Zanu-PF infighting a toxic poison

Grace Kwinjeh

The emergence of hate language betrays the party's historical means of silencing dissent.

Minister of Presidential Affairs Didymus Mutasa revived a long-forgotten lethal pesticide, gamatox, that he said should be used to silence those trying to destroy the party from within. (Aaron Ufumeli)

Zimbabwe continues to be held to ransom by the bitter internecine rivalries in the ruling Zanu-PF party, which have as their sole goal the intention to succeed President Robert Mugabe.

In the wider context of the mammoth problems confronting the country, the infighting is an unnecessary and distracting side-show that is only directing public scrutiny away from the rot the ruling party is presiding over, thereby allowing it to sidestep its responsibility.

Zimbabwe has the potential to become sustainable, but is unable to feed its own people. It is held to ransom by the unresolved succession war of one political party.

Everywhere its citizens are gripped by tales of succession, of who is manoeuvring in which direction and using what tactics to outdo the other.

What is worrying, however, is the emergence of hate language that obviously betrays Zanu-PF’s historical manner of silencing dissenters.

Lethal pesticide
This has come to recent light after Minister of Presidential Affairs Didymus Mutasa revived a long-forgotten lethal pesticide, gamatox, that he said should be used to silence those trying to destroy the party from within.

This was widely taken to mean Information Minister Jonathan Moyo after Mugabe called him a “weevil”, who was trying to destroy the party from within.

Gamatox was banned in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s and, according to health experts, exposure to it can result in adverse effects such as skin irritation, nerve disorders or even death.

“Gamatox” should not just be viewed as a threat to resort to ­violence against internal party opponents but in its broader (and ironical, as it turns out to be) context of the toxic and pestilential nature of Zanu-PF itself and its policies, which have had such a malignant effect on the economy and the daily lives of Zimbabweans.

The medical symptoms of gamatox are frightfully comparable to those that afflict us in our daily lives. With great ease, one can show how Zanu-PF has poisoned every aspect of our lives under its watch over the years. All aspects of our core democratic institutions, be it the media, judiciary or legislature, are held captive in one way or another by the internal power dynamics of Zanu-PF.

Citizens and the economy
Bread-and-butter agendas of how to ease the daily economic struggles of citizens are nowhere on the political radar of the party.

That a once vibrant manufacturing sector is now reported to be operating at most at 30% capacity, with 10 firms closing each month, does not concern the party.

Only corridor talk of who will be the chosen successor is on the lips of our leaders daily. A better example of toxicity would be hard to come by.

It’s unlikely that one will find any forms of life where gamatox is sprayed. Perhaps the reason why Zimbabweans continue to flock to neighbouring countries, searching for reprieve and better lives, away from all the senseless corruption is because of the “gamatox” that continues to eat away at the heart of the economy.

According to press reports, soon after the disputed 2013 elections, at least 700 Zimbabweans were recorded by South African border officials as crossing the border daily into South Africa. I doubt that this figure has significantly decreased.

When Mutasa spoke of gamatox, he was probably reminiscing about a familiar internal strategy to deal with dissent.

Many, like the late liberation hero Dzinashe Machingura, have clearly articulated how violence has always been the survival strategy for a clique within Zanu-PF.

Consequently, the anxiety afflicting the nation as a result of the infighting within Zanu-PF has manifested in last week’s crackdown on the media that is reportedly aimed at Moyo, who is also accused of using the media to fight off rivals in the quest to replace Mugabe.

It is a do-or-die moment for Zanu-PF, as its survival as a party is also intricately linked to its ability to change leadership without strife, especially given that the majority of Zimbabweans are tired of 34 years under the old guard in the ruling party.

Zanu-PF has repeatedly failed to deal with the most pressing issues of the day, as it continues to preside over the same old politics of violence and patronage.

Many factors have ominously appeared in recent years that threaten the continued survival of the ruling party and its stranglehold over the country, among them Mugabe’s health and age, an imploding economy and the seemingly irreconcilable differences among the two main factions within the party.

This time round, it appears the ruling party may pay heavily for its ­inability over the years to come up with an internal formula for self- renewal, central to which would have been the grooming of new leaders and the building of consensus around Mugabe’s successor.

Grace Kwinjeh is a journalist and founding member of the Movement for Democratic Change, and is based in Brussels.

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