HARARE – In a bid to stem the factional fights spiralling out of control in his party, President Robert Mugabe barred his quarrelling cadres from using social media to air their views.
In spite of the ban, more and more of his officials have fallen in love with social media, principally Twitter and Facebook.
A number of reasons explain this.
First, it is an exercise in futility to fight technological advancement. The best way to fight technology is to harness it and use it, instead, as a tool that addresses society’s multi-faceted challenges.
There is, therefore, a growing band of Zanu PF officials who are utilising social media to reach their audiences and, in the process, shake things up a little bit in the traditional media.
Secondly, the public media which traditionally provided positive coverage to Zanu PF and its officials now stands accused of being a catalyst to the factional fighting itself as it is being seen as doing the bidding for a camp backing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe, otherwise known as Team Lacoste.
In order to be heard, the rival Generation 40 (G40) faction has turned to social media and their tweets have become the source for news for both the public and private media, although the former uses them to attack the account holders.
Higher and Tertiary Education minister, Jonathan Moyo stands out as the most active Zanu PF official on social media whose ferocious tweets dwarf the likes of Supa Mandiwanzira, Patrick Zhuwao, Justice Mayor Wadyajena, Saviour Kasukuwere and other Zanu PF officials who are active on social media.
Moyo has dominated news headlines in both the print and electronic media; much of the time engaged in tirades with his political foes in Zanu PF and government.
Moyo is linked to G40 faction, although he denies it.
His rivals in Team Lacoste have been trying by all means to silence him without success and they are now looking up to Mugabe to ensure the social media ban issued after Zanu PF had expelled former vice president Joice Mujuru from the party and government in 2014 is upheld.
Most recently, Moyo has squared up against Mnangagwa and, army bosses, Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, Constantino Chiwenga, and Air Force of Zimbabwe chief, Air Marshall Perrance Shiri.
He has railed against the Command Agriculture programme, claiming it was being abused by Mnangagwa’s supporters to create a platform for the vice president to succeed Mugabe.
“VP Mnangagwa’s Command Ugly-Culture, disguised as Command Agriculture, is a corruption of a noble objective and is, thus, totally unacceptable!” Moyo said on his Twitter account.
“The noble objectives of Command Agriculture, first enunciated by Dr Grace Mugabe, have been corrupted by VP Mnangagwa into an Ugly-Culture”, he said.
He has previously labelled the programme as a communist type of policy aimed at militarising society.
Mnangagwa has returned the fire, almost coming close to telling Moyo to shut up.
The vice president has found support in Chiwenga and Shiri who have gone on to question Moyo’s role during the war of liberation.
The Higher Education minister has also used social media to respond to Information minister, Christopher Mushohwe’s remarks that journalists should tread carefully when covering issues to do with the security sector.
He has also been involved in a nasty verbal exchange with Mushohwe’s permanent secretary, George Charamba.
The verbal tirade reached a climax when Charamba, during an interview with a radio station, fired a salvo at Moyo describing the Tsholotsho North Member of Parliament as a “secessionist”.
This prompted Moyo to hit back in equal measure using his micro-blogging platform, Twitter.
He challenged Charamba, who is both Presidential Press secretary and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services secretary, to remain apolitical or quit his job and join active politics.
The Daily News sought comments from social and political analysts to find out what could be motivating Moyo and whether his brand of politics is sustainable in the context of the twists and turns that characterise the politics in Zanu PF.
Journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, said Moyo has the support of Mugabe and his wife Grace in what he is doing.
He said Mugabe’s silence was tacit support for Moyo’s commissions and he will survive as long as Mugabe is there but if Mugabe were to die in office today, he is finished politically and otherwise.
“Moyo is fighting the remaining guys that represent the mainstay of the liberation struggle and Zanu PF. There is no doubt that Mugabe is behind it. Mugabe might retire Chiwenga and chose another successor other than Mnangagwa in which case Jonathan will survive,” said Chin’ono.
“But how feasible is that? It is a very remote prospect. Mugabe looks like he wants to die in office in which case Mnangagwa will be Zimbabwe’s next President. The only time that won’t happen is if Mugabe steps down after announcing someone else other than Mnangagwa. That also is a very remote prospect. Mugabe loves power and is more likely to die in office.”
Social commentator, Rashweat Mukundu, said the public fight between Moyo, the generals and his attack on Mnangagwa were the clearest indication that government machinery was in disarray and it was a free for all.
“More than an issue between the two groups, this is a demonstration that Mugabe has lost control and government business is gliding on in every direction,” said Mukundu.
Social commentator, Rejoice Ngwenya, said Moyo was being protected by the powers-that-be.
“I do not for once think he would have the nerve of lambasting people who have the capacity to fight back. Someone has Moyo’s finger on the political trigger,” said Ngwenya.
Political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said Moyo was a political scientist and knows the power structure in Zanu PF and government, adding that he understands well that Zanu PF was a cult-like political system and not a party. It is a political system where power lies in Mugabe and as long as one is in good books with him they can get away with anything.
“All senior officials in government, State institutions and military are appointed by him and they respect him as the chief masquerade of the cult. No one dares challenging him…,” said Saungweme.
“Moyo is the political brains behind Grace’s political project. He is so dear, so close to Grace. So what Moyo says is Grace’s position. Grace is the puppeteer and Moyo is the puppet. Hit Moyo hard and the owner, Grace will come to his defence. This will change once Mugabe is gone or someone dares challenge Grace. If Grace is dealt a political blow and is done with, same with Moyo. So Moyo is as venomous politically as much as Mugabe is still there, and Grace still has a hard grip on Mugabe,” he added.
Human rights lawyer and researcher, Dewa Mavhinga, said Moyo was correct that army bosses Chiwenga and Shiri have no business involving themselves unconstitutionally in the internal political affairs of Zanu PF.
“The Constitution bars security services personnel from any involvement in partisan politics. If they wish to be political office bearers then they must take off their uniforms and formally join politics,” said Mavhinga.
Political activist, Tabani Moyo, said the critical issue at hand was that of defending the supremacy of the Constitution.
“When the army shows an appetite to be actively involved in civilian activities, it’s a cause of concern to every democracy-loving citizen. The generals should not by any means be involved in politics; it’s a direct threat to the constitutional order. It is from this narrative that as citizens we ought to speak with one voice,” said Moyo.
“At the centre of all this chaos, lies the issue of succession. President’s continued muteness on the thorny issue is becoming a threat to national stability. All these fractures will end up leaving Zimbabwe under the threat of disintegration if there is no resolution to the succession politics.”
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said their party was not too concerned with or bothered about the factional cataclysm that is tearing the Zanu PF regime apart.
“We are more concerned about fighting for electoral reforms as well as encouraging all eligible Zimbabweans to register to vote as soon as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission commences the biometric voter registration exercise,” said Gutu.
“To us, Moyo’s savage attacks on his fellow party colleagues are just a sideshow; a decoy meant to divert the people’s attention from the real issues that have caused the collapse of the economy as well as the political repression against opposition political parties. Zanu PF, in all its various shades and factions, is fundamentally bad for the development of Zimbabwe. No faction in Zanu PF is good for the people of Zimbabwe. In all its various forms and factions, the bottom line is that Zanu PF must be kicked out of power in next year’s elections,” he added.