‘Robert Mugabe Succession Battles Becoming Uglier’

Political Scientist and Sapes director, Ibbo Mandaza (IM) says President Robert Mugabe has thwarted an “attempted coup” within his party. Mandaza spoke to Violet Gonda (VG) on her Hot Seat programme where he spoke about attempts to oust Zanu PF national commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere using provinces.

Mandaza explains that an “assault on Kasukuwere is an assault on Mugabe”. Below are the excerpts of the interview.

VG: First of all, can you give us your thoughts on what is at the centre of these power fights within Zanu PF?

IM: Well, it has to do, essentially, with the succession issue, as you pointed out in your introduction. The succession battles are becoming uglier and uglier every day and the indication is that we may even descend into violence and there are reports of an attempted coup in fact.

VG: Who are the main players because before, we heard that there are two main factions the G40 led by Saviour Kasukuwere and Professor Jonathan Moyo and then on the other side, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Lacoste. Is this still the case?

IM: Yes, I think the proverbial Lacoste versus the G40. But some of us have said before – the G40 is essentially Mugabe. And therefore, the onslaught against Kasukuwere is actually an assault on Mugabe himself and I think he has realised that.

VG: What evidence is there that there was an attempted coup and by who?

IM: The allegations are that among their demonstrators, particularly in Mashonaland Central and Bindura, were identified some military personnel in civilian clothing, including evidence that they had been bused from Harare to Bindura to effect the demonstration. Those that identified them, possibly the intelligence for that matter, warned the head of state that unless he acts quickly, a coup is imminent, this is the report some of us have received.

VG: So, who is calling the shots here? Some people believe that Kasukuwere is now finished, since he had 10 Zanu PF provinces pass a vote of no confidence against him.

IM: I think given the onslaught that was waged by the first family; to begin with – the interview that Jonathan Moyo gave in The Standard over a month ago, which was then followed by the birthday interview Mugabe gave and the rally that Grace had held. And the import of those three, was to suggest that Emmerson Mnangagwa was done. To quote Jonathan Moyo, that those who think Mnangagwa will succeed Mugabe will be seriously disappointed. So, clearly, there was resonance between what Jonathan Moyo said and what Mugabe and his wife said a week or two later. For many observers, it appeared that the die was cast; Emmerson Mnangagwa would not succeed Mugabe.

But if the reports of this fight being backed by Emmerson are true, then it appears that we have a fight on. Over the weekend the Lacoste people were boasting that they were 80% done with G40, and evidence has also emerged of a well-coordinated offensive on the part of Lacoste with key persons around Emmerson Mnangagwa reported to be in charge of the processes of no confidence and demonstrations in the various provinces. And as I said earlier on, if you are going to try and undress a guy like Kasukuwere, who for all we know, there is nothing that he has done without the authority or the approval of the president, it is clear that to attack Kasukuwere, you are actually attacking Mugabe himself. And it appears that over the last 24 hours that reality has dawned on the powers that be. So, as they say, proverbially, watch this space in the next few days as we have a fight on.

VG: The 10 Zanu PF provinces have said they want Kasukuwere out and, since Mugabe is still supporting Kasukuwere, you say this means that they also want the president out, that they have no confidence in the president?

IM: Ipso facto, yes. But I don’t think they would have realised that. Some of us who know the nature of the politics in Zanu PF can conclude that this is the case, and therefore, they may have provoked a hornet’s nest, so to speak. Because, as we expect Mugabe to react, and he has already reacted, from what I’ve heard, that he is likely now to put in process countrywide new provincial elections and under his own leadership or guidance, but using Kasukuwere and Ignatious Chombo to do the job. What you will see basically in the next few weeks, is a fightback, led by the old man himself as they roll-back the kind of offensive which appeared on the face of it to be an attack on Kasukuwere. I think this time, the Lacoste have gone too far and Mugabe has realised that the attack is actually against him; that’s clear. And that’s clear from two responses, the response by [Phelekezela] Mphoko, the Vice President Mphoko and particularly the response by Jonathan Moyo in which he is saying very categorically that those who are attacking Kasukuwere, have not stated, in any meaningful way, what precisely he’s done wrong and he concludes that the claim that Kasukuwere has been trying to topple the president is hogwash.

Now, it’s clear that where that allegation worked against former vice president Joice Mujuru and many others, I don’t think it can work against Kasukuwere. As I said earlier on, it is unlikely, highly unlikely, that Kasukuwere would have done anything, including the issue of the so-called parallel structures, without Mugabe’s permission, without Mugabe’s consent.

VG: I had misunderstood because I was going to say, if that’s the case, doesn’t this contradict your earlier comment that we are likely to see a coup, if the president is clearly supporting Kasukuwere?

IM: I said that those who are fighting Kasukuwere, right? Were disguising the reports that this was a disguised coup, and the coup was not against Kasukuwere, a coup is against Mugabe, a disguised coup, as evidenced, according to the reports, by a presence of soldiers who had been bussed, in civilian clothing, from Harare to Bindura, which in particular, provoked the attention of the security agents who have warned Mugabe that this is more than just an attack on Kasukuwere, this is a coup in the making.

VG: So the president has now had to step in, to stop what you say is a plot by Team Lacoste to get rid of Kasukuwere and others?

IM: Well it began on Sunday, didn’t it? Sunday, we received reports, or Saturday, that Mugabe had directed a high-powered delegation to go out to Bindura to investigate the allegations that Kasukuwere was trying to topple the president. And that was almost putting the cat amongst the pigeons. Martin Dinha and his colleagues did everything possible, and eventually succeeded in having the meeting postponed.

It was clear that this was the beginning of the fight-back by Mugabe. It was not about Mugabe giving in to Kasukuwere being ousted, it was in fact to call the bluff of Lacoste to prove what Kasukuwere has done wrong and if you can’t prove that in the case of Mashonaland Central, then there’s no basis at all for the country-wide protests and votes of no confidence. As I said earlier on, it appears that the Lacoste have over-reached themselves, it appears that it has backfired and the fight-back was begun by Mugabe, by the G40.

VG: But, Dr Mandaza, is this only about political interest or it’s also about economic interests? For example, they are exposing each other on the issue of urban land barons.

IM: Yes, there has been a very interwoven relationship between the state and the kind of primitive accumulation around the state, and land barons are part of that, no doubt about that. Ultimately, it is really about how Mugabe can retain power, it is really about succession. The problem is centred around Mugabe himself. He has left it too late, it is clear that he has not handled the succession issue properly and it’s coming back to haunt him. He might win the battle but it’s unlikely that he’ll win the war. In my view, it’s the last phase of the securocrat state, as I have written before.

VG: Have you ever seen anything like this in the history of Zanu PF, where ministers fight openly or are openly fighting?

IM: Yes, I have, except that now it is the worst possible dimension of it. It is something that is given to Zanu PF as a movement. It’s not a political party in the conventional sense, it is organisationally vacuous, it’s ideologically and politically vacuous and it’s a loose movement held together by the state, with which it is conflated, held together by the big leader, and clearly, with the departure of the big leader, that’s the end of Zanu PF – no doubt about that. Even if the state lives on in some form, clearly we are facing the last stages of Mugabe’s regime.

VG: So, is this good news for the opposition, especially with elections around the corner? Are we seeing the end of Zanu PF?

IM: Well, it doesn’t mean that the opposition can walk into power. The future of Zimbabwe depends very much on what happens within Zanu PF itself really. Sadly, the opposition look very marginal. By the opposition, I mean the opposition movement such as MDC-T and others. The majority of Zimbabweans are opposed to Mugabe but then there is lacking an organisational framework on the part of the opposition and they have reduced their campaign to merely replacing Mugabe. There is no attempt to tackle the fundamental issues of the pathological state that Zimbabwe is in at the moment . . . the need for the reform of the state first and foremost.

The failure to realise that the failure by Zanu PF to effect electoral reforms is a reflection of a bigger problem, which is a failure to reform the state itself. As Jonathan Moyo put it some months ago, “you can’t expect us to reform ourselves out of power”. That is the essence of the thing, and therefore the opposition have not had the courage and conviction to tackle, first and foremost, the need for reform. And hence the schizophrenic approach to elections. On the one hand they say “well, we won’t go into elections until there is reform” and then they claim that “oh, we know what Zanu PF is up to, this time round we can prevent them from rigging the election”.

It’s all nonsense, if you ask me. The real truth is they are actually flat-footed, they don’t know how to move forward and they have no consequences. If they go for elections, it’s the same result as we had in 2013, a rigged outcome, if it’s not rigged already.

VG: But many are excited about the (biometric voters roll) BVR, which means that there’ll be a new voters’ roll without ghost voters. Surely this is good news in terms of prospects for free and fair elections?

IM: In time for an election next year or a year away? Absolutely impossible! And what does the BVR resolve and how does it resolve the issue of the voters’ roll in 12 months? Impossible! It’s impossible, it’s a joke actually, a dirty joke for that matter.

VG: Basically, you are saying even though the Zanu PF house is on fire, this still does not mean that come next year when we have elections, new players will come in, especially from the opposition? So, what is the way forward then, what do you see happening?

IM: The country is on fire. The current strategy by the opposition is not about resolving the problem at all. The least we require right now is elections. There should be no elections until we tackle the crucial political hegemony that confronts us, which is reform of the state, reform of the national institutions which have been corrupted by the Mugabe regime and making certain that we have generational change in our politics.

VG: But can elections be postponed?

IM: Of course, they can be postponed. In 2013 before the elections, the Maputo Summit was all about having the elections postponed at the Sadc summit. I went there. I was there at the summit and Mugabe pretended to agree to a postponement of the elections. If you recall, the postponement was based on the need to reform at least electoral laws, and after that summit, Morgan Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, all of them were called to a separate meeting by the Heads of State of Sadc in the absence of Mugabe, that same evening.

And they were told; I was sitting there outside the room with Mac Maharaj; they were told “if you go into elections next month, you are going to lose; the elections are done”. And we came back on a Sunday and that Monday we had a Sapes Policy Dialogue to discuss the summit and lo and behold, whilst we were discussing it, the court papers arrived calling the MDC to court to show reason why the elections should be postponed. Mugabe had done a volte-face against the decision of the summit. Mugabe went on TV and threatened to leave Sadc – “who is Sadc, we can leave Sadc anyway”. And so, under some pretext of a court application by Jealousy Mawarire, which others claim was really a Zanu PF ploy, the elections were held. And three or four days before the election, Tsvangirai was lamenting that he had evidence that the election was already rigged. But they were warned like they are being warned again now. But blindly, they cannot make any excuses now, they are going into elections again.

VG: What has happened to your calls for a National Transitional Authority (NTA)? What have the political parties said about this?

IM: Well, they have been most opposed to it, the opposition parties. And for good reason – they are not interested in reforms; they want to get back into power, back into office, back into salaries and state cars. That’s all they want.

VG: So, they’ve rejected the NTA?

IM: Of course, they have been more opposed to the NTA than Zanu PF itself. Zanu PF elements here and there have been more receptive to the idea of an NTA, it’s also because they know that their party is mortally wounded and the NTA might save them. Certainly, those who lose in this battle will find refuge in an NTA, because if the Sadc loses in this battle, we have to run for dear life clearly. And the NTA was proposed by some of us as a kind of a peacekeeping process, as a stabilising process. Not the kind of stablilisation that people like Stephen Chan and Chatham House have been talking about, because there can be no stabilisation under Emmerson Mnangagwa. Emmerson Mnangagwa is part of the architecture of this pathological state. And to expect that the state will be better under a person, whether it’s Emmerson Mnangagwa or whoever else in the current Zanu PF leadership, that you can expect stability in continuity, is sheer madness in their part. And I’m sorry to say that, and really, I’m shattered by the views of people like Stephen Chan … which views he expressed on the sidelines of our Sapes Policy Dialogue. He had no guts to say that at the Policy Dialogue but he went to say that to reporters here behind us.

VG: Is it true that the diplomatic community is supporting progressive forces within Zanu PF and they see Mnangagwa as a better candidate?

IM: They are stupid! They are stupid! It’s self-serving nonsense. The realities are there. They have made the wrong judgment. I am talking about those who made those calculations. They have made the wrong judgment, clearly, and now they don’t know what to do because, first of all, it is unlikely that Emmerson Mnangagwa will take over anyway. And, secondly, the expectation through the Lima Process that the Zimbabwe government, Zimbabwe state, can reform has become a nightmare because there is no reform in the process. So, the EU, the British government, all of them . . . those who have been making loud noises about Emerson Mnangagwa being the reformer have got egg on their faces, clearly. We, who live in Zimbabwe, know that there can be a no better Zimbabwe, there will possibly be a worse Zimbabwe, if the succession takes the route that these merchants of stability are proposing. It would be a worse nightmare, I can tell you that.

VG: Some believe if the opposition can mobilise more people from the rural areas then it has a chance, because we keep hearing that the opposition needs to devise an electoral strategy specifically for the rural areas since Zanu PF is said to control the rural areas, where 65 to 70% of the voters live Do you agree with this?

IM: What is the profile of the voters? Let’s look at the recent by-elections, in Mwenezi – what do you see there? 18 000 out of 26 000, the Zimbabwean state – the state structures extend right down to the village. The village heads are civil servants. The chiefs are civil servants. The chiefs have become a major instrument in the regimentation, not mobilisation, the regimentation of the voter. So, that takes care of the rural areas, right? So, let’s come to the urban areas. You saw the RAU report? Only 14% of the youth have registered as voters. And what do you have? You are talking about the last two elections you saw election turn-out of 40% to 49%, not to mention the 3.8 – 4.8 million Zimbabweans outside the country. We have a fractured electorate, a manipulated and regimented electorate. We have a broken country, Violet. It is not a country in which you can have free and fair elections, let alone meaningful elections of any sort. And, I repeat, we need to go back to the drawing board and realise that our country is in a mess, and do things that are important first before we talk about elections.

VG: But what about the work being done by the social media platforms, the hashtag movement, you know like This Flag, Tajamuka and others. Isn’t that a step in the right direction at least, that we now have these youngsters who are really coming up?

IM: Those are more expressions or symptoms of the frustrations at the body politik – they don’t amount to any substantive definition of an alternative for Zimbabwe at all. These are laments, you know.

VG: So, are they not having an impact on the ground, in the country?

IM: They would have had an impact but they have not been sustainable given the nature of the securocrat state.

VG: So, again, what is the way forward? Will Zimbabwe ever recover from this ‘Zanu PF devastation’?

IM: We need a national dialogue right, which takes stock of the situation we are in, which recognises that we need reform before elections. Political reform which means constitutionalism – aligning the laws with the constitution, it means restoration of the national institutions and economic reform, over and above the kind of payment of arrears of our loans. Something that goes beyond that, to restore the productive capacity of our country. We are a torn country. We are in crisis. And, to have elections which simply ensure that you have continuity of the same or a succession process in which you are asking naively and speculatively, expecting that the one who succeeds Mugabe in the current structure will make things better, it’s nonsense, in my view.

VG: What can the civil society do or even what are you trying to do to push these political players to the negotiating table to at least start these discussions since you say, especially the opposition has rejected calls for a national dialogue via an NTA?

IM: We are having a big conference at the end of June, Zimbabwe Transition Reform and Reconstruction, in which we are emphasising that the reform is a precedent, a condition precedent for reform and reconstruction in Zimbabwe. And, we are trying to mobilise, not only Zimbabweans at home but also in the diaspora and in doing so trying to mobilize the region and the global community into an awareness of the Zimbabwean crisis and through it, look beyond Mugabe and begin planning for a better Zimbabwe tomorrow.

VG: How will you convince Zanu PF and indeed, the opposition to participate in something like this?

IM: We are talking to them, they are participating – we have all the parties participating. We have ZanuPF participating, we have the state participating and the conference will be opened by the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, to highlight the importance of Parliament, the Legislature, to highlight that reform will also have to include the necessity of instituting separation of powers in which the Legislature becomes an important factor along with the Judiciary in containing and controlling the excesses of the Executive.

One of the pathologies of the Zimbabwean state is the extent to which the Executive is all supreme over the Legislature and over the Judiciary in the form of Mugabe.

VG: Yes, sorry to sound pessimistic but I remember Professor Jonathan Moyo saying that Zanu PF will never participate in negotiations that will remove it from power. So I’m a bit sceptical in terms of what the end game will be even when it’s for a noble cause.

IM: Well that’s political posturing. When the die is cast people will negotiate. We have learnt from Political Economy, no class ever commits suicide; it is the objective of every class to replace itself, and when under threat they will want to find a solution in which they can survive and see tomorrow. That is the formula of politics, basically. And, I dare say negotiations have begun already. For some of us who have been involved in the process, we have been talking around. Zimbabweans understand, even the powers that be, even the Zimbabwean state understands that there is need for a tomorrow. There is acute understanding of the crisis that confronts them but they lack the means with which to rectify the problem, the crisis. And, it is the role of us civil society, academia, intelligencia to assist towards resolution of the problem. The Zimbabwean state is incapable of reform. We need a mechanism through which we can assist them, together with the opposition, to reform; a national dialogue is what we are working towards. A national dialogue. And I repeat, elections are not the solution.

VG: You saw the MDC-T sign the MOU with Joyce Mujuru and Welshman Ncube recently. What do you make of this opposition coalition and what is their governance plan?

IM: I think on the one hand it’s a very positive move, you have consensus building among the opposition forces and through them; the opposition parties; at building a broader national consensus, a national dialogue, that if that dialogue also leads all of us into an understanding of the Zimbabwean problem and the importance of reform before elections. So, yes, it’s a positive in that regard, but it must go beyond purely a coalition. We need a coalition around the need for reform and a clear definition of an alternative Zimbabwe. If it’s a coalition merely to win elections to get Mugabe out, as I’ve said somewhere before, Mugabe’s not the issue really, Mugabe is unlikely to be there at the next election, if there are elections, which I don’t think there will be, next year. So it’s really about a coalition which will produce a Presidential candidate around the reform agenda. I repeat, around a reform agenda, not just who gets what, who becomes President, who becomes Vice President, and I think so far, the indication is that the coalition is all about that and no more.

VG: Thank you very much Dr Ibbo Mandaza.

IM: Thanks Violet.


Staff Reporter

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