In 2007 when the ruling ZANU PF party was facing internal contradictions , then War Veterans Chairman Jabulani Sibanda led a million men march to show their support for President Robert Mugabe.
President Mugabe had not secured the mandate to represent the party in the 2008 elections at the Goromonzi Annual Peoples Conference after several provinces refrained from publicly supporting his candidacy. It was believed then that a group within the party led by late General Solomon Mujuru were making efforts to replace Mugabe with a younger leader as the candidate for the 2008 election.
Quoting from an article penned by Professor Jonathan Moyo in 2007 in the Independent “At that time, and well into the first quarter of 2007, at least seven Zanu PF provinces were decidedly against Mugabe’s leadership and these included Mashonaland East, Harare, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Bulawayo, Masvingo and the Midlands. Others such as Mashonaland Central, Manicaland and Mashonaland West were anxiously sitting on a knife edge virtually ready to follow the rest”
Mugabe had virtually lost control of the party and was seeking to remain in control of the party via the back door. He had to secure the control of the party via an extraordinary congress whose agenda had been limited in order to force party officials to tow the party line.But before the extraordinary conference , a one million men march was to be held in support of the under siege Mugabe.
President Mugabe secured the support of a faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa and he retained the presidency after party activists led by war veterans marched in support of his presidency. Professor Jonathan Moyo claims in an article he penned in 2007 that the plan to put down a mutiny against Mugabe’s leadership was hatched by the ‘securocrats’ and executed by the war veterans. Party members were whipped into line and forced into submission.
This week we rewind to 2007 as Mugabe faces rebellion in his party and seeks to employ the same tactics. There is turmoil in ZANU PF as the jostling to succeed Mugabe intensifies. Once again Mugabe feels threatened in the party as calls for him to step down are getting louder in some corridors. He is facing ‘extraordinary’ circumstances and wishes to use the million men march to silence perceived ambitious subordinates.
Considering that this million men march is not a priority given its not an election year, it is clear that this march is all about showing the party who is boss. It is unprecedented that a president who has just secured a landslide victory and is backed by two thirds majority in parliament orders a march in support of himself. What is the source of his insecurity? As one observer said it is akin to a husband giving his wife money so that she organises a surprise birthday party for him.
In the last few months war veterans and other senior members of the party have openly differed with Mugabe on government policy. There have been major ideological differences with Mugabe saying that the military had no role in politics but war veterans publicly reminding him that the ‘gun commands politics’.
There is growing debate that the party must get ready for life after Mugabe. Addressing war veterans two months ago, Mugabe said he was not dying and said that people should stop speculating about his death. Although he remains in charge, there is evidence that he is losing grip on the party with some of his decisions openly being defied by party members.
This perceived loss of control of the party is what has made Mugabe order this one million man march in order to reassert his control on the party. War veterans and other youths in the party had refused to participate in the march until President Mugabe ordered them to participate in the march about a week ago.
In 2007, however Mugabe had the firm support of the securocrats and war veterans who are said to have strategised how the President would regain control of the party. This march comes at a time when Mugabe has openly clashed with war veterans. He has also failed to censor his junior ministers and wife who have openly attacked the securocrats. This means this march is proceeding without the key support of military elements within the party and everyone knows how the military is important to ZANU PF’s political well being.
Then the million men march was planned under the guise of fighting sanctions that the ruling party said were imposed by Western countries and Mugabe was being championed as the candidate who could ward off regime change threats from the west. This time President Mugabe had to intervene to force reluctant war veterans to participate in this march. Mugabe is desperate to assert control on his divided party and in the process prove to all that he remains popular.
Once again the party will go to this million men march deeply divided with Mugabe’s position as president insecure.It stands to be seen if the march will secure the same results it did in 2007 given that Mugabe is at loggerheads with war veterans.