’s constitution spelt out issues of succession.
“His Excellency talked to me; he just reminded me that, look, I am only mandated by the constitution to choose my deputies. I only say yes sir. He said the issue of choosing a successor lies with the congress.
“He has given me the directive and, as my commander-in-chief, I listened. He came in a fatherly manner, as a leader and as a teacher,” said Dube after his one-on-one meeting with Mugabe.