Daggers drawn as Mugabe prepares to quit
With only three months to go before the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) congress in which a successor to Mugabe is to be nominated, daggers are already drawn.
The 80-year-old Mugabe has made it clear that he will not be contesting the presidential elections due in the country in 2008. It is the aftermath of this
announcement made to the East African Standard, a Kenyan local daily, earlier this year that three camps have emerged in the ruling party, as party heavyweights position themselves for leadership after the exit of Mugabe.
The subject of Mugabe's exit has been taboo within ZANU-PF for over 20 years but the emergence of camps, as the heavyweights seek the support of the police,
army and war veterans is likely to split the ruling party along tribal lines, according to analysts.
Even Mugabe expressed disgust at the way ZANU-PF heavyweights are vying for his post saying that some are even approaching traditional healers for charms as the date of the congress approaches.
The first camp consists of die-hard veterans of the liberation war that brought independence from Britain in 1980, and is regarded as the real ZANU-PF wing and well respected by Mugabe.
Its members have their tentacles running in the survival of the party and can direct events within the army and intelligence as well as appeal to ZANU-PF's
But this camp has no leader and operates through consensus between the defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, retired army general Solomon Mujuru - widely considered the kingmaker, army commander Constantine Chiwenga, retired prison chief Major General Paradzai Zimondi, higher education minister Herbert Murerwa, retired youth and gender minister Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri and the governor of the capital Harare Witness Mangwende.
While the group comprises of the powerful Zezuru hegemony within the majority Shona tribe to which Mugabe belongs, it has the respect of the senior leadership with ZANU-PF Matebeleland, such as land reform minister John Nkomo, vice-President Joseph Msika and former intelligence boss Dumiso Dabengwa.
Matebeleland, a region in southern Zimbabwe occupied by the minority Ndebele tribe, has continually snubbed Mugabe since the 1980 disturbances when the government
unleashed a Korean trained army unit that left a trail of deaths and rape victims, as the government said it was looking for armed dissidents of the now defunct
Zimbabwe African People Union (ZAPU).
This camp successfully countered a bid by speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa, a Mukaranga-Shona from central Zimbabwe, for the post of chairperson and helped install Nkomo although he is a Ndebele. The leading light in this camp is Mugabe's confidante Sekeramayi. The group, though lacking political charisma, is known to decide the political fate of any individual over a cup of tea.
The second camp comprises the intellectual wing of ZANU-PF and the "Young Turks" as it is now known. It includes information minister Jonathan Moyo, Agriculture minister Joseph Made and justice minister Patrick Chinamasa. This camp is responsible for the propaganda war on unrepentant Western countries Zimbabwe is currently waging.
However it enjoys the support from national security minister Nicholas Goche, minister without portfolio Elliot Manyika (he has been instrumental in turning Zimbabwe youths into the notorious ZANU-PF militia), and police commissioner Augustine Chihuri.
The group does not have a leader but Moyo's public profile in the anti-colonial onslaught has upped his appeal with the party rank and file. He has also been spending money at grassroots level.
Another area of Moyo's leverage is his control on the public media, allowing the group a powerful tool to influence political discourse. Coupled with this, is Goche's hold over the intelligence hence the group's privy to what is going on in the party's circles.
"Moyo however has a tendency to rubbish party stalwarts in the media and is creating enemies within the party that could cost his camp and help split ZANU-PF," says John Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer. "He is a novice in politics and that has worked dismally on the international image of Zimbabwe," he adds.
While the first two group are running wild looking for leaders, the last camp has a leader in parliamentary speaker Mnangagwa who four months ago was awarded an honorary degree at a university in central Zimbabwe in a move that was seen as a ploy to position him in line for the presidency.
But Mnangagwa is unpopular largely because of his role in the Matabeleland massacres when he was the minister of defence.
The United Nations has also implicated him in the Democratic Republic of Congo mineral deals and he is being probed on charges of corruption and financial
irregularities in ZANU-PF companies.
The Young Turks were once behind him but have now deserted him following the death of vice-President Simon Muzenda who was turning the tables to his advantage.
Makumbe says Mnangagwa can rely on the support of war veterans through their leader Jabulani Sibanda who is a close confidante of him.
"Mugabe can also through him a lifeline as he prefers him to others but that will be the end of ZANU-PF," says Makumbe.
As the political bickering continues within the ruling party, it is assured of a one party election in parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2005 following an announcement by the main opposition party that it would not participate.
Its councillors have also resigned en-masse from Harare city council citing unwarranted government interference in council affairs. "The MDC will not participate in elections until the political space has been opened up and a legal and administrative framework for elections has been established that harnesses levels of transparency," said MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi in August.