President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga have clashed on Wednesday in the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) Politburo meeting, where other party members were in attendance. The factional intrigue between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, once friends, has seriously exposed the crack in their relationship as well as high lightened the level of a power struggle within the ruling Zanu-PF.
Ironically, the bloodless overthrow of late President Robert Mugabe in November 2017, which brought in Emmerson Mnangagwa as the President, could not have been possible without the help and support of Constantino Chiwenga the former army general. Mr Chiwenga was the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the Joint Operations Command, which comprises the commanders of ZNA, Prison Services, Central Intelligence Organisation, Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Air Force of Zimbabwe. He played a major role in the toppling of Robert Mugabe and ended his 37 years in power. Mnangagwa and Chiwenga have come to realise that maintaining peace, stability and economic growth after the Mugabe era can be more difficult than removing the former President from office.
President Mugabe may have gone, there is little or no change on the ground. The economy is in fact in more under dire stress than during the Mugabe’s era. Endemic corruption is still the order of the day. Unemployment has skyrocketed, lack of basic social amenities has put the lives of average Zimbabweans in a precarious situation. The monopoly of power amongst the ruling elites remains a norm. All these, amongst others, were responsible for Mugabe’s removal from the office.
If any anything, the same accusations levelled against former President Mugabe may have been responsible for the acrimonious relationship between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga. A power struggle between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga has left their relationship polarised and soured. On the one hand, Constantino Chiwenga sees himself as the leader of a faction in Zanu PF, as such, he is reportedly aiming to take over power from President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is putting all the finishing touches to contest for the second term in 2023. To some Zanu PF insiders, Constantino Chiwenga’s ambition to take over power from the incumbent has become naked and in comprehensive since the party has endorsed Mnangagwa as its presidential flag bearer in the 2023 general election. However, analysts have insisted that Constantino Chiwenga’s moves must be inseparable from the fact that many Zimbabweans consider President Mnangagwa a lame duck.
The antagonism between President Mnangagwa and Vice President Chiwenga has become so intensive that the party has been divided along the loyalty line. As it is expected in the African political terrain, members of the Mnangagwa’s camp are effectively working to reduce Chiwenga’s power and influence within the party and the government. To achieve their aim, the President’s camp is busy making quick changes in the military and other state departments, by removing those they consider loyal to Vice President Chiwenga. On the other hand, those they perceive as pro- Mnangagwa are assured of the safety of their job.
Even though the premature changes and retirements in the military is aimed at curtailing the power and influence of Chiwenga, that move equally brings division and dampers morality amongst the military. However, many analysts have pointed out that Chiwenga, the former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, is still very popular and influential in the military. Is this a reason for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to be worried? Do not underrate the power and influence of the military in Zimbabwean politics.
If division within the ruling Zanu PF is something to worry about, the claim that some senior Zanu PF members are secretly conniving with opposition parties to undermine Mnangagwa’s government is something the President should hardly dismiss with a wave of the hand. It is alleged that some disgruntled members of the ruling party are planning with the opposition parties to organise nationwide protests against alleged corruption in the Mnangagwa’s government. This alleged attempt to plot the collapse of the President Mnangagwa came up at the Party at Wednesday’s Politburo meeting where President Mnangagwa and his Vice President Chiwenga clashed openly. Mr Mnangagwa accused senior party members of orchestrating a plan against him, while Chiwenga rebuked the President for allegedly paying attention to what he called unsubstantial rumours.
Call it a rumour or not, the fact remains that there is a big conflict within the ruling Zanu PF party, caused by naked ambitions of some individuals who have effectively placed their interests higher than the welfares, lives and rights of their fellow Zimbabweans. When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers more. It is left for Zimbabweans to either allow the selfish ambitions of the elephants to endanger their own lives, future and destiny or thwart the destructive attempts. Zimbabweans have a choice to make; the earlier they make that choice the quicker their lives will change positively.