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Zanu Pf’s plan for 2018: reordering its disorder in pursuit of permanence of power

Takura Zhangazha on the political reshuffle in Zimbabwe and Zanu Pf’s intention to perpetuate and secure its position as ruling party and ensure a present, but thoroughly negligible, opposition.



There is an arrogance to the recent cabinet reshuffle by President Mugabe. It is an arrogance that is less motivated by a desperation but an intention to instill a new order within his party’s rank and file.

The fairness or lack of it is for those directly affected to determine. But there is a reconfiguration which is obviously part of a major plan instituted by those within the party and state intelligence services in the aftermath of a dramatic purge of former leaders.

If such re-configurations were limited to internal party processes they would be of limited consequence. That they have spilled over into government means that they have a bearing on the state, its citizens and its future.

The overall initial import of these ongoing changes in Zanu Pf appear to be more personal and ambition laden. The reality is they go beyond succession and are in search of a new permanence to Zanu Pf’s longue duree rule. Inclusive of attendant and emergent ethnocentric dimensions.


Purging the former vice President Joice Mujuru and her allies, unprecedented in that party’s history as it was, is not the actual focal point of its new shift. With more than a two thirds majority in parliament and a 61% presidential vote count, it is using its 2013 electoral victory to set the standard for the 2018 harmonised poll. With or without its incumbent leader, Robert Mugabe.

Picture: President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe’s reforms caused more harm than good for the average man. Photo: Getty Images

Picture: President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe’s reforms caused more harm than good for the average man. Photo: Getty Images

It wants to emerge equally if not more victorious in 2018. But in a less factionalised manner. Not that there will be no factions among its rank and file. They will just be more manageable and less about alternative centers of power. And as some of its own media columnists have been arguing, it is not that it will not want an opposition – instead it will want an opposition that will never have as real a chance of ousting it from power electorally as was almost the case in 2008.

So it has no problem cajoling or setting up stages where other political leaders feel they can challenge for power. Especially if they have been expelled from its membership. The intention is to consolidate its current hold on functional power through use of repressive tactics while attempting to court global capital, with lessons from China, and retaining full political control in a free market, neo-liberal economic ideological setting.

This latter point of a neo-liberal, free market economy is particularly interesting given the fact that Zanu Pf’s political raison d’être has been a radical nationalism that is both historical but largely elitist in output and endgame. In fact, any other measurement of the success of this radical nationalism have largely been by default and not necessarily planned organizational intent. Hence the increase in occurrences of reversal such as the eviction of settlers from ‘prime land’ earmarked in colonial state blueprint plans for modernist ‘development’.

So essentially, Zanu Pf has ended the populist phase of its Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). It will, however, insist that the latter is irreversible and also insist on it being revolutionary. The jury is still out on such an assertion.

It is still all about Zanu Pf. Image: Nehanda Radio

It is still all about Zanu Pf. Image: Nehanda Radio

What is now apparent after President Mugabe’s state of the nation address last month is that these radical national economic policy phases are basically over and that Zimbabwe is open for business. So long one does not raise the issue of property rights prior to the FTLRP, and so long one understands that the indigenization policy is neo-liberal. It must just involve black Zimbabweans in the process of making money off state/public assets such as water, land, health and education, among others.

The primary intention is therefore to make Zanu Pf, despite its internal upheavals, the only successful political organisation in the country going forward. That is why the ruling party has its fingers in every major pie of the political economy. From housing schemes (land barons), convoluted reform processes (IMPI, constitutional commissions), redesigning the capital city, privatization of basic services (water, health, electricity, public transport, education) and retention to the greater extent the base and superstructure of the settler state political economy, and you have a recipe for the hegemonic retention of power via state largesse.


This would mean that even those who campaign against the ruling party will eventually mimic its strategies and materialism. Unless they are indeed revolutionaries of a new ilk and with the firmest of political convictions.

Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front

Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front

The end effect, if not already evident, shall be clearer by 2018; that is the individuation of Zimbabwean society. It remains evident that with the tragic demise of the extended family, the fissures between the rural and the urban, emigration and exportation of our youngest and brightest minds, the material value placed on common existence has become individuated. Common values and shared beliefs are fewer and far between, especially if there is no anticipated material benefit. Unless they fall into the ambit of Zanu Pf’s understanding of its own hegemony.

Given the shared neo-liberal ideological grounding of the opposition parties’ manifestos with Zanu Pf, a thing the latter party is completely aware of, our politics toward 2018 will be routine with personalities dominating the agenda as opposed to issues. That is an anticipation that yes, there will be political opposition, but it will never accede to executive power through being fundamentally different from the incumbent ruling party. So long it remains abstract and panders to global best practices without application to our national context. And, as in Orwell’s Animal Farm, we all run the risk of eventually looking and not being able to tell the difference.