Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front leader Robert Mugabe has come out spitting venom twice this year. First he called Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and his crew “zvipfukuto” (weevils). Last week he said of Vice President Joice Mujuru: “Inga kana michato inodambuka wani” (even marriages are dissolved).
His wife, Grace, was worse. She was so much on Mai Mujuru’s back that she seemed to be spoiling for a fight. Mai Mujuru calmly responded that she was not a sell-out and would be going nowhere.
The spat between ZANU-PF leaders has led to speculation that ZANU-PF is headed for a split. But that could just be wishful thinking. No one is likely to leave the party. History says so.
ZANU-PF has never had any major split since it was formed 51 years ago. All those who have left the party, no matter how senior they were, have ended nowhere or have returned to the party. This has led to a belief that there is no life outside ZANU-PF.
The first split was in 1971 when dissatisfied members of ZANU who included Nathan Shamuyarira and dissatisfied members of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union led by James Chikerema formed the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe. The party never got anywhere.
Chikerema later joined the settlement government of Bishop Abel Muzorewa. He was only saved from disgrace because of his close family relationship to President Robert Mugabe.
Shamuyarira returned to the ZANU-PF fold but he was haunted by his FROLIZI ghost and was forced to retire from politics prematurely yet everyone knew that he had presidential ambitions.
The second major split was when founding president Ndabaningi Sithole refused to bow down after being dethroned in detention. He formed what was later known as ZANU-Ndonga but the party failed to even beat Bishop Muzorewa’s United African National Council in the so-called Rhodesian transitional government, and failed to win a single seat in the independence elections of 1980.
Sithole, once a political force competing one-on-one with Zimbabwe African People’s Union, Joshua Nkomo, was soon forgotten.
The third split was when Mugabe’s number two, Edgar Tekere left to form the Zimbabwe Unity Movement. Tekere gave Mugabe a scare in the 1990 presidential elections but that was the end of his political career.
The fourth, flopped but highly-hyped, split was in 2008 when Simba Makoni, then regarded as one of Mugabe’s potential successors, left ZANU-PF to contest the 2008 presidential elections.
There was wide speculation that Makoni had been promised by senior party officials, especially former army commander Solomon Mujuru, that they would join him once he left the party. No one did, and that was the end of his political career.
ZANU-PF has proved over the years that it is bigger than any individual, including Mugabe. Heavyweights like Eddison Zvobgo dared not leave the party despite the humiliation he suffered under Mugabe when he ditched him after Zvobgo put in so much to ensure that Mugabe remained in power.
Jonathan Moyo, the only man who proved, twice, that he is more liked by his people than the party, and could therefore once again stand on his own had to swallow his pride after being called a “weevil”. Four years outside ZANU-PF had shown him there was no life outside the party.
A split in ZANU-PF will only work if the party splits into two, that is, if the so-called factions walk away with several high ranking leaders each. But that is not likely because the leaders of ZANU-PF have so many skeletons to hide that they do not trust each other.
Each one is so afraid of the other that everyone believes that the only safe place to be is in ZANU-PF, regardless of the humiliation one might be subjected to.
After all, if you keep quiet, no one forces you out. If you resist, or answer back, they throw you to the dogs. And the fight in ZANU-PF is dirty, really dirty.
Even Mugabe himself could not step down when he wanted to after the 2008 defeat by Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.