Armed Factions, Post-Colonial Decay and Popular Revolt?

By Tinashe L. Chimedza & Tamuka C. Chirimambowa** (Guest Bloggers) response to Blessing Vava

Factional Theatrics and Elite Contests
From time to time, Zimbabwe's political landscape is gripped by mass hysteria when the elites in charge of the state spar amongst each other. In fits of excitement and volumes of amnesia, the citizen suddenly becomes ahistorical. The ruling factions within ZANU PF are treated as 'foundational'. Meaning that varied and convoluted interpretations are drawn about the tantrums emanating from the ruling class. Conclusions are drawn up quickly, infantilism writ large, that the ruling party is fissuring, that the kudu horn must be oiled and sounded and gather the village crier for the burial. That these intra-party infractions are so fundamental that they can shift the way Zimbabwe is governed. At the peak of this hysteria, mistaken as a matter of structure, some rush to say perhaps the elites are now tearing each other up and that perchance, not political will, the ruling class will smoulder without organised resistance. But it was Dr Alex Magaisa who summed the ruling class in Zimbabwe as a ‘mafioso’ and elaborated how the ruling structure is a copy and paste extractive class centred on violence and networks of patronage and paying tributary. But consult history, the ruling class is a stubborn collection of power and exploitation. Down in South Africa, the architects of apartheid are gathering force apace and denying apartheid is a crime against humanity - and poor Thabo Mbeki muddled a response.

For now, we turn to an interesting article, written by Blessing Vava, who paused whether these latest factions are a prelude to another 'putsch'. In the article, he concluded that if the President 'buried his head in the sand' then 'the devastating actions by cartels and corrupt businesspeople will only serve to threaten to further destabilise Zimbabwe’ and that the President might not finish his term of office. Others, before him, had already jumped into the vortex, with prophecies of ‘November in February’. That was Professor Jonathan Moyo, who has been furiously grinding his axe, getting millstones ready and roped, salivating and ready to guillotine the architects of the 2017 November Putsch. Blessing Vava broached the question of how factional battles are now raging within the ruling strata in Zimbabwe but as subsequent events showed the youth league has kissed and hugged with the party commissar and accepted ‘party discipline’. The article was timely in the context of two major contests. Firstly, the ruling party seems to have been gripped by heightened instability that culminated in a series of press conferences by some members of the youth league. Secondly, for some time now, within and outside the ruling party there has been widespread discontent over what has been called 'state capture' and 'cartels'. People like former Minister of Finance Tendai Biti, journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, Eddie Cross and a few others, have demonstrated the extent to which key state institutions have been paralysed for private gain.

While the article identified how these factions are playing out it seems the analysis was not carried to its more logical conclusion so that we have a robust grasp of what these factional theatrics portend. In this article, we want to stretch the debate further and start from where he ended chiefly because the article parlayed with the forces in play but ended prematurely without hammering the nail. Firstly, the ‘state capture’ in Zimbabwe is a noticeable variation that can be distinguished from the South African case and this is significant. In South Africa what was called state capture was in dribs and patches meaning that there were some elements of the state, like parts of the intelligence, the police, the military and the judiciary, that remained outside the orbit of state capture. Secondly, in Zimbabwe state capture turns out to be such that of a general and systematic character that state institutions have been subdued, in whole, to the whims of private gain with the collusion of the President and his inner circle. The President has been at the centre of the people who are accused of state capture meaning that for the first-time state institutions, especially the treasury and the central bank, are now under the unfettered control of the President and his network of patronage. What has been called 'cartels' are in fact and practice the different tributaries that the President and his inner circle have subdued to empty the national coffers This is why any fight against cartels is an implicit attack on the President and his backers.  
Factions and Elite Fissures in historical view
While the ZANU PF party motto is ‘peace, unity and development’ this is far from the ruling party in practice, the party in power has displayed arrogance of power. The party slogan might well be ‘unity’ in grand-looting and underdevelopment, and this is because the party is unified in looting national resources and especially the treasury. These factions will crop up from time to time but make no mistake, like Dr Magaisa, said in one article this is a mafia structure which allows and sometimes deliberately allows factions to emerge as long as the tributary flows to the ‘don’. To have a firm grasp of how the politics of factions has served the ‘emperor’ in power we must turn to Africa’s tyrants like Robert Mugabe and Kenya’s recently departed, Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi. When in power tyrants actively provoke, organise, promote and use carrots and sticks to make sure there are factions raging at each other so that they appear as the neutral ‘arbiter’. In Kenya, for example, President Moi was known to agree to two contradicting advisory notes and let the people with those notes run around believing they had his ear, only to be struck down mercilessly. Confusion within the party ranks is often a creation of the puppet master at work. Bidding time, Machiavelli way. The master of this game was Stalin and he ruled for long, isolating once good friends, former allies, striking them down when it suited him and in that game, he was unforgiving. Trotsky was isolated gently, deliberately and first he found himself exiled and when he blinked, he ended with an ice pick in his brain. Tyrants and tyranny are patient.
Mugabe authored and fed fat different factions depending on the balance of forces within the ruling party. It was a deadly game, when Solomon Mujuru blinked, he was burnt to death. A reading of Blessing-Miles Tendi’s book The Army and Politics in Zimbabwe: Mujuru, the liberation fighter and King Maker (2020), reveals how the former army commander was dispatched when the factional wars demanded that his power be liquidated. At one point it was Edgar Tekere who looked powerful and he was checkmated; at another point, it was Dr Simba Makoni who seemed to gain traction and he was forced out. The game started again, and this time Joyce Mujuru was pitted against Emerson Mnangagwa, and eventually, the emperor showed his hand early and was too thinly spread to swim out of the crocodile's lair - violence. The key characteristic here was that Mugabe always successfully, using party structures, patronage and intelligence service, resolved the factions peacefully. When one faction appeared weak, he urged it on and when the other faction appeared powerful, he struck them down mercilessly and pushed them out of the party. Mugabe was able to play this game until the fateful putsch of November 2017 which carted him off and ended these long-running shenanigans. This time when he struck down the 'Lacoste faction' he exposed his hand thinly and underestimated the way the Vice President had marshalled the gun and tanks to his aid. For the first time in ZANU PF’s post-colonial game plays, the army was mobilised to rescue a specific faction within the ruling party. The precedent has now been set, that anyone who feels aggrieved in the party and can marshal the barracks can walk into Number 1 Chancellor Avenue and announce his or her arrival.
Armed factions, Youthful Opposition and a National revolt
So, what does this portend for Zimbabwe’s unstable political future?  As Blessing Vava, pointed to, the attempt to cool down political contests through POLAD has dismally failed. The failure of POLAD became obvious when President Thabo Mbeki came to Zimbabwe. In a few words, POLAD has been ‘weaponised’ for three purposes. One is to buy time within the party and state, increase authority and allow breathing space for the President to assert his hegemony. Secondly, POLAD is aimed at pre-emptying genuine political dialogue by ‘running’ to SADC and AU and say ‘here we are talking’ so that Pan-African institutions are demobilised. Thirdly, more dangerously when the broad dialogue commences POLAD members will be so compromised, such that they will be used to ‘soil the soup’ – they will be a choir of court camarillas doing the bidding for the paying puppet master. This is why anyone who follows the POLAD meetings the government has been very generous with hotels and a budget for 'anti-sanctions' is on the offer. This is the price that tyranny is willing to pay so that when the broad dialogue process commences there will be so much confusion in the process and tyranny will stake its claims against the forces of progress and democracy. Apartheid played the same game, so did white-settlerism at Lancaster, so did Mugabe in 2008.
The President is going to work very hard to provoke factions within the party so that he emerges as the central point or arbiter of these factions. Put simply, the President is trying hard to be puppet master within the party and if this happens then the President will rule unperturbed. This scenario is unlikely because the President, as Professor Mutambara is fond of saying, he is a 'man of minimum ability'. Within one week the youth league went from 'radical' press conferences, well-paid banners at the media centre, getting 'fired' from the Politburo, getting suspended from the party, trying to organise a 'youth rally or movement', refusing to go to the party re-habilitation school of ideology which doesn't exist and finally capitulated when they recanted their misbehaviour and hugged the ruling league Political Commissar. And here is what they said to the Political Commissar, 'from the word go we have emphasised we belong to the party. And we have said we take direction from the party' and they have finally agreed to the 'Political Commissar counselling and he will help to correct us'. This is why any analysis of the factions within the ruling party has to penetrate the structure of power and how this is articulated through society, to ignore the structure of power and its class content is to climb a greased pole of prophecy and that arena is a death of bed on many.

The barracks have tasted political power and the the undisturbed sweetness of the national treasury. Slowly and solidly military women and men have seeped into civilian state institutions where they now hold powerful positions. And they do not hold this power for nothing; the military is a highly regimented structure with a command and control element meaning at any point they can be activated into operational duties. In the present set up of ‘military-nationalists’ this has effectively subverted the constitutional fabric in which the military is subservient to the people via elected representatives. From the diamond fields of the Congo; the open field looting in Marange and the repression; the billions siphoned through the Command Agriculture grand looting scheme; the distribution and re-distribution of gold claims; the militias used for mining and to feed the lines of patronage; the deliberate controlling of the foreign currency market and running opaque preference allocation system for cronies; the comrades of Mgagao are back in full force and for the first time since the 1970s they have under them an unprecedented amount of state, party power and money.  Here is how they can be summed up:
The Zimbabwean economy looks to many like it’s being run by people who have no idea what they are doing. One would be forgiven for thinking it’s run by clowns who keep making economic blunder after blunder. But it is not. Our economy is run by top-grade criminals. Geniuses who have mastered the art of looting and disguising it as ignorance. The biggest beneficiaries of Zimbabwe’s economic woes is Zimbabwe’s ruling elite (Thandekile Moyo, Daily Maverick, 18 January 2020).
There are three major ‘Harmattan winds’ bearing down on the national political landscape. Unlike the West African winds that are dry and dusty, these political tempests will re-configure the post-colonial considerably. On one front is the determined marshalling of opposition politics by a powerful youthful opposition leader under what has been called the 'five fights'; on another front, a dangerously collapsing political and social life stalked by a drought, and then a ruling party under the grip of factions with access to the national armoury. This is an explosive hotchpotch of forces and the grass is already very dry. In Tunisia, the self-immolation of a student torched a popular revolt.  In Algeria self-immolations quickly set off the dispatching of a tyrant. Zimbabwe is back into the vice-grip of the military shenanigans of the liberation days in the 1960s and 1970s; the Mgagao contests, the Badza-Nhari rebellion and what Professor Masipula Sithole called Struggles within a struggle'. But now, unlike then, the military-nationalists have access, not to guerrilla arms caches, but the national armoury and if 'putsch generals' gather outside the command structure the stage will be set for that infamous 'tide of men' that often come in floods to seal fortunes.
With the failure of 'elite' pacts: the 'unity government' of 1987; the global political agreement of 2008; the Constitutional reform process of 2013; and the putsch of 2017 it is becoming clearer that the pernicious road to a national popular revolt is slowly being paved. Zimbabwe’s pro-democracy forces will have to think of a broad political process, to organise and mobilise around a project that will unite urban, rural and especially the disaffected to reclaim the republic from the usurpers of the 'November Days'. Here is Alex Magaisa on ZANU PF:
In dealing with Zanu PF, as in dealing with the Mafia, it is necessary to appreciate that one is not dealing with a mere organisation. Rather, one is dealing with a way of life; the Zanu PF way of life; a circumstance that makes the task a lot harder and also calls for entirely different approaches to the challenges posed (Alex Magaisa, April 2017)
The social, political and intellectual structural process that morphed into the National People’s Convention in the late 1990s and eventually, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) provides many lessons to students of revolt and social change. Considering the generalised character of militarism, of grand-corruption, of systemic state capture and arrogance of power, the road to a national popular revolt has been slowly cooking. It is a national popular revolt that can sweep the ruling elites off quickly, just like it was in Sudan. Only then can a process of re-subduing state institutions to the democratic constitutional fabric begin in earnest- then, and then, the people will govern.

TLChimedza and TC Chirimambowa are Co-Editors of Gravitas.

History on repeat…is ZANU PF facing another putsch?

Captured? Vice President Chiwenga and Mnangagwa with business tycoon Kuda Tagwirei

By Blessing Vava

The past few days have been quite interesting with the developments in Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZANU PF.  The unfolding events have been triggered by a press conference by the now-suspended two  ZANU PF youth leaders, Lewis Matutu (Deputy Secretary for Youth) and Godfrey Tsenengamu (Political Commissar) naming what they allege are corrupt cartels which have caused harm to the country’s economy. 

As a result, the two, as they expected, together with the Secretary of Youth in the ZANU PF politburo, Pupurai Togarepi were slapped with suspensions by the ZANU PF politburo for indiscipline and not following party procedure after labelling business tycoons Kuda Tagwirei, Billy Rautenbach and Tafadzwa Musarara as corrupt.

Interestingly, Kuda Tagwirei and Billy are believed to be close to Mnangagwa and his allies and an equivalent of South Africa’s Gupta family, which was accused of state capture. Ironically, Kuda Tagwirei is a member of President Mnangagwa’s Presidential Advisory Committee which is amongst other things tasked with advising the President on how to turn around the economy.

I hasten to say that all which has been happening has exposed President Mnangagwa’s style of leadership as anchored on deception as well as showing that many within his party have lost confidence in his government’s commitment to fighting corruption. The public has long dismissed the so-called new dispensation’s efforts to fight corruption by pointing out that it has a “catch and release” policy. I would also argue that what is happening in ZANU PF is the re-emergence of the factions and an indication that the centre is no longer holding.

Two days after the youth leaders were suspended, one of them a controversial figure Godfrey Tsenengamu, who actively campaigned against the late President Mugabe’s leadership which, at that time they described as very warm to looters, defiantly addressed a press conference in Harare. He threw more brickbats and vowed to escalate what he termed a fight against corruption and tacitly describing President Mnangagwa as “surrounded by criminals” like what the November 2017 coup announcer Sibusiso Moyo now Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said justifying the removal of former President Mugabe from the office by the army. However, questions are still  being raised; if the former youth leaders’ actions are a real war against corruption or it’s a ZANU PF factional struggle to control the feeding trough at play. A closer look at these unfolding events is, therefore, necessary to understand the real story behind these developments. In this article, I will attempt to give different interpretations with regards to the unfolding events, which can form the basis of further discussions on this matter.

On the first look, the recent events seem to be a dress rehearsal typical of events preceding the November 2017 military coup when the likes of Tsenengamu, a known Mnangagwa foot soldier were at the forefront of supporting ED's ascendancy resulting in his suspension twice from the ruling party. Fast forward to February 2020, it looks the current developments are a replica of November 2017, which exiled former ZANU (PF) Politburo member and minister Prof Jonathan Moyo likes to call a November in February. Whatever that means, February might have ushered in an era of ZANU (PF) members joining the general population in expressing their disappointment and frustration over the failure by the “new dispensation” to remove the criminals which they say continue to surround the leadership.

On a second look, others are saying its nothing new but one of ZANU PF's diversionary tactics that it has been employing over the years to distract the masses from the ailing economy and pretend to be fighting corruption. Equally, but more importantly, they are trying to distract the progressive forces to mobilise the masses to rise against the deterioration of the economy and high cost of living. A recent report in the Zimbabwe Independent reported that the Joint Operations Command (J.O.C) has been doing joint intelligence analysis to understand the “national mood” to assess if there can be a national revolt due to the economic hardships experiencing the citizens. It might also be a counter-strategy, with the Tsenengamus pre-emptying a national revolt by calling for summits. Generally, we have seen before that despite mutation of factions, ZANU PF’s leaders are focused on power and grand looting, the factions manoeuvres have everyone intrigued and side-tracked.

On the third look,  one cannot also rule out an elite discohesion within the ruling establishment. Everything seems rehearsed, is history about to repeat itself? The likes of Tsenengamu and Matutu might have been let loose to test the waters and certainly, we should expect more drama. More conspiracies have been flouting linking the youths to either Mnangagwa and Vice President Chiwenga, with Tsenengamu vowing that their actions are neither supported by Mnangagwa and his deputy. History has also shown us that Tsenengamu and Matutu are in a party with a long history of using its youth as henchmen and certainly they are not on their own. What we are now witnessing is the re-emergence of the factions within ZANU PF and the biggest question on many observers is who is that faction behind Tsenengamu and Matutu or they are just overzealous youths overestimating their popularity?
Suspended ZANU PF Youth leaders Tsenengamu and Matutu addressing a press conference

Consequently, the following statements by the controversial war veterans leader and ZANU (PF) Politburo member Chris Mutsvangwa after the suspension of Pupurai, Tsenengamu and Matutu, clearly backing the claims by the suspended youth leaders. It is now clear  that some senior ZANU (PF) leaders are also convinced that there is a highly corrupt cabal which is very close to the centre of power, is impoverishing the whole population and sabotaging efforts to develop the economy. What is also apparent is that some ZANU (PF) leaders are now convinced that the State, in particular, the praesidium has been captured by Tagwirei and Rautenbach. What  remains to be seen is how some of these ZANU (PF) leaders are going to respond to State capture: are we going to see them making concerted efforts to fight State capture and advance the interests of the majority or they are going to chicken out?

If the events of the politburo meeting are to go by as reported in the Zimbabwe Independent of the 7th of February 2020, somehow easily point to who might be backing the suspended youth leaders. The newspaper reported that during the politburo meeting Mnangagwa, Chiwenga, Shiri and others wanted Tsenengamu and Matutu to be expelled whilst Mutsvangwa, the ZANU (PF) National Chairperson Oppah Muchinguri and others were supporting their actions and were against harsh punishments for the two. Muchinguri was angling to be the vice president on the assumption that Chiwenga was not going to come back alive after that long stay in hospital in China.  While another school of thought argues that Matutu and Tsenengamu's anger was because they were shut out of Jumbo Mine in Mazowe which Tagwirei and Emmerson Mnangagwa Junior are taking over. As such it might be more personal because they were benefitting from small scale activities 

However, Mutsvangwa’s support of the youth was also quoted in The Standard newspaper dated 9 February 2020, when he said: “There is the outrage of ZANU PF youths and their stolen prospects of a better future, jealous of peer global fuel traders.’’ Mutsvangwa is also bitter after his deal of a second fuel pipeline from Beira to Harare was foiled and he accuses Tagwirei of being the behind because he wants to enjoy the monopoly in fuel. However, whilst Mutsvangwa backed the youth league leaders, what will be interesting to know is whether he was representing the war veterans or that was his personal viewpoint. If he was representing ZANU PF what then does it mean in the balance of forces in ZANU PF and the state.  The military’s hand is also written all over the mess, even the exiled former Minister of Information and political scientist Jonathan Moyo also seem to support this thesis as he posted on his verified Twitter handle; “It is unwise to call the forces behind Tsenengamu and Matutu chancers. No institution in the Zimbabwe political landscape plans better than the military. They’re no chancers. Often the problem is the poor content and objectives of their plans, not their lack of planning.” Considering, for example, how the military efficiently removed the feared long term leader Mugabe and its long active but controversial participation in politics one cannot rule out the possibility that the army continues to be key actors in the unfolding events.

Faction leaders? War veterans leader Mutsvangwa and ZANU PF National Chairperson Oppah Muchinguri
In 2017, the military claimed that they are the stockholders in ZANU PF. The military’s interference in ZANU (PF) dates back to the liberation struggle. For example, it has been instrumental in issuing the Mgagao declaration that led to the ascendency of Robert Mugabe as leader of ZANU. The military was also accused of having a hand in ousting the former Vice President Joice Mujuru from office. Most recently the military booted out Mugabe from power and ‘put’ Mnangagwa in office in November 2017.

The question now is whether Mnangagwa, the former Generals Chiwenga, Shiri and others are still representing the interests of the stockholders especially with regards to removing the criminals surrounding the leadership? The army and war veterans like the general population are not immune to the destructive actions of the people who are being accused of having captured the Zimbabwe State.

It is important to note that in what can be viewed as panic, an unsettled Mnangagwa, who narrowly escaped from an assassination attempt in Bulawayo in 2018 and the people behind that assassination attempt still to be arrested, continues to reshuffle the army commanders, with the latest happening a fortnight ago. This follows last year’s retiring of four commanders namely, Major Generals Martin Chedondo, Douglas Nyikayaramba, Anselem Sanyatwe and Air Vice Marshal Shebba Shumbayaonda and appointed them ambassadors a move seen at that time as an attempt to dismantle the military base which orchestrated the coup. It was said that they even resisted the retirements but eventually succumbed to take up their new roles.  Some pundits assert that Mnangagwa is fearing another military coup as he fears that some senior army commanders who were pro-Mugabe might regroup to oust him. Arguably, the current economic decay and continued flourishing of corruption are discrediting the justification for removing Mugabe. As the economy continues to sink with the leadership appearing to be clueless throwing the general population, the business sector and ZANU (PF) leaders as evidenced by Matutu and Tsenegamu’s statements into a state of despair, many people who fervently marched and welcomed the removal of Mugabe are now regarding Mnangagwa’s as worse than Mugabe.

Another important point is how in the first few months after the coup, soldiers took over the presidential close security tasks from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), while the Zimbabwe Republic Police were relegated to peripheral roles. However, reports suggest that the CIO now under the leadership of Moyo a close ally of Mnangagwa is now back in charge of Mnangagwa’s close security with privileges it enjoyed under the old Mugabe order being restored.

Considering the widespread and high state of suffering across Zimbabwe reports of disgruntlement of soldiers cannot be ignored, an article by the Zimbabwe Independent “Hungry soldiers spark govt fears” dated 8 November 2019 quoted military who revealed disgruntlement was at an all-time high in the armed service, particularly within the junior ranks. In a nutshell, we cannot overlook the military’s disappointment by the Mnangagwa leadership which has dismally failed to turn around the economy and tackle corruption. Thus it cannot be ruled out that the soldiers feel let down by Mnangagwa. Tsenengamu also fired a salvo to Mnangagwa warning that power is temporary and it can disappear any time another warning that something is cooking and that those who orchestrated his ascendancy don’t see him as invincible.

 Therefore, what is happening in ZANU PF is a re-emergence of the factions and a reconfiguration of forces. The question to ask is; are we headed for a repeat of the Simba Makoni situation?  Whereby Simba Makoni was encouraged and promised support by some party gurus that if he takes on the ZANU PF leadership and expresses his ambitions they will join him. Simba Makoni went on to challenge Mugabe but the party gurus developed cold feet and left Simba in cold. Only one party stalwart the late Dumiso Dabengwa joined and the Mavambo project collapsed like a deck of cards. If indeed Mutsvangwa and Muchinguri and the disgruntled military cabal are the power behind Tsenegamu and Matutu, are they not going to chicken out and leave the two in deep trouble and isolated? 

In this section, I have looked at the implications of the actions of the youth leaders with regards to the factionalism and power struggles in ZANU PF. The follow-up section will delve much into the content of Tsenengamu’s press conference and its implications to ZANU PF.

Youths have lost confidence in ED’S leadership

Here I will try to break down Tsenengamu’s press conference and what it might mean to the developments in ZANU PF but in particular to Mnangagwa’s leadership.  As initially advertised the press conference was supposed to be addressed by both Matutu and Tsenengamu, it is the absence of Matutu at the press conference worth mentioning. Tsenengamu either could not say why his colleague was not part of the conference. Could it be that Matutu is already chickening out after realising that it might be a lone battle or he was advised to keep quiet? It is not surprising that soon he will be making a climbdown and I doubt if he will future in the events planned by Tsenengamu. Only time will tell. However,  listening to Tsenengamu, one can deduce that some youths (within the rank and file of ZANU PF) have lost confidence in Mnangagwa’s leadership in tackling corruption and uniting Zimbabweans.  Tsenengamu expressed his disappointment with his party leadership for doing nothing and not acting on their call after they previously named and shamed corrupt officials within the ZANU PF leadership. He added that after the expose of the corrupt leaders by the Youth league the party only responded by setting up a task force to look into the matter but nothing has been done resulting in the taskforce dying a stillbirth. As a result, Mnangagwa's fight against corruption is being seen as a huge failure by some members of his party echoing the general thinking by ordinary people. A huge blow against ED is that both the ZANU (PF) Youth League and the war veterans who see themselves as the stockholders of Zimbabwe see his government as captured by a corrupt cabal and not having no will to fight corruption as looting of State resources continues unabated and cartels scale-up impoverishing the general population with the tacit support of the government leadership which has arguably been ignoring calls to distance itself of criminals and cartels.


The second observation is the party’s stance on the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) a dialogue platform for parties whose leaders contested the 2018 presidential elections set up by Mnangagwa. Tsenengamu dismissed the initiative as futile adding that the only way forward for Zimbabwe is a dialogue between the two leading political parties, ZANU PF and the MDC Alliance while also admitting that the country’s problems are as a result of a political crisis which the country cannot afford to ignore. It seems this position is shared by many leaders in ZANU PF, with the likes of Politburo member Retired Col Tshinga Dube who has also openly dismissed thePOLAD initiative. Tsenengamu acknowledged that some hardliners in ZANU PF are not comfortable with a dialogue between Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.

The ZANU PF Youth are echoing what the opposition and many other people have said about POLAD: that it is useless and a waste of time and resources. Then what purpose is POLAD serving?

Tsenengamu dared Mnangagwa that he has failed to unite Zimbabweans as the head of state with that responsibility. Tsenengamu went on to give an ultimatum to ED that he should try to unite Zimbabweans by meeting the main opposition party the MDC Alliance. In another salvo, Tsenengamu reminded ED  that his victory was narrow thus he has no justification to act as if he was overwhelmingly elected.  

The third observation is the policy differences within ZANU PF, which Tsenengamu exposes in particular on the issue of sanctions. Tsenengamu shied away from blaming sanctions from Zimbabwe’s woes adding that ZANU PF’s was against sanctions was rather an exercise in futility. In a nutshell, Tsenengamu dismissed  efforts not to take responsibility for current mess but blame sanctions.  Tsenegamu seemed to make the argument that the government’s efforts have been a huge failure in working hard to improve the conditions of living. Tsenengamu argues that the government’s performance has not been satisfactory and thus ED should be worried about that too. Tsenengamu wars that instead of suspending the youth leaders, ED should critically introspect and acknowledge that the lives of the people have further deteriorated during his tenure.  Burying his head in the sand and ignoring the devastating actions by cartels and corrupt business people will only serve to threaten to further destabilise Zimbabwe and his dream to that “2030 ndinenge ndichipo” into a pipedream.

Blessing “Vuvuzela” Vava writes from Chipinge and can be contacted on

Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe's second coming

By Blessing Vava

THE toppling from power of the late former President Robert Mugabe by the army in November 2017 had signalled hope for many Zimbabweans, who saw his departure as an opportunity for a rebirth of a nation and a new politics after years of one-man rule characterised by an egoistic and opulent lifestyle and use of brute force to silence opponents.
Though I did not agree on the manner in which Mugabe was removed ‑ a military coup ‑ I was one of those millions of Zimbabweans who breathed fresh air seeing the tyrant’s back.
Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years with an iron fist. His personality cult had become bigger than the country itself and he called the shots. It was his way or no one else’s and during his reign, he nurtured a system ‑ Mugabeism ‑ a culture which has continued to haunt Zimbabweans even in his death.
However, since his departure, the remnants of his rule ‑ character ‑ seems to have morphed into his former personal assistant and successor, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.
During his first days in office, Mnangagwa promised and assured Zimbabweans and the world at large that Zimbabwe was on the course of a new path, a new dispensation, a Second Republic.
In earnest, all that has proved otherwise. In fact, the old has remained, nothing has changed and Mnangagwa has proved to be a clone of his former boss. One would be left wondering if Mugabe is gone for real because in Mnangagwa, Mugabe seems to have resurrected and his “spirit” is now tormenting us.
In this short piece I will attempt to highlight some of the traits/actions that Mnangagwa has carried over from Mugabe, proving that he is not his own man but rather, he has copied everything from Mugabe.
Annual holiday
As had become the norm, Mugabe took the opportunity to go for a leave every year around December and in early January. Mugabe would normally take his family to the Far East on taxpayers money.
He cared less about the dire economic situation in the country’, whose impact could be felt, especially around the festive season and in January.
We had become accustomed to that and this was also an opportunity for Mugabe to go for his medical check-ups during this time and every year, the news would pilfer that he had died.
Like the current leadership, he despised local health facilities, opting for treatment abroad, where they are better facilities, with his administration having seen the dearth of local ones.
While at it, it is not common in other countries for presidents to go on leave for that long, worse in Zimbabwe’s case, a country facing a host of problems.
On this one, Mnangagwa has refused to let this habit go. In typical fashion, he has inherited it and has officially gone on leave, which runs until the end of January.
The difference between the two though is that Mnangagwa is in the country, not by choice though, but because he dreads being toppled through a coup should he leave the country, as some quarters have alleged.
Shockingly, Mnangagwa can afford to go on leave while the country is burning and a time Zimbabwe needs leadership to deal with the socio-economic and political crises.
However, the 77-year-old ruler seems not to care. He has a careless tongue which recklessly unleashes tasteless jokes about the hardships people are encountering every day, a clear reminder that the people of Zimbabwe are on their own.
Mugabe was very fond of gatherings and took every opportunity to make sure that there was a rally, and would use such platforms to dress down opponents and at times pronounce government policy direction.
Even with the slightest of developments locally and internationally, his party was quick to organise rallies ‑ welcome back rallies at the airport, thank you rallies, interface rallies, you name it and all these became synonymous during Mugabe’s last days.
Unashamedly, a congratulatory rally was organised at the airport upon his return after he had assumed the rotational chairperson of the African Union.
Mnangagwa has unashamedly continued in the same path: thank you rallies to celebrate his 2018 electoral victory were held in some provinces.
On September 25, he organised what was dubbed the anti-sanctions rally, which was a call to the United States and the West to remove sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
And unlike Mugabe who had the numbers, Mnangagwa has found the ball tough in this game. Unlucky for him, he does not have the appeal and has no people. Maybe it’s his boring and choking tonation and intonation when addressing crowds which repels people.
Another interesting observation is his earlier stance on the sanctions issue a month after assuming office. A year later, Mnangagwa had resorted Mugabe’s anti-sanctions narrative. So much of similarities with Mugabe.
Human rights abuses /Police brutality
Mnangagwa’s short years in power have seen the worst in as far as police brutality, and human rights abuses are concerned. Mugabe’s 37-year rule was characterised by such: opposition supporters and any form of dissent were crushed using brute force and excesses by the security forces.
For Mugabe, it was rule-by-fear. Mnangagwa has been moving at a much faster rate than his predecessor. The unleashing of soldiers to quell post-election protests in August 2018 and anti-fuel price hike protests in January 2019 is testimony to how Mnangagwa has used Mugabe’s handbook very well. Many would remember Mugabe's boasting of violence and declarations that his party was above everything, Mnangagwa has continued with that trajectory: “We are the army, we are the air force, we are the police….. we determine who can do mining, we determine who can build a road. No other party can do so.”  While it can be argued that Mnangagwa has been a replica of Mugabe, there is no doubt that Mnangagwa has definitely surpassed Mugabe in many aspects, said Innocent Gonese, the chief whip of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Innocent Gonese, opines: ‘I know that Robert Mugabe was no good, ‘he was cruel and heartless and in spite of his array of degrees his appreciation of the laws of economics was zilch. I never thought that we could get someone worse than him.’ 
Suffice to say, as if it’s a ritual, Mnangagwa has continued with regular trips to his farm/rural home almost every Sunday, just as Mugabe did. The opulent lifestyle has continued as evidenced by the hiring of private planes for international trips, bloated delegations and, above all, politics of patronage which has seen Mnangagwa’s making key appointments of people from his Karanga tribe. Mugabe's key appointments were dominated by his Zezuru kinsmen. 

The patronage culture has escalated the levels of bootlicking President, something which characterised Mugabe’s reign. The more you praise the President, the more you get rewarded handsomely. From “vaMugabe muoffice” to “ED 2023, the more things change, the more they remain the same, nothing seems to change, we remain in a circle.

Blessing Vuvuzela Vava is a blogger based in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, he can be contacted on