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Zanu-PF commissar's post a poisoned chalice

by Staff reporter
28 May 2024 at 13:43hrs | Views
POLITICAL analyst Rashweat Mukundu says the short lifespan in office of political commissars in Zanu-PF reflects how the position has become increasingly unsafe, amid growing infighting fuelled by succession politics.

The office of political commissar is important to Zanu-PF as it is responsible for political education and mobilising new members for the party.

On 21 May, former Industry minister Mike Bimha was the latest to be removed from the commissariat role, and was replaced by Munyaradzi Machacha, a former principal of Zanu-PF's Chitepo School of Ideology, in a reshuffle of the politburo.

Bimha is now an ordinary politburo member, and becomes the latest entry in a long list of commissars who have taken the walk of shame. Others have been involved in mysterious road accidents.

Mukundu told The NewsHawks that the position of a political commissar is now increasingly becoming unsafe in the party.

"Well, I think the commissar position in Zanu-PF is a poisoned chalice in that one has to contend with divergent and rival political views, more so those that are pushing for succession politics," Mukundu said.

"So, every time that we get into a new phase in the Zanu-PF leadership contest, the commissar tends to be a victim, because whoever had been aspiring will be looking at them with suspicion. So, it is the most unsafe position in the Zanu-PF politburo and it is a reflection of power dynamics and shifts that will be taking place at any given time."

Since 2021, former commissars have suffered a gruelling fate, with the position usually linked to and synonymous with internal contradictions, factionalism, power struggles, a high turnover and sometimes misfortunes like death, especially after the turn of the millennium.

After Border Gezi died on 28 April 2001 on his way to Masvingo, his successor Moven Mahachi quickly followed hardly a month later, on 26 May.

This shocked Zanu-PF leaders to the core amid infighting and talk of dark forces and eliminations.

Gezi had become unpopular in and out of Zanu-PF for his reign of terror as he spearheaded the late former president Robert Mugabe's fight for political survival.

But within some party circles and his social base, Gezi, commonly known as "Madzibaba", was seen as representing a new generation, energetic and vibrant in defence of the party and its leader.

When a local journalist called the late veteran Zanu-PF political maverick Edison Zvobgo on a late afternoon on 28 April 2001 to confirm Gezi's death, he said: "Ichokwadi afa, anga atumwa kuno shungurudza maKaranga kumaMasvingo. Mwari vamutora asati asvikako (Literally - it's true, he has died. He was sent to go and terrorise Karangas in Masvingo, but God stopped him in his tracks before he got there.)

Zvobgo had no sympathy at all for Gezi as he had unleashed violence across the nation on Zanu-PF and opposition activists alike.

It was a reign of sweeping terror led by Zanu-PF youth activists geared for the 2002 presidential election after the party was shaken to its foundations by the 2000 constitutional referendum defeat and parliamentary elections that it won by merely five elected seats against a nine-month old party, the MDC under Morgan Tsvangirai.

Gezi was also against Zvobgo openly doing Mugabe's bidding. Zvobgo, who had fallen out of favour with Mugabe and his young turks like Gezi, died on 22 August 2004.

Mahachi subsequently came in, but did not hold the position of commissar for long – it was only for four weeks and he died on 26 May 2001 when his Land Rover Discovery collided with an Alfa Romeo sedan which did not give way to him travelling along the Mutare-Nyanga road.

Mahachi was succeeded by Elliot Manyika.

Similarly, Manyika, famous for his "Nora" mobilising song, also died seven years later in a road accident on 6 December 2008 while travelling to Gwanda.

He was succeeded by Webster Shamu (formerly known by his liberation struggle nom de guerre Charles Ndlovu) until 2014.

Shamu could not survive the ruling party's congress even though Zanu-PF had won the 2013 elections overwhelmingly amid vote-rigging allegations by Israeli intelligence-linked outfit Nikuv International Projects that was paid US$10 million just before the polls.

After the volatile December 2014 congress, which ousted Joice Mujuru as Vice-President – possible Mugabe successor – replacing her with Emmerson Mnangagwa, youth leader Saviour Kasukuwere took over.

It was also not a smooth sail for him on that "cursed" position.

Kasukuwere ran into serious problems in early January 2017 amid accusations of political disloyalty and calls for his removal.

He survived by the skin of his teeth until the November coup.

After the coup, Mnangagwa, now President, in December 2017 then appointed retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje as commissar.

He did not last long as well and was removed in 2019.

Then after that came in Victor Matematanda.

He served for two years, before being shunted to Mozambique as Zimbabwe's ambassador and was replaced in 2021 by Mike Bimha.

On 21 May 2024, Mnangagwa replaced Bimha with Machacha, who was principal of the Zanu-PF Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology and formerly director of publications.

Source - newshawks