ZANU-PF’s continued hegemony and grip on power are threatened by factional fighting, a lack of a succession plan, and a lack of elite cohesion.
Primarily, the biggest source of tension is the race to succeed the ageing but defiant party leader, Mugabe, who has led the party since 1975.
Mujuru is a prominent casualty in Zimbabwe’s polarised and militarised politics. A veteran of Zimbabwe’s armed struggle against white minority rule, she held various cabinet portfolios since 1980, becoming Vice-President in 2004.
Mugabe purged Mujuru from ZANU-PF in 2014 along with many top-ranking party functionaries, accusing them of trying to depose him. This is not the first time that senior ZANU-PF members who criticised Mugabe for clinging to power have been kicked out. But the current purge is remarkable given the vast number of officials dismissed and the fact that they occupied prominent positions in the party.
Following expulsion, Mujuru formed her own party, Zimbabwe People First, with some senior axed ZANU-PF members joining.
Promising “people centeredness”, Mujuru’s party might be a welcome development for a weary electorate. In 2015 the party launched its political manifesto, promising to restore democracy and attracting foreign investment for socioeconomic development.
But she faces an uphill struggle to convince the electorate to vote for her in elections in 2018. Exposing corruption, alleged electoral fraud and perpetrators of violence might boost her party’s image.
ZANU-PF dismissed the launch of the new party. But there was jubilation and a sense of reinvigoration in some opposition quarters, particularly given the MDC’s poor run in the 2013 elections. Leaders of the main opposition parties have welcomed her decision to join opposition politics. But apart from rumours, it is unclear whether Mujuru’s party will join forces with them.
A great deal of scepticism surrounds the new party partly because it includes “disgruntled” former ZANU-PF stalwarts who carry significant historical baggage. This includes accusations of corruption, electoral manipulation, violence and maladministration while they occupied public office.
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