ZANU-PF National Congress Portends Business as Usual in Zimbabwe – By Brooks Marmon
A shopping centre in Harare’s smart northern suburbs demonstrates the dichotomies in Zimbabwe ahead of a critical ZANU-PF national congress scheduled for early December. A regional fast food chain displays a massive sign bearing the Zimbabwean flag, proclaiming that Chicken Inn has “that original Zimbabwean taste we luv (sic).” The establishment competes with a new KFC franchise, located just on the other side of the parking lot, proudly bearing the image of Colonel Sanders.
The indigenization versus liberalization struggle is mirrored in the political realm, too. Internal divisions in both major political parties threaten the recent economic success that enabled the return of international establishments like KFC to Zimbabwe following nearly a decade of hyperinflation.
President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF emerged triumphant following 2013 elections, delivering a major blow to the opposition MDC with which it formed a dysfunctional unity government after suspect elections in 2008. ZANU-PF was further strengthened in April 2014 by the latest in a series of MDC splits following a failed attempt by former Finance Minister Tendai Biti to unseat long serving party leader Morgan Tsvangirai (although it now appears that reunification of the main MDC offshoots is imminent).
ZANU-PF is dealing with challenges of its own, however, as the political debut of President Mugabe’s second wife, Grace has radically upended the ruling party in recent months. As a result, ZANU-PF’s vitriol has shifted from Tsvangirai’s perceived Western-sponsored regime change agenda to curbing the national leadership ambitions of one of its own – Vice President Joice Mujuru. A liberation war veteran, Mujuru was married to a prominent military commander who died in a mysterious fire in 2011.
In August, it was announced that Ms. Mugabe would assume the leadership of ZANU-PF’s Women’s League at the party’s December Congress. Cars custom wrapped with her image appeared on Harare’s streets soon thereafter and Grace’s ascension continued when she received her PhD from the University of Zimbabwe the following month after mere weeks of study.
In October she embarked on a “˜Meet the People’ rally series across Zimbabwe, sowing the seeds for what has been a drastic and rapid reorientation of the country’s political landscape ahead of ZANU-PF’s national congress. Beginning with veiled attacks on VP Mujuru, who is seen as leading one faction in the race to succeed the President (Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa heads the other) the tone rapidly escalated, with Ms. Mugabe explicitly calling on Mujuru to resign. The state media has also fanned tensions, describing Mujuru’s “˜legendary ineptitude’ and reporting that she extorted duty free shops at Harare’s airport.
Mujuru’s allies have not been spared either. At a recent politburo meeting, war veteran leader Jabuani Sibanda was expelled from the party while ZANU-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo was suspended. Almost all of ZANU-PF’s Provincial Chairs have been dismissed, and key members of Mujuru’s faction have been implicated by state media as leading a plot to assassinate President Mugabe.
Against this backdrop, ZANU-PF opens its national congress on December 2 under a theme that ostensibly focuses on President Mugabe’s blueprint for social and economic revitalization – ZimAsset. However, all eyes will be on the succession struggle and Mujuru’s fate.
Many governments, including the US, which identified Zimbabwe as an “˜outpost of tyranny’ during the Bush administration, anticipated that either the 2013 elections or the inevitable post-Mugabe transition would quickly return the country to an environment based on the rule of law. The rise of Grace Mugabe and the possibility of a Mugabe dynasty threatens any transition to a citizen-centric state in Zimbabwe. President Mugabe continues to assail the West at the UN, depose white farmers from their land, and water shortages and blackouts persist. The opposition is in disarray and an assault on an activist leading a occupy protest in a park behind one of the country’s smartest hotels indicates the lengths to which the state will go to repress popular protest.
While the US is undoubtedly disappointed by the collapse of the MDC and the EU bereft that its removal of sanctions on key ZANU-PF officials has not resulted in greater rapprochement, the biggest losers in the nation’s Game of Thrones style saga are Zimbabweans themselves.
From unlicensed taxi drivers to bitter white industrialists, Zimbabweans complain about the current situation. In Zimbabwe’s third city, Mutare, a once impressive industrial center has collapsed. Not far from the diamond deposits that are bringing in much needed resources for ZANU-PF, factories lie vacant or house small businesses unable to afford the rents of downtown office buildings. Unemployed painters loiter with brushes outside hardware stores where posters promise easy loans for civil servants. The single remaining cinema has closed and the city’s premiere business hotel has lost its Holiday Inn franchise tag.
While Zimbabwean elites are now able to enjoy the trappings of a middle-class Western lifestyle, the country’s political crisis continues to undermine the livelihoods of citizens across the country. There is a distinct possibility that the current crisis within ZANU-PF may return the country to further economic crisis and international isolation. ZANU-PF’s upcoming congress should provide ample fare to determine Zimbabwe’s future.
Brooks Marmon oversees the Africa portfolio at the Accountability Lab
Brooks, you should be clearer; what you want in Zimbabwe is not a “–citizen-centric—” polity. Your article makes it clear you prefer a “Westophilic” leadership! You do not care what Zimbabwe’s citizens think, you show this by your disdain for the highly popular Indigenization policy. How can a policy so popular even with those that voted against ZANU not be “citizen-centric”?
You have accurately described the collapse of manufacturing and industry in the country. Illustrating to us the closed factories and the unemployed painters.
However, you falsely extrapolate this failure to the whole nation; nothing could be further from the truth!
First of all, Industry and manufacturing used to account for around 29% of the economy. Today, its somewhere below 15%.
Yet, the economy has expanded and is TWICE the size it was when industry was at its highest.
Retail too, has exploded to unimaginable heights that could never be dreamed of in the 90s.
And, elites in Zimbabwe do not live lives comparable to the “Middle-class in the West” as you say, they live lives equivalent to the WEALTHY westerners, way above the western middle-class! I should know, I have a sister that can afford to send two kids to top US universities, paying over $60 000 cash for each. Taking vacations in Dubai and Singapore.
ALL from money earned from selling tobacco grown on a farm given to her during land reform!
How has all this been possible given the sad story you have told us?
Well, you continue to ignore the vast majority of the country at the expense of industry and its failure. You ignore the explosive agricultural sector that has peasants increasing their incomes from less than $10million to over $700million. You ignore the diaspora that used to send less than $1million in the 90s to over $1,5billion.
Finally you ignore the informal sector that now constitute upwards of 70% of the country’s economy. Strong enough to power the country forward even as formal industries collapse.
The story of Zimbabwe is being written somewhere far away from where you choose to gaze. Which explains why most western predictions on the country has ALL come out WRONG!
The politics in Zimbabwe has reached break or make it point. Mugabe can either be seen as a master achiever or a political villain depending on whether one is honest enough in the love for humanity or not. Rules have been broken and Mugabe is the constitution, the law, judge and prosecutor. He has no embarrassment cutting across general meeting procedure to get where he wants. This is no congress but an example of how Animal Farm satire still feature in variety of ways. It is unbelievable but happening under people’s watch with Mugabe military and music as all armed to teeth not to defend Zimbabwe but Mugabe for what he us worth to them. We will soon be calling on free world to work towards transition for the country to be productive and go back to rule of law. What remains in Zimbabwe and keeps unfold can, if left unguarded, explode into world catastrophe fir religions and influences from elsewhere shall mix in the struggle to take control of the gate to Southern Africa, a one upon time granary for Africa. Let common sense prevail and morality for human respect be raised.
While I am not a Zimbabwean, I empathize with many Zimbwabe citizens. It is sad that Mugabe has reduced a once powerful country into a society full of despair. Zimbawe opposition must unite and rally its citizens to have a revolution. They say even the weak become strong when they are united. All we can do is to give hope to you my brothers and sisters that better days lie a head. As John F Kennedy once said; “Those who will prevent peaceful revolution will make violent revolution inevitable”
We pray for you hoping that God will touch the hearts of leaders in your country. But you must do something. Continue speaking for justice even if your voices tremble.
Chemoiywo Edwin, sorry we don’t need your empathy. I suggest you direct it to needy areas like Palestine.
@ Andrew Manyevere,
I tried following your argument but cannot make sense of it. What are you trying to say?
Who is this “–free world–” you would like to set on Zimbabwe? The same people that have converted Libya from the richest country in Africa to a failed state? The very people bringing “–democracy–” to Syria by arming heart-eating “–freedom fighters–” and then bombing them later as terrorists?
Where do you get that Zimbabwe is “full of despair”? From westerners and a minority of Zimbabweans opposed to Mugabe? Why do you prefer to hear from minorities and foreigners and ignore the voice of majority Zimbabweans?
Should my opinion of Kenya be viewed from the perspective of al-shabab supporters in Kenya? How about my view of the U.S., should it be from Klu-Klax-Kan type extreme Republican right-wingers that hate Obama and all the Black-blood in him?
Next time you want to have any opinion on Zimbabwe, spare a moment to listen to the vast majority that are proud of where their country is going and support the current leadership!