Mujuru: separating the ZANU-PF factions from the media fictions

Sep 3, 2011

The late Solomon Mujuru was unquestionably a distinguished soldier of Zimbabwe's war of independence. He certainly remained influential in ZANU-PF politics long after he retired as army commander. However, after his recent death the media is struggling to back up its implication, built up over many years, that Mujuru was so super-powerful that his absence will cause a fundamental shift in the country's politics.

If you had just landed from Mars in the week or so following Mujuru's death by fire, you would have been forgiven for getting the impression from media reports that the country, or at least ZANU-PF, was about to descend into civil war.

On August 29 there was ''Senior Zimbabwe leader's death could spark infighting'' by 'a correspondent' for the Christian Science Monitor. The obligatory description of Mujuru as a 'kingmaker' was there. Unlike most other believers in Mujuru's kingmaker powers, this correspondent believes Mujuru was 'potential successor to President Robert Mugabe.' S/he is perhaps the only analyst so far to cast Mujuru  in the role of possible direct successor, rather than as strongly influencing the process. It seems that to some, Mujuru's claimed powers  are actually retroactively growing since his death.

Don't forget the factions issue, you can't write about Mujuru without invoking it. Wrote anonymous, ''Mujuru...a fierce rival of defense minister and former intelligence chief Emerson Mnangagwa, who now appears to have an upper hand in succeeding the aging President Mugabe.''

Explanation of the source and nature of Mujuru's 'fierce rivalry' with Mnangagwa? None, even though one might think it was particularly needed in an America publication whose readers could not be expected to be familiar with the intricacies of ZANU-PF politics. These 'fierce rivalries' are so taken for granted by the media that it is assumed the whole world knows of their existence, and their reasons.

And why would Mujuru's death 'appear' to automatically give Mnangagwa an 'upper hand' to succeed aging Mugabe? Unlike the Christian Science Monitor's anonymous correspondent, who believes Mujuru himself was a presidential aspirant , most subscribers to the idea of a Mujuru vs. Mnangagwa battle held that Solomon was supporting vice president and his wife, Joice, to be in position to succeed Mugabe over Mnangagwa. If so, why would Solomon's death automatically, necessarily give Mnangagwa the upper hand over Joice as potential successor? Perhaps there are good reasons to believe that, but argue and explain them to your readers, instead of assuming that they are self-evident. They are not, and certainly far less so to a distant foreign audience, but not even necessarily to a Zimbabwean readership.

Was Mugabe assumed to be favoring Joice because of some sort of fear of her late husband? Is the idea that Mugabe is saying to himself, ''Phew, now that the fearsome kingmaker Solomon is off the scene, I can now freely go ahead and give Mnangagwa the upper hand to succeed me?'' Is that what passes for political analysis now?

'' The former commander of the army was said by analysts to be the only person senior enough in ZANU-PF to face up to Mugabe and to Mr. Mnangagwa, the leader of the rival faction that was competing to succeed Mugabe. His death, analysts have said, could be the harbinger of a violent power struggle within the liberation struggle party.''

Since Mujuru is now out of the way of Mugabe and Mnangagwa, why should there be any increased prospects of violence in ZANU-PF? If he was such an influential and indispensable colossus for his 'faction,' and if his death gives Mnangagwa a decisive 'upper hand' as mentioned earlier, does the implied new lopsided balance of power in favor of Mnangagwa not actually decrease the prospects of 'a violent power struggle,' rather than increase them? What kind of analysis is to mention these points as fact in an almost off-handed way, instead of putting them into context for them to make the same sort of sense to the reader that they apparently do to the writer-analyst?

Anonymous tries to do this, by quoting 'political analyst Takura Zhangazha in Harare.' “A close analysis will show you that the death of Mujuru has changed politics in many ways. Firstly, the faction he used to lead has been weakened because he was the power behind it because of his history. The fact that he played a pivotal role in the liberation of this country gave him special powers. (Now) his faction is exposed. Vice President Mujuru is not that powerful.”

But what exactly are the 'many ways' politics has been changed in these two weeks since Mujuru's death? It would truly be interesting and helpful to know, for the CSM's American readers as well as for Zimbabweans, who after all are the ones to be most affected by the many changes that have apparently taken place. How exactly has the 'faction he used to lead' been 'weakened?' How is his faction 'exposed?'

What does 'powerful' mean in the way used here about the late Mujuru? Ability to persuade/frighten/extort Mugabe to do one thing or another? Intimidatory power over the claimed opposing 'faction?' Persuasiveness in arguing for or against a position; influencing internal ZANU-PF voting patterns? Strangely, the more 'analysis' pours out about Mujuru, the less clear any of these issues become!

Continues Anonymous' analyst Mr. Zhangazha, “In the same vein, the faction led by Mnangagwa is now in the picture and coming out strongly because the head of the other faction is no longer there. They clearly have an advantage over of the other faction of Zanu PF.”

Was 'the faction led by Mnangagwa' ever out of the picture? If so, why does Mujuru's death keep it out for a while longer, especially since some suspect they might have had at the least the motive to want to see kingmaker Solomon gone? Why are a group who for many people are at least chief suspects in Mujuru's suspicious death now so quickly politically absolved and in an obvious position of advantage? Is it entirely implausible to postulate that at least until the suspicion over them has lifted, they could actually be in a position of disadvantage? Inquiring minds to whom these things aren't obvious wanna know!

But there is least one analyst in Zimbabwe who seems resistant to the fever of definitely declaring what is or isn't going to happen in ZANU-PF or to Zimbabwe as a result of Mujuru going the way of all flesh.

“It’s too early to tell what impact the death of Mujuru on national politics,” says Mr. Edward Masungure. With that one simple, elegant sentence, perhaps the best Mujuru analysis so far? But Masunungure can't completely resist the fever: "Other parties think the former ruling party is at its weakest following this death."

No question or explanation on why these other parties might believe Mujuru's death especially weakens ZANU-PF. So apart from the kingmaker magic he purportedly wielded within his party, Mujuru also had some special sectret concoction that particularly gave ZANU-PF relative strength over other political parties? What was it? This is yet another new angle of the mushrooming, growing, spreading Mujuru mythology. Was Mujuru a mere man of flesh and blood, or was he a sort of supernatural force?

So much for the Christian Science Monitor's attempt to analyze the possible aftermath of Mujuru's death.

Let's go over to Agence France Press to read their correspondent's take, Mujuru's death leaves leadership vacuum.

'Kingmaker' is in there too, in the very first sentence. And in line that deserves to become classic, "Analysts  believe his death has cast doubts on the future of Zimbabwe's political future." Let's ignore the redundancy in 'casting doubt on the future of the political future.' That phraseology could simply be part of the post-Mujuru stress/grief disorder all of the media appears to be undergoing. But it is an impressive indication of his purported, mysterious power this one man's death is thought to plunge into question the future of the country. If Mujuru was a powerful 'kingmaker' in life, it appears his death threatens the very existence of the country. How powerful is that?

Perhaps there is no need to delve any more into AFP's attempt at Mujuru analysis. Let's try the Zimbabwe Independent. They have long been fascinated with Mujuru and the claimed factions in ZANU-PF. Maybe they will make everything clear to us about the full import of his death.

"Mugabe has been left with no serious challengers in Zanu PF following the death of Mujuru," said the ZimInd authoritatively fashion, "because the former army chief was one of the few people who could take on the aging leader."

Among other gems in the article is the claim that, "Mujuru once called for Mugabe to immediately quit and make way for his wife Joice, but this angered the octogenarian leader who felt that this was part of a hidden agenda to stampede him out of office."

Oh, since Mugabe refused to obey Mujuru's command and quit on the spot like a good boy, does this mean that the kingmaker may not have been as powerful as we are constantly told he was? As an aside, if Mujuru 'called' for Mugabe's resignation, there was nothing exactly 'hidden' about the 'agenda to stampede him out of office,' was there? It seems that about all we can say with certitude is that the agenda, hidden or otherwise, didn't work since Mr. Mugabe is still firmly on the king's throne.

The ZimInd article gives a few examples of what it believes were signs of Mujuru standing up to Mugabe, but they are all from three or more years ago; basically ancient history in political terms. Even those examples do not definitively illustrate an unusual influence over Mugabe by Mujuru. In fact, according to this same ZimInd article attempting to show Mujuru's superman political powers, Mugabe was once so confidently dismissive of 'kingmaker' Solomon that he refused a request by him and another once 'powerful' politician, Dumiso Dabengwa, to meet him. That is much more in keeping with the Mugabe we have come to know than one who is said to be scared of anybody within his party, 'kingmaker' or not.

Whether there are indeed fixed, definitive Mujuru and Mnangagwa camps within ZANU-PF, no one has provided any shred of evidence, besides vague, hard-to-believe innuendo, that Mugabe is or ever was a frightened virtual hostage to the claimed rivalry between the 'factions.' Yet that is a premise that underlies much of the factional analysis that we are being subjected to.To the extent that these factions exist, Mugabe is firmly on top of them, rather than under them and at their mercy as so many of the factional stories imply.

The ZimInd is an authority of sorts on issues ZANU-PF factions, so let's check out yet another article it has on the implications of the death of Mujuru. "Mujuru steps up presidential bid," the ZimInd informs us, this time referring to Joice, the vice president and Solomon's widow.

From this article comes the revelation that the late Mujuru was not only influential, he was also 'imperious.' This was genuinely interesting new information, as there had been nothing in the innumerable excerpts of all those who knew him to suggest he was anything of the sort. Almost all others have been falling over themselves to describe him as unassuming, humble, approachable, simple. In other words, as anything but 'imperious.' The more that is written about him, the less one is sure what is true and what isn't.

"Briefings to the Zimbabwe Independent by senior Zanu PF politburo members this week show Mujuru has swiftly moved to throw her hat into the ring." But was a major foundation of the whole Mujuru-versus- Mngangagwa-vicious-factional-fighting tale not that Joice already had her hat in the Mugabe-succession ring, allegedly along with Mnangagwa? Was this not in fact the whole basis for the 'vicious fighting' that we have long been told has been going on within ZANU-PF for years? It is therefore rather confusing to be told that Joice is only now throwing her hat into the ring. If it wasn't already in the ring from long ago, what have the two factions been viciously fighting about all these past years and past hundreds of factional articles?

The rest of the article does not so much reveal anything new from the special 'briefings to the ZimInd by senior ZANU politburo members,' but is basically a recycling of a mix of facts, rumor and speculation that has already been widely in the public domain, but with interesting new interpretations.

Elsewhere, Joice has been quoted as saying, “I always ask myself how I am going to do the things that my husband was doing. However, I believe God is going to show me the way. I told myself that a real soldier should not be found with a bullet at the back. If you are found with a bullet at the back it means that you were shot while running away.”

The ZimInd article takes this to mean "Mujuru’s determination to fight for the highest office in the land." But since "Mugabe promised (it to) her in public indirectly during the 2004 Zanu PF congress," what have all these years of 'vicious factional fighting' been about then? Why does Joice now need to 'throw her hat in the ring' to 'fight for' something she has supposedly had in the bag for almost 10 years now? The factional analyst-writers no doubt neatly have all the answers to these questions, but it is extremely frustrating when they don't explain them to their less informed and sophisticated readers.

When Joice talks about soldiering on without her husband, can we be sure she is referring to fighting Mnangagwa and his faction, for something she was 'promised' by king Mugabe way back in 2004 anyway? In this particular case, why would Solomon's 'kingmaker' magic have been necessary to invoke on behalf of Joice if the present king had already 'promised' Solo's wife she would be the future queen? Somebody please help.

In using the soldier and struggle metaphor, could it perhaps be possible that Joice was in fact partially or even wholly referring to the new, unexpected challenges of being a parent and grandparent without her partner? How can we be so certain that Joice is as obsessed with thinking in ZANU-PF factional terms as some of the rest of us?

"Information filtered through that the late general had struck a deal with senior MDC-T officials to share power in the post-Mugabe era." If so, why should this change as a result of the death of Solomon? Even if he really made such a pledge as 'king' of his faction, the implementing partner would surely have been Joice, who remains to pursue that option.

However influential Solomon was, it is shocking how by implication Joice is juxtaposed as being weak and helpless; almost a puppet of her 'powerful kingmaker' husband. But Joice, called Teurai Ropa or 'spill blood' in the liberation war, is no shrinking violet. What therefore, is the basis for the idea that without her husband's presence and support she and 'the Mujuru faction' will necessarily fall apart, or be significantly weakened in relation to 'the Mnangagwa faction?' Please explain.

Let's leave the ZimInd media faction and try the Financial Gazette faction, and see what their version of the factions fable is. Among the insights in Mujuru haunts ZANU-PF

"Conspiracy theories continue to swirl around the death...dark cloud of mistrust and suspicions never experienced before since ZANU-PF's formation...fractious one is safe within the top echelons...Mujuru's death has had the effect of creating re-alignments within the party along tribal and factional lines..."

It is all breathtakingly dramatic. However, like almost all the other articles about how Mujuru's death may impact ZANU-PF and why, a lot of heat is worked up, but almost no light is shed. In between the guesswork and the innuendo, the reader is treated to basically a recapitulation of many other articles written since Mujuru died. Particularly for those wanting a better understanding of the 'fractious and vicious factional fighting' (Fingaz also introducing the sexy new element of 'tribal' divisions, but of course with no explanation); sorry, better luck next time, try next week's issue.

How much of the ZANU-PF factional story is really just fiction? Mujuru may indeed 'haunt ZANU-PF,' but he most definitely also haunts the media, though not in any way that makes ZANU-PF politics any clearer to their readers.

The Zimbabwe Review


On the death of Solomon Mujuru, intrigue and conspiracy theories galore

With Solomon Mujuru's death, what are now the dynamics of ZANU-PF 'factions?'



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