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Biti says deadly Zanu-PF ructions threatening peace

by Staff reporter
24 Feb 2017 at 06:10hrs | Views
Former Finance minister and now leader of the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP), Tendai Biti, has warned that President Robert Mugabe's unwillingness to groom a successor, as well as Zanu-PF's escalating tribal, factional and successions wars, could plunge the country into civil war.

This comes after Mugabe said pointedly last week that no one in his warring ruling party is worthy of succeeding him, while at the same time lavishing his influential wife Grace, with praise - including backing her to succeed and hold her own in the brawling former liberation movement.

Since Mugabe made those controversial remarks in his annual birthday interview with ZBC (TV), Zanu-PF's ugly ructions have intensified - with a faction of young party Turks going by the moniker Generation 40 (G40) fighting hard to decimate Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa's camp, known as Team Lacoste.

Biti yesterday said Zimbabwe was hurtling towards chaos as Zanu-PF's factions bayed for each other's blood. He also described as reckless, Mugabe's statements that none of his minions was worthy of succeeding him.

"Mugabe's recent utterances in which he denigrated his deputies, defining them as unfit to hold office if he leaves is not only reckless but should not have been said at this volatile stage. If all this is not managed carefully, the country's delicate transition will result in chaos," he said.

"The current environment is volatile and contains many ingredients for a civil war. The toxic hate speech that is being exchanged every day across the Zanu-PF factions is at the same level with that witnessed before the genocide in Rwanda.

""The fact that the Lacoste faction includes the military makes it dangerous for Mugabe to try and impose his wife in a process which must normally be determined by a democratic election. Mugabe has always deprived the people of Zimbabwe their right to freely choose," Biti added.

"The recent utterances by (former Zanu-PF youth leader for Mashonaland Central) Godfrey Tsenengamu are evidence that the succession wars in Zanu-PF are a danger to many Zimbabwean lives. His utterances must be taken seriously," he said.

Speaking in his annual interview last week, ahead of his 93rd birthday, Mugabe did not mince his words saying he would soldier on in power - notwithstanding his advanced age and declining health - and would only step down if Zanu-PF asked him to do so.

"The call to step down must come from my party, my party at congress, my party at central committee . . . I will step down.

"But then what do you see? It's the opposite. They want me to stand for elections. They want me to stand for elections everywhere in the party.

"Of course, if I feel that I can't do it anymore, I will say so to my party so that they relieve me. But for now I think I can't say so . . . The majority of the people feel that there is no replacement, a successor who to them is acceptable, as acceptable as I am," Mugabe said.

His statement was seen as slamming the door shut in the face of his longtime aide Mnangagwa, who until recently had been touted as a front-runner to succeed him.

Stung by this damning statement, Mnangagwa's angry allies, including Tsenengamu, came out guns blazing, warning the increasingly frail nonagenarian that he faced a big fight if he continued to thwart the Midlands godfather's mooted presidential aspirations.

Tsenengamu also said on Monday that they would now openly campaign for Mnangagwa as Mugabe's successor, raising the stakes high in the succession saga.

He was subsequently nabbed by detectives, a day after he held his press conference in the capital where he let rip at Mugabe and Grace.

Tsenengamu appeared at the Harare Magistrates' Courts yesterday facing three charges: violating provisions of the draconian Public Order and Security Act (Posa) for holding his press conference without clearance, undermining the authority of the president and subverting a constitutionally-elected government.

Biti said the fact that Mugabe had criticised everyone while heaping praise on his wife showed that he had most likely already made up his mind about "imposing a dynastic arrangement on the citizens of Zimbabwe".

He warned that if this was the case, Mugabe was taking a major gamble as Grace was allegedly "a hard sell to the impoverished and long-suffering populace".

"Grace lacks the capacity to lead and has no defendable stature . . . Any reasonable individual will obviously oppose a move which is aimed at her taking over the reins, and sadly this includes the Lacoste faction," Biti said.

In his birthday interview, Mugabe heaped praise on Grace - fuelling suspicion within Zanu-PF that he could be grooming her to take over from him.

"She is very acceptable, very much accepted by the people. I thought you saw her on television today (on Friday in Buhera North). It's fireworks, isn't it?

"She is well-seasoned now. She is a very strong character. I saw something quite different in her. They (critics) thought she was an ambitious woman who would want to work herself into a position of power," Mugabe said with much pride.

Biti also said the infighting in Zanu-PF was likely to result in the intervention of the military.

Mugabe has previously expressed his disquiet at the military for allegedly meddling in the party's succession riddle, warning them to stay away from politics during Zanu-PF's conference in Victoria Falls in 2014.

"We have a firm policy that forbids such behaviour . . . we should stop it, yes. Tanga tasvika pekuti kwanga kwaanekupindirwa nevamwe zvekare vatisingadi kuona vachipindira munyaya idzi. (We have now come to an untenable situation where people who should ordinarily keep away from such issues are now also involved).

"Some people come to me complaining asking whether it was proper for the army, the police and intelligence . . . all telling me so and so belongs to this and that faction. Let's stop that. We are ruining the party that way," he said then.

Local think-tank Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), in a 2015 report titled "Military factor in Zanu-PF succession politics", suggested that the military had veto power in deciding Mugabe's successor.

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Source - dailynews