15 January 2004

Zanu PF heads for split over Chiyangwa

The humiliating arrest of Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman Phillip Chiyangwa at the weekend could further split the ruling party right through the middle at a crucial moment when it is trying to ward off a threat posed by the opposition. Chiyangwa’s defence lawyers have already inferred that the arrest of the larger than life character and self-proclaimed black indigenisation guru could be the work of their client’s political foes, coming as it did after Acting President Joseph Msika had hit out at the legislator’s behaviour in court. The boisterous Chiyangwa, with egg on his face, may want to settle his scores and regain the political ground that could have been lost, which could cause a major rift within Zanu PF ahead of the crucial 2005 parliamentary elections. As a Zanu PF provincial chairman, Chiyangwa is seen as an influential party cadre in the dicey debate to choose President Robert Mugabe’s successor ahead of the expiry of the Zimbabwean leader’s term of office in 2008. Chiyangwa’s economic muscle and his fearless character could be another added advantage amid rumours that the legislator had already aligned himself with Emmerson Mnangagwa’s camp. Mnangagwa, who is already being touted among President Mugabe’s possible successors, is Zanu PF’s secretary for administration and Speaker of Parliament. Mnangagwa’s faction is pitted against other equally powerful factions from the Manicaland, Mashonaland Central and Masvingo provinces.

In an unprecedented move, police arrested Chiyangwa, who is also the Member of Parliament for Chinhoyi, on charges of trying to defeat the course of justice resulting from his involvement in the ENG Capital Asset Management debacle. Chiyangwa allegedly tried to protect the youthful ENG directors - Nyasha Watyoka and Gilbert Muponda - who are facing several counts of defrauding investors of about $61 billion. Police, who, previously hardly take action against any ruling Zanu PF officials, moved in quickly to arrest the legislator shortly after Msika hinted that the government would deal with wayward politicians abusing their influence and powers. Analysts said the latest developments could also be a result of growing factionalism within the party, worsened by the contentious succession issue. Most of the factions in Zanu PF are set up along ethnic, tribal and regional lines. "There could be some witch-hunting of some sort that could be taking place among some influential people from different factions within the party," said political analyst Ernest Mudzengi. Chiyangwa comes from Zvimba in Mashonaland West, President Mugabe’s home area. Political analysts this week said it was too early to deduce what President Mugabe’s government and party may be driving at, but warned that any purge within both the party and the government could violently split the party along geo-ethnic lines. The analysts said although Zanu PF could gain some political mileage from being seen as applying the law evenly across the political divide, the arrest and arraignment before the courts of influential ruling party officials could open a Pandora’s Box that could have consequences on the 40-year-old party.

"One cannot really say what is happening in Zanu PF," said Mudzengi. "We don’t know whether this is the beginning of the events of the likes of Willowgate or it is just a window-dressing act? One can just see it as a comic theatre taking place." Willowgate refers to the 1989 motor vehicle scandal at the Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries which ended the political careers of several Cabinet ministers who were found to have been abusing a ministerial car-buying facility. University of Zimbabwe lecturer and chairman of the Zimbabwe Integrated Programme, Heneri Dzinotyiwei, said it was difficult to say whether the latest events could be the beginning of a clean up against government and ruling party officials contributing to the economic mess in Zimbabwe. "I don’t think we can as yet call this a clean-up until maybe if it continues on a wider scale," he said. "We don’t know if there is any motive behind this but one would naturally assume that the government is just exercising its duties." He, however, said if there are other motives behind it, those doing this should be careful because they could trigger a major shake-up within the ruling party.

Mudzengi said there could be a number of reasons to possibly explain the sudden decision by the government to be tough with people from within the ruling party’s ranks. "One of them is that since Zanu PF is under a lot of pressure, it could be doing this in order to get some breathing space and this can be done by sacrificing some people," Mudzengi said. Alois Masepe, another political analyst, said knowing the tricks of the Zanu PF government, it is possible that everything being done - from the much-publicised land audit to the latest arrests - could be a mere "political public relations show" specifically aimed at next year’s general elections. "I think they are play-acting," Masepe said. "These are mere make-believe schemes being done for the purpose of next year’s elections … this is what we saw during the Willowgate scandal when a number of politicians were sacrificed ahead of an election." Some of the politicians, notably Frederick Shava, have since been integrated into the top echelons of the party. The Willowgate scandal coincided with preparations for the 1990 general elections in which the then newly formed opposition party, the Zimbabwe Unity Movement threatened to end Zanu PF’s rule through its anti-corruption manifesto. Masepe said Zanu PF could not afford to sit back and watch official corruption flourish ahead of an election so it needed to be seen to be doing something even when there was a risk of splitting the party further. (ZWNews / Financial Gazette, Harare)

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