HARARE – As fears of another Zanu PF Bhora Musango in 2018 — internal rebellion by disgruntled Zanu PF officials and supporters — persist within the warring ruling party, President Robert Mugabe is becoming ever more reliant on the youth league, which yesterday said it had the capacity to effectively front the nonagenarian’s re-election bid next year.
This comes as Zanu PF has dealt yet another deadly blow to the party’s senior officials, including Cabinet ministers and politburo members — as the former liberation movement’s internal political dynamics keep changing — subjecting all of them to internal primary elections if they wish to stand as parliamentary candidates in the make-or-break 2018 polls.
The rising stock of the party’s youth wing also follows the electoral shellacking that Mugabe received in the hotly-disputed 2008 presidential elections — following a surprise rebellion by Zanu PF bigwigs and ordinary supporters which came to be known as Bhora Musango.
With both insiders and political analysts warning that Mugabe could face a similar rebellion next year, as he struggles to keep the deeply-divided Zanu PF together, national youth league secretary Kudzanai Chipanga told the Daily News yesterday that the nonagenarian’s ongoing rallies — organised by party youths — were meant to show that they had the capacity to mobilise successfully for his re-election next year.
“While we agree that members of the main wing of the party have a role to play, theirs should be a complementary one, to support their children (the youth league).
“And while parents support their school-going children materially, it becomes abnormal when they begin to demand that they should write the examination on behalf of their children,” the fast-rising and increasingly influential Chipanga said.
In May last year, the youth league also organised a solidarity rally in Harare for Mugabe, which was dubbed the One-Million Man march, and which insiders said was the nonagenarian’s “test drive” of the youth and women’s league mobilisation capacity ahead of next year’s watershed elections.
Zanu PF is currently sharply divided, with the camp which is rabidly opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe, the Generation 40 (G40) faction, involved in a life-and-death tussle with the VP’s backers, Team Lacoste.
Analysts have said complicating things for Mugabe is his current standoff with disaffected war veterans, which has meant that the veteran leader now has to look elsewhere for support.
Before his nasty divorce with war veterans, the former freedom fighters had served as Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s political power dynamos, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian on the throne in the hotly-disputed 2000 and 2008 national elections which were both marred by serious violence.
In 2008, Mashonaland East witnessed horrific violence which left an estimated 200 MDC supporters dead, when Zanu PF led by war veterans went on a retribution exercise to punish people suspected to have taken part in that year’s Bhora Musango — which saw opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC beating Mugabe and Zanu PF in that year’s polls.
The late revered liberation struggle icon and Zimbabwe’s first black military commander, Solomon Mujuru, was subsequently accused by Mugabe and other Zanu PF bigwigs of having engineered the president’s defeat by Tsvangirai.
The results of those elections were withheld for six long weeks by stunned authorities, amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and fraud which were later given wings by former Zanu PF bigwigs who are now in opposition ranks.
Amid the escalating tension in Zanu PF, as the brawling party factions intensify their mindless bloodletting, the youth league also said yesterday its rallies were meant to show that Mugabe remained their “sole” presidential candidate for next year’s elections.
“The rallies we are holding are for the president to meet the youths, not for senior party officials to settle their political scores. So, they (Mugabe’s lieutenants) must know that they cannot approach this programme with dirty hands.
“We understand there are some members who want to settle their scores at our rallies but let it also be known to all and sundry that these platforms are not meant for people to clear their names if they have cases to answer, or to discipline anyone.
“They are not meant to say so and so is guilty of this and that. No, we want to meet our president, period!” Chipanga told the Daily News.
Manicaland provincial youth chairperson Mubuso Chinguno also told the Daily News that the youths were now the “water carriers” in Mugabe’s bid to be re-elected in next year’s polls, where he is likely to clash against a grand coalition led by Tsvangirai.
“For now, our pre-occupation is to make sure that we mobilise the youths to participate in elections and vote for our icon (Mugabe) through these rallies we are holding countrywide, in line with our mandate as the vanguard of the party,” Chinguno said, adding that Mugabe’s next rally scheduled for Mutare would see 60 000 supporters gathering at Sakubva Stadium.
Meanwhile, many Zanu PF bigwigs risk losing their parliamentary and possibly Cabinet posts after the party said it would subject sitting MPs to primary elections, where they would stand against other aspiring candidates for next year’s elections, including the youths.
Insiders said this was allegedly part of the wily Mugabe’s plan “to incentivise and reward the youth league for its unwavering support” for him.
“When the time comes, that is after the commissariat department has furnished us with requirements for one to be an MP or a councillor, we will go out there and encourage our colleagues to seek positions so that they can become parliamentary portfolio committee chairpersons, council chairpersons and so on.
“That way, we can be able to have representation at various decision-making levels of government and local authorities, so that our issues as youths are well articulated by people who understand them,” Chinguno said.
Harare provincial youth league chairperson, Edson Takataka, also told the Daily News that youths in the capital were enthusiastic about the development and were raring to go.
“It’s now a matter of public record in the party that the only person who will not be contested in Zanu PF is the president.
“We welcome this opportunity and there is a lot of enthusiasm among the youths, especially here in Harare.
“We are now waiting for the party to officially announce that those interested can start canvassing for votes,” Takataka told the Daily News.