The Standard discovers yet two more ZANU-PF 'factions'

Sep 25, 2011

The Zimbabwe Independent has for years been tireless in writing about 'vicious factional fighting' between what it has long told us are the Mujuru and the Mnangagwa camps in ZANU-PF. Its sister paper The Standard has done one better by discovering at least two more 'factions' to make following that party's internal dynamics more entertaining.

It has never been clear to what extent these 'factions' claimed by the media are real, separate and distinct entities within ZANU-PF. What defines factors like membership and motivation of these supposed factions remains a deep secret only known to a few, despite the frequent use of the term 'factions' as a base for so many speculative stories masquerading as news reports.

Here is how the article in The Standard headed 'Faction in move to oust VP Mujuru' starts:

''A Zanu PF faction loyal to President Robert Mugabe wants Vice-President Joice Mujuru ousted from her post and replaced by the party women’s league boss Oppah Muchinguri in the event that she is found guilty of selling party and state secrets to the Americans, authoritative Zanu PF officials said last week.''

It is no longer unusual to read or hear the word 'factions' thrown about in regards to internal ZANU-PF politics, even when one is not told what it means. However, this latest in a long deluge of factional stories was a little bit different and rather startling, in its suggestion that there are one or more party factions that can actually be defined by their lack of loyalty to the king of the party, Mugabe. If so, this is certainly a stunning new development in the long-running ZANU-PF factional tale.

If there is a party faction 'loyal to president Mugabe,' the implication is that the other factions can be defined by not being loyal to him. The old fashioned Mujuru vs. Mngangagwa 'permanent war' story long propagated by The Independent has always had these two claimed 'factions' as implacably opposed to each other, but has never called into question the loyalty of either supposed faction to party boss Mugabe. In all the thousands of rumors that have been flighted about Mujuru and Mnangagwa, almost never has there ever been a suggestion that they are not loyal to Mugabe.

Not even the leaked details of what was said to be Mujuru's secret rendevous with the US ambassador have provided anything to fundamentally shake the view of her as a faithful follower and backer of Mugabe's, even if she broadly shares the widespread sentiment of a need for renewal at the top levels of the party.

Perhaps the reading of a suggestion that the three 'non-Mugabe factions' are not loyal to him is just a reader's misinterpretation of that one line in the story? Yet further down in the article this interpretation is confirmed by a less ambiguous statement:

''There are at least four distinct factions in Zanu PF. These are said to be led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mujuru, Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) chief, Constantine Chiwenga and one loyal to Mugabe.''

So of the at least four ''distinct factions'' that we are told make up ZANU-PF, it seems three of them are not loyal to Mugabe. By this definition of faction (loyalty to Mugabe, or lack of loyalty to Mugabe), only one of the four qualifies as having fealty to Mugabe.

Even in the era of claimed Mugabe betrayals by some of his aides revealed by Wikileaks, this is almost an earthquake of a new revelation. In the whole 'factions' narrative going back many years and many newspaper editions, no one has before suggested that amidst their claimed vicious fighting, either the 'Mujuru faction' or the 'Mnangagwa faction' were anything less than loyal to the man it is said each faction hoped to replace as party leader.

This is also the first time that ZDF chief Chiwenga, rumored to have political ambitions for some time now, has been purported to have mobilized support to a level that it can now be referred to as a 'faction' in its own right, and one that it is implied is not loyal to Mugabe! Not only that, this new faction is mentioned as if it is one of four equals with the others, including that of Mugabe. According to this explosively revealing and important Standard story, Chiwenga is now a ZANU-PF factional leader on virtually a par with Mugabe! In other words, the previously known two factional leaders, now joined by Chiwenga and his third faction, are not only in competition with each other, each of them is now apparently also in competition with 'the faction loyal to Mugabe.'

All this is new information that makes the Standard's article a major new political discovery and a huge journalistic scoop. One wonders how it is that the crack factional writers of its sister paper the Independent missed two whole factions within ZANU-PF in all the years they have been writing about the issue.

One looks forward to reading in coming weeks how the 'faction loyal to Mugabe' is rated in regards to the at least three other factions that are not loyal to him. Is the Mugabe faction bigger, smaller, more or less powerful than the Mnangagwa, Mujuru, or Chiwenga factions? Is it possible to belong to one of the last three factions and still be 'loyal to Mugabe,' or are membership of one of those factions and loyalty to Mugabe mutually exclusive?

If Mugabe is merely a factional leader amongst several others within his party (actually possibly amongst many others, as 'at least four factions' suggests) how is his acknowledged control and domination of his party explained?

Wikileaks has made clear that there are many within his party and even close to him who think Mugabe should give way to somebody else. But the leaked US diplomatic cables have also made it clear that there has been no one in the party who has had the guts to challenge him for power, publicly or in private. That suggests he wields the strong-arm, authoritarian power of an old-fashioned party boss.

It is therefore a discovery of tremendous moment for the Standard to discover that Mugabe has shrunk from unchallenged party boss to merely being one of four or even more factional leaders within his party, with most of those factions apparently having loyalties other than to him!

If this is true, it also obviously follows that the leaders of the claimed non-Mugabe factions; Mnangagwa, Mujuru and Chiwenga, are not loyal to Mugabe, since the Standard's article suggest that the very definition of 'faction' in this context is loyalty to Mugabe or to someone else. So since there is a dedicated faction 'loyal to Mugabe,' the factions outside of that definition would logically seem to be not loyal to Mugabe, especially the leaders of those factions.

This is all a revolutionary new explanation of ZANU-PF inside workings, going far over and beyond even the 'vicious factional fighting' that The Independent has long told us about, which held that while the faction leaders were 'viciously fighting' each other, they never really wavered in their loyalty to their boss (now merely fellow factional leader) Mugabe.

The more one reads about ZANU-PF's purported distinct factions, the more fantastic the claims...and the more difficult they are to take seriously.   

The Zimbabwe Review


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