Owen Gagare and Brian Chitemba
29 December 2011
THE year 2011 would be remembered for the Arab spring uprisings which saw dictators such as long time Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak being ousted and the seemingly all powerful and omnipotent Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi being overthrown and subsequently executed by rebel fighters.
However, in Zimbabwe the tragic death of one of the country’s most decorated soldiers and former army commander General Solomon Mujuru at his Beatrice farm in August shook the country’s political establishment. Mujuru died in a yet to be explained inferno sending the country into mourning, but his death had far-reaching consequences on the political landscape.
Mujuru, the only person in the politburo who could stand up to President Robert Mugabe, led one of the main factions in Zanu PF which has been at loggerheads with another faction led by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. His death weakened the faction and left his wife Vice-President Joice Mujuru vulnerable.
The general had also used his power to check the political ambitions of Zimbabwe Defence Forces chief General Constantine Chiwenga, who is believed to be eying the country’s number one job. Mujuru had reportedly declared that Chiwenga would not rule the country as long as he was alive and now that he is dead, one wonders how Chiwenga’s political ambitions have been boosted.
Mujuru was also in constant touch with the MDC-T leadership since he believed that the party had a role to play in the country’s future.
Although he never sought higher political office, the general was highly influential in the background as a kingmaker and there is no doubt that his death would have grave political implications.
On the regional front, Sadc leaders finally toughened their stance on Mugabe and Zanu PF urging them to play ball in implementing the GPA. The leaders, who for years, had been mediating in the political crisis shocked Mugabe at the Sadc Troika meeting in Livingstone, Zambia in March by throwing out his bid to push for elections this year, and rather insisting on a prior conducive environment.
The summit demanded that there be an immediate end to violence, intimidation, hate speech, harassment and any other form of action that contradicted the spirit and letter of the GPA.
Infuriated by this stance, Mugabe, Zanu PF and the state-controlled media went into overdrive condemning the Sadc-appointed facilitator President Jacob Zuma and his team resulting in a diplomatic tiff. Sadc does not want another contested election outcome and has insisted that elections would only be held when the conditions are ripe.
On the domestic front, whistleblower website WikiLeaks’ exposure shook the major political parties resulting in strained relations. For some time it appeared as though there would be a major fallout, especially in Zanu PF, after revelations that several senior party officials clandestinely met US embassy officials and discussed Mugabe’s ouster, among other things. The leaked cables revealed that many Zanu PF officials believed Mugabe was now a liability to the party.
However, Zanu PF has not taken any action on the perceived sellouts fearing that this would destabilise the party, but these revelations heightened tension and suspicion in the party already compounded by Mujuru’s death.
The cables also showed that many MDC-T officials and diplomats did not have faith in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s leadership qualities, although they believed he should continue at the helm because of the grassroots support he enjoys. The revelations surely shocked Tsvangirai even though he did not take action fearing a split in the party.
Tsvangirai’s private life also grabbed headlines, especially his alleged marriage to Harare businesswoman Lorcadia Tembo. The Tembo family announced that the PM had married Tembo, but Tsvangirai’s office dismissed the allegations.
They said the PM had only paid damages after Tembo had “claimed” to be pregnant, but the saga took an interesting twist when Tembo moved into Tsvangirai’s rural home in Buhera. The PM then issued a statement alleging there was a plot driven by the Central Intelligence Organisation to tarnish his image before announcing he was terminating the relationship.
Tsvangirai’s marriage debacle left many people questioning whether he could handle state affairs given that he was struggling to maintain his private affairs. The marriage brouhaha came at a time the PM was already linked to several women, including a 23-year-old Bulawayo woman Loreta Nyathi who reportedly has a child with him.
During the first week of December, Zanu PF held its annual conference in Bulawayo, and while party cadres termed it a “mini-congress”, nothing of note emerged from the indaba.
Mugabe was endorsed as the Zanu PF presidential elections in anticipated polls next year. Mugabe scoffed at suggestions that he was retiring anytime soon, vowing that he would not go as long as sanctions were in place.
Mugabe also did not appoint politburo and central committee members as had been expected. The Zanu PF factions had been plotting against each other ahead of the conference, but Mugabe’s declaration dampened their objectives.
MDC-T also held its elective congress in Bulawayo, and factional clashes were also the order of the day. Like Mugabe, Tsvangirai was re-elected unopposed.
MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti’s tenure in office was challenged by the late Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, who was said to have been sponsored by Tsvangirai. Vice-president Thokozani Khupe also faced opposition from Bulawayo East MP Thabitha Khumalo while Nelson Chamisa won against Elias Mudzuri for the powerful organising secretary’s post.
MDC-T insiders said Mudzuri lost because he fell out with Tsvangirai as the intra-party clashes prevailed. Prior to the MDC-T congress in April, there had been bloody clashes between State Enterprises minister Gorden Moyo and Mzilikazi Senator Mattson Hlalo for the control of Bulawayo province. Moyo, who enjoys the support of Tsvangirai and Khupe, finally won the bitterly contested race.
The smaller MDC led by Welshman Ncube also held its congress in January in Harare where former party leader and Arthur Mutambara did not contest, only to somersault after he was asked to step down as deputy prime minister.
Mutambara claimed he was still the legitimate leader of the MDC, prompting a court battle. The Bulawayo High Court initially interdicted Mutambara from acting as MDC president and endorsed its interdict recently when Justice Lawrence Kamocha ruled that Mutambara should also step down as a principal.
However, Mutambara appealed the High Court ruling at the Supreme Court insisting that he was still a principal. As election talk reached fever pitch, political violence also flared between Zanu PF and MDC-T youths who clashed several times, particularly in Harare.
This â-¯resulted in the drafting of a code of conduct by the Organ onâ-¯National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration. The code compels political parties to publicly campaign against violence and also establishes a National Peace and Reconciliation Council to resolve political disputes.
AllAfrica – All the Time
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Zimbabwe: 2011 – Mujuru Death Shook Up Political Scene