Robert Mugabe neutralising Zanu PF factions

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives for the extraordinary session of the African Union's Assembly of Heads of State and Government on the case of African Relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC), in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, October 12, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

HARARE – Amid ugly infighting over his succession, President Robert Mugabe is pinning his re-election hopes on the Zanu PF Youth League, which he is using to neutralise bigwigs jostling to succeed him.

By Andrew Kunambura

The shrewd politician, who is going around the country’s 10 political provinces to meet the youths, seem to be losing patience with the senior leadership of his party, immersed in a brutal war over his succession.

Mid last week, he met the top leadership of the Zanu PF youth league at his official residence in Harare, where he told his guests to refrain from aligning with any of the factions in his party – Team Lacoste and Generation 40 (G40).

Kudzanai Chipanga, leader of the youth league, and his deputy, Mtehlabayo Malinga, attended the meeting, along with two other members of their executive –Xavier Kazizi (secretary for administration) and Innocent Hamandishe (political commissar).

Mugabe called in the youth leaders soon after receiving credentials from newly-appointed ambassadors for Japan, Pakistan and Brazil and took the opportunity to admonish them to stay out of factional political and be impartial.

“He told Chipanga’s team that he needed them to be on the middle of the road, and not belong to any of the two factions,” a source said.

Sources familiar with the meeting averred that Mugabe was almost succeeding in bringing the youths to his side in a bid to neutralise Zanu PF factions that are becoming brazen in their demands for him to anoint his heir apparent.

They said with elections likely early next year, Mugabe was not taking any chances, and was riding on the Zanu PF youth league’s pulling power extend his rule.

In the previous elections, Mugabe has relied on the war veterans to drum up support for Zanu PF, with the security sector also standing accused of campaigning for his party.

It has, however, not been well between the Zanu PF leader and the former liberation war fighters, who wrote a stinging communiqué in 2015, casting Mugabe’s leadership.

Mugabe has also railed against top military chiefs for interfering in the administrative issues of his party.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Chipanga was dismissive about the whole thing.

“It’s coming from people who want to set me up against everyone in the party. They say a lot of things and lie a lot. I know them. They want me to be seen in bad light so I better not even talk about that,” he said.

Kazizi and Hamandishe also declined to comment, referring questions to the league’s spokesperson, Evelyn Mpofu who was unreachable.

But as if to confirm this, Chipanga called a press conference a day after the meeting where he said the youth league does not have its own preferred candidate, contradicting growing calls from within the party that Mugabe should name his successor.

Addressing journalists, Chipanga said youths had “various ideas” on how the succession question should be handled and were not necessarily influenced by either G40 of Team Lacoste.

He also appeared to dismiss calls by the First Lady for Mugabe to name his successor as “just their idea” and not a party position.

Mugabe has been adamant that only the people should choose his successor.

Zanu PF has been ravaged by infighting for more than two decades. The situation is worsening by the day as cunning political hawks are devising all sorts of tricks to succeed the incumbent.

Team Lacoste and G40 are currently scheming and skulking at their perceived rivals, with their political skulduggery exploding as the country prepares for a crunch general election due next year.

Team Lacoste exponents, particularly the war veterans have openly called on Mugabe to anoint his successor, whom they want to be Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

G40 seem to be torn between Defence minister, Sydney Sekeramayi and First Lady to take-over from Mugabe.