Big Saturday Read: Disintegration or Creative Destruction?
The recent sacking of Emmerson Mnangagwa, less than three years after his appointment as Vice President of Zimbabwe, has opened a new chapter in the prolonged race to succeed long-serving leader, President Robert Mugabe. The significance of the succession race cannot be overstated. A school of thought that classifies the succession race as merely an internal matter for ZANU PF grossly overlooks the fact that this is the ruling party and its affairs have consequences for and are of interest to the entire nation. Second, because of the unique constitutional arrangements tin Zimbabwe, the succession race in the ruling party has direct implications on the question of national leadership. It warrants attention because it has political, constitutional and economic implications that go beyond the boundaries of ZANU PF as a political organisation.
The purpose of this BSR is to examine the meaning of recent and on-going events in ZANU PF in the broader context of the succession race. What does it mean for Zimbabwe? What is the potential impact on ZANU PF? Is ZANU PF self-destructing or merely renewing itself? Does the succession race present any opportunities for the opposition and if so, how? These are some of the questions examined in this BSR.
A more optimistic view of events in ZANU PF is that the party is undergoing renewal through a process of “creative destruction”. The theory of creative destruction was coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter in his book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy back in 1942. Schumpeter was explaining the nature of capitalism and how it is characterised by a constant state of change, with innovation causing the destruction of old enterprises which in turn are replaced by new enterprises. According to the theory, those that innovate will thrive, while those that remain stuck in old ways tend to stagnate and die. This is an on-going process, fuelled by competition and innovation.
History has countless examples of this phenomenon. A familiar example is in the area of technology companies. Once upon a time, Nokia was the market leader in the mobile telephone business. But it was slow to innovate and yielded its position to new players. Today, ten years after the iPhone was launched, Apple rules the roost. But Apple also knows that it cannot sit back and relax. They have to continue innovating, with the old giving way to the new. The core idea of creative destruction is that growth and renewal involve the destruction of the established and replacement by the new. This view holds destruction not as an inherently bad thing, but as part of the growth process as long as there’s creation of new things. I adapt this to assess whether what is going on in ZANU PF might be described as a process of creative destruction.
Politics is a highly competitive process. History has countless examples of political parties that have collapsed given way to new parties. If new parties are the political equivalent of innovation in Schumpeterian economic theory, then it might be argued there’s some creative destruction that takes place on the political marketplace. Where Nokia and Apple compete to sell their gadgets, political parties compete to sell their myths – captured in manifestoes - to the political market. In a free and fair political market, the party that sells its myth to more people will prevail over its rivals. The vanquished rival may live to fight another day. But some never recover. A similar phenomenon can take place within political parties where there is usually completion between rival factions.
The problem of factionalism has long been recognised in politics. Factions arise because people tend to align with groups whose interests they identify with. New factions may arise which outcompete and vanquish old factions producing a creative destruction phenomenon within the political party. It is in this context that it may be argued that the factional wars in ZANU PF may be viewed, at least in theory, as no more than a process in which the old collapsing while the new is taking over.
Lacoste is a faction that generally represents the old liberation war generation. The Gamatox faction, which was expelled in 2014-15 was also heavily populated by the old liberation war generation. G40 on the other hand is fronted by a younger generation that does not have liberation war credentials. In this regard Mugabe would be regarded as a godfather figure who is overseeing this generational shift. With the axing of both Gamatox and Lacoste factions, and the apparent success of G40, it could be argued that ZANU PF is going through its own process of creative destruction. On this view, ZANU PF is not dying. Rather, it is merely shedding off the old and giving way to the new. What will emerge from this process, proponents will argue, is a new ZANU PF.
This view certainly appears to have resonance in G40 in view of comments by some of its leading proponents. At the Bulawayo Presidential Youth Interface Rally, Mugabe repeated the comment that the sun was setting on his generation but that it was only rising for the new generation. He had spoken similar words at the first Presidential Youth Interface Rally held in Marondera in July. In response, Moyo tweeted on 9 November 2017, “This anti-entitlement call by President Mugabe is for generational renewal in ZANU PF, government and the country”. Here, it is interesting to note that Moyo extends the notion of “generational renewal” beyond ZANU PF to include the entire country. Clearly, G40 is claiming title to a moral and political crusade on behalf of the new generation. It is creating a narrative based on championing the cause of a generation away from the perception that it is pursuing the parochial interests of a few individuals. In other words, they are framing it not just as a fight against Mnangagwa but a generational fight for the entire country. Since G40 draws its name from Moyo’s Generation 40 doctrine, which he founded in 2011, it is important to examine linkages with recent developments.
Moyo’s Generation 40 doctrine
To get an understanding of the Generation 40 doctrine, it helps to re-visit Moyo’s initial exposition of it which was contained in an article published by The Sunday Mail on 7 August 2011. In that article Moyo posed several questions, which were addressed to his ZANU PF comrades. Here just a few that are pertinent to the issue of generational change will be referred to.
While Moyo’s 2011 article was written in the context of promoting young people’s role in indigenisation and empowerment, the implications of its exposition were broader. The core idea seems was that it was necessary to have a generational handover of leadership to a new generation of young leaders. Moyo expressed the view that the “political class in the nationalist movement” was resisting the rise of a new generation of leaders. He asked, “… why are some comrades trying to block the inevitable fact that the time has come to allow and enable our country’s G40 to take charge of the national indigenisation and empowerment thrust as an expression of the legacy of our heroic liberation struggle …?”
After noting that the liberation struggle was prosecuted by young people, Moyo argued that young people must be given a chance to lead the new phase of the nationalist struggle. He wrote, “The current struggle for indigenisation and economic empowerment will not be won unless young people are its core fighters. At the moment, we have an excluded G40 whose marginalisation by the nationalist movement is not in the national interest.”
He added, “We have educated our youth. Now we must hear them by giving them real responsibilities in the running and management of our public affairs with the demand that they must be guided by the legacy of the selfless sacrifices of the gallant heroes of our liberation struggle … The time has come for Zimbabwe’s G40 to consolidate the gains of our liberation struggle by winning the Last Chimurenga through indigenisation and empowerment.”
This article was written in 2011, long before the name G40 came to represent a faction in the succession race. This is why Moyo insisted that G40 is not a faction but an idea. In 2016, he complained that the name G40 was being misused by applying it to a faction. He protested that he had used the term in the demographic sense, referring you a wider cross section of young people regardless of their political views or gender. However, despite his protestations, germane to the Generation 40 doctrine is the idea of giving leadership to a new generation and this entails succession from the older generation of leaders. The theme at the heart of the Generation 40 doctrine is that it’s time for a new generation to lead.
This is important because it helps us to understand the schism between the G40 and Lacoste factions and what has happened in ZANU PF since 2013. First, a large section of the liberation generation was removed from the party in 2014-15 when Mujuru and her allies were expelled. It saw the departure of liberation generation stalwarts like Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo. Even then the liberation generation was used to achieve this outcome. It did not take long before the remaining pillars of the liberation generation were targeted. Now, 3 years later, the major casualties of the G40-Lacoste battle have also been the liberation generation. It is pertinent to note that the war veterans, the core group that represents the liberation generation has been a key actor and casualty in the succession battle. It was very vocal and openly stood by Mnangagwa and Lacoste, extolling the liberation struggle doctrine and dismissing G40 as mafikizolos and sell-outs. Lacoste’s claim to leadership and legitimacy was based on its liberation war credentials, which criteria they used to exclude, dismiss and delegitimise G40’s claims.
G40 on the other hand did not publicly develop the Generation 40 doctrine to legitimise its claim. They knew it was inconsistent with their avowed support of Mugabe, himself the pillar of the liberation generation. How could they talk of leadership renewal and handover to a new generation without attacking Mugabe, whose support they needed? So they silenced whatever ideas they had behind the G40 title and instead based their claims on loyalty to and defence of Mugabe against so-called “successionists.” They also roped in the likes of Sydney Sekeramayi and a faction of the war veterans merely to match and neutralise the liberation narrative championed by Lacoste. Just like in 2014, G40 made effective use of the liberation generation to fight off their peers. What they may not realise is that they could be next in line as the liberation generation falls under the process of creative destruction.
Is there any innovation, though?
The idea that ZANU PF is undergoing a process of “creative destruction” would no doubt be something that G40 would find attractive because it suggests that the party is undergoing renewal and growth rather than disintegration. It suggests that the ZANU PF that will emerge from this process of creative destruction will be more efficient and powerful. But the notion of creative destruction is based on the assumption that there is some innovation behind the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new. What exactly is the innovation that G40 is propagating apart from replacing one set of leaders with a new set but without any new ideas? A venomous snake might shed off its skin but it remains a deadly snake. This raises a major shortcoming in the race to succeed Mugabe in ZANU PF. There has been a glaring absence of ideas. There has been no ideological contestation between G40 and Lacoste. Rather, the fight has been around who is more loyal to Mugabe between the two factions.
The genesis of the Generation 40 doctrine has been explained above but as indicated none of the ideas contained in that paper have been developed or openly propagated. It will be interesting to see, since Lacoste has now suffered defeat, whether G40 will begin to articulate any ideas as part of their discourse. Without developing something new and innovative that can actually develop the party, it’s hard to see how the current process can qualify to be called creative destruction.
Fight for spoils
The weakness of some victors is that they can't handle success. The danger is that with the defeat of Lacoste and in the absence of any firm ideas, G40 might descend into a new set of squabbles as the victors fight for the spoils. If history provides any guidance, the last factional war to remove Mujuru and her allies was succeeded by a new factional war. The coalition that removed Mujuru had been no more than a coalition of convenience, united by the common interest to remove Mujuru but with little else beyond that which brought them together. For its part, despite warnings, Lacoste failed to handle its success. It celebrated too early and let success get to its head. It did not take long before G40 began to plot Lacoste’s downfall. If G40 does not handle its recent success well, they might end up suffering a similar fate.
Much depends on whether the key actors in G40 have a common vision beyond the removal of Mnangagwa and his Lacoste group. Their persistent attacks upon Mnangagwa in the wake of his sacking betrays the feeling that they are not entirely sure that they have won. Threats to arrest Mnangagwa are not surprising as this is Mugabe’s modus operandi against perceived political threats but it also shows they are still threatened by his influence and they believe they have to either keep him away or immobilise him by incarceration should he return to the country.
But there are also important questions to be asked of G40. Deep down, do they all support Grace Mugabe’s vice presidency which will bring her closer than all of them to the throne? Do they really see her as possessing the nous to be the country’s president? The key actors in G40 have many weaknesses, but it’s hard to imagine that they cannot see where this is going and how disastrous it could be if it leads to that. One theory is that they see her as an easier target to remove compared to Mnangagwa. However, if they think so, they might be surprised because she is also very ambitious and any one of them could easily be her next targets. She has already flexed her muscle by publicly defending them against charges of corruption and disloyalty and she will believe they should be beholden to her. If they see it otherwise and try to change course, Grace Mugabe will not hesitate to throw them under the bus, as Sandi Moyo and Sarah Mahoka can confirm. They were summarily dismissed as soon as Grace got a whiff to the effect that they were threatening her ambitions.
An alternative view to the idea of creative destruction is that ZANU PF is undergoing an incremental process of disintegration, which will only hasten upon Mugabe’s departure. According to this view, there is nothing creative about the destruction that has been taking place in the party. Far from helping to renew the party, events of the past 3 years are seen as deepening the cracks within the ruling party, leaving it weaker and vulnerable. This view is favoured by those who believe it is typical of authoritarian regimes to eventually collapse under their own weight. They see the cracks that have widened and the destruction of key pillars that has happened and believe it all points to an incremental process of degradation which will be hard to contain.
Destroy from within?
One theory that is favoured by his admirers and enemies alike is that Professor Jonathan Moyo has been on a sustained mission of destroying ZANU PF from within. According to this theory, Moyo is supposed to have written during his days as an academic that the only way to overcome ZANU PF is to destroy it from within.
Mnangagwa ran with this line recently as he defended himself against charges of disloyalty and betrayal levelled against him by Moyo. He argued that Moyo was a sponsored agent of foreign interests working hard to destroy ZANU PF from within. The war veterans have also advanced similar charges against Moyo. There are also opposition supporters who have bought the line that Moyo is destroying ZANU PF from inside. According to this school of thought, Moyo is a Trojan horse who entered ZANU PF only to destroy it from close range. In their view, far from being vilified for his conduct, Moyo must be applauded for successfully causing disintegration in ZANU PF.
The latter has a romantic pull to it. It makes Moyo look like a hero to long suffering Zimbabweans. But it is no more than that – a myth. Zimbabweans have suffered so much and have become exasperated by their failure to remove Mugabe than there is a desperation to find heroes. The idea that Moyo is doing work for them to get rid of Mugabe and ZANU PF sounds very attractive. Never mind that he has done and said some of the most appalling things, these Zimbabweans are prepared to overlook it or take it as necessary part of his mission. On this view, draconian laws like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which he oversaw as Information Minister some 15 years ago and the emasculation of the media generally were means to a greater end which is for the common good. In other words, he has had to be cruel in order to be kind.
If this theory is true, then the mission has taken him too long and caused too many casualties along the way while amassing personal wealth. For my part, it can’t possibly be true. Few people have worked harder in their employment than Moyo in service of Mugabe. He may have gone rogue on occasions, but that was when he was out of ZANU PF. When he is in ZANU PF, his single-minded, almost dogged approach has been at the service of Mugabe. This is partly why Mugabe has kept him, despite knowing his critical streak. There is a small set of characters who have played a crucial role in helping Mugabe maintain his grip on Zimbabwe since 2000 and it would be a false history if Moyo is not among them. I am not sure that is the conduct of a man who is on a mission to destroy ZANU PF.
However, it it is a theory that makes sense to different groups for different reasons. Some opposition supporters like it because it gives them a false sense of reassurance that the man they would otherwise despise is actually working for the greater good. For his opponents in ZANU PF, they like it because it vindicates their view that he, not them, is the real enemy of the party. What is more probable is that, like every other politician, Moyo is working to advance his own ambitions. He has been in ZANU PF long enough to know that there are very few, if any bright lights in the party. However, he probably realises that the ethnic politics makes it extremely hard for him to get to the very top. But he would probably settle for being the power behind the throne – to govern by proxy.
Reservoir of the disgruntled
It is ironic that the one centre of power principle has also become the source of ZANU PF’s disintegration. In order to maintain the one centre of power principle, there has to be destruction of any forces that threaten it. There can’t be one centre of power when there are other ambitious sub-centres of power on the periphery. The result is that those that have shown ambition have been removed from the party. The Mujuru expulsion and now the Mnangagwa sacking is just the latest example. However, each moment this happens means ZANU PF is losing a part of it. Given the profile of the affected leaders, these are not insignificant parts.
The result is that the succession race is creating small reservoirs of disgruntlement both within and outside the party. This can only add to the huge pool of the disgruntled in the opposition who were already fighting ZANU PF. The campaign fronted by Grace Mugabe has been abrasive and divisive. She has created many enemies along the way. If there is a coalition of the disgruntled, it would be a formidable challenge to ZANU PF.
It has long been suggested that Mugabe is the glue that holds ZANU PF together. But after cutting off Mujuru and her allies and now Mnangagwa and his allies, he is proving to be an agent of separation. Still, those who remain with him include a mixture of those who genuinely support him and those who fear expulsion from the gravy train should they show any ambition or dissent. At least he still has some command over the different groups of people in the party. No other person in ZANU PF has that capacity. His wife has been flexing muscle, and while she has built a fair amount of agency, it is fair to say the bulk of her authority and influence is based on borrowed power. It’s hard to imagine that she can maintain her approach without her husband.
In addition, while G40 has won this phase of the war, the intense battles have left the party deeply wounded and divided. Her brand of politics – aggressive, brash and disrespectful – has left her with more enemies. It has appalled people within and outside ZANU PF. It is highly likely that there will be greater disintegration in ZANU PF as factions fight for the spoils in the wake of Mugabe’s departure. The removal of Mujuru and Mnangagwa and their allies will only have accelerated the pace of disintegration of the old party. Those who have left, including Mujuru and Mnangagwa still believe they have a claim in ZANU PF, a party they were part of for so long. They will, no doubt, try to recover lost ground. One way to minimise that effect is if Mugabe installs a successor sooner and allows him or her to consolidate their position and get a firm grip on power while he is still alive.
Opportunities for the opposition?
Whether ZANU PF is undergoing a renewal process or disintegrating, there is no doubt that the current struggles within ZANU PF present enormous opportunities for the opposition. Yet, Lady Fortuna seems to have smiled on ZANU PF, for at the time of its greatest weaknesses in the post-independence era, it is faced with an opposition that is also at its weakest. It continues to struggle to work out a formula of crafting a Grand Coalition that would mount a formidable challenge against the ruling party.
Can the newly unwanted from ZANU PF add any value to the democratic struggle? Are they a gift to the liberation struggle or total poison that should be avoided at all costs? Opinion on this is divided but it weighs heavily against former ZANU PF politicians. Most people are repulsed by the idea of former ZANU PF politicians who, after being sacked, suddenly present themselves as a born-again democrats. They swiftly discover the language of democracy, describing the same people they used to mock as “fellow citizens” and declaring their desire to lead them. People are sceptical and with good reason. The same people spent decades propping up a system that caused untold misery across the country. The same characters that were rude and arrogant during their days in power suddenly discover humility. They want leadership but they won’t take responsibility.
Joice Mujuru has had to face serious scepticism and scrutiny ever since she entered the political scene as an opposition leader after she was fired in 2014. Mnangagwa will face the greater scepticism and scrutiny, chiefly because far more than Mujuru, he was closer to Mugabe. For that reason, he was widely perceived as his principal enforcer, an impression he revelled in because it enhanced his power. It also inspired fear and respect in equal measure. People are constantly reminded of his alleged roles during Gukurahundi and more recently, the 2008 election violence after Mugabe had been defeated by Tsvangirai. He is said to be incredibly wealthy and whether it was accumulated cleanly or by foul means, Zimbabweans will demand accountability.
Mnangagwa’s biggest challenge is the trust deficit that every ZANU PF politician carries in relation to the people. The very fact that they quickly emerge on the other side proclaiming intentions to lead the people shows that ZANU PF politicians either think people are completely stupid and myopic or they themselves live in a bubble which leaves them totally deluded. They truly underestimate the damage their rule has done to people’s lives and overestimate their own pull as leaders. They need to sit down and reflect for a long time before they approach people making promises of good leadership when they have been part of a decaying leadership for more than 30 years. People have long memories and they need to be respected.
There are others who think people like Mujuru and Mnangagwa can bring some value to the opposition movement, their history serving the unpopular regime notwithstanding. This school of thought privileges pragmatism over principle. It recognises that they have a dirty past, but argues that they have some instrumental value in overcoming the regime. Cited in their favour is the argument that they possess deep knowledge of the regime which they have served and indeed saved for so long. But here too, a cautionary note is needed: this argument of deep knowledge is more often than note based on an assumption rather than empirical fact. It was thought that the likes of Mujuru, Mutasa and Gumbo bring such knowledge of the regime to the opposition. However, this has not been vindicated in practice. It is hard to see the dividends that the opposition movement has earned from the Gamatox faction. Some believe Lacoste is different, but then they also believed Lacoste was immune to the fate that befell Gamatox.
However, whatever happens to the former ZANU PF politicians, it is fair to say the ZANU PF that will contest the 2018 elections will be a distinctly different entity from the ZANU PF that went into the 2013 elections. In 2013, Mugabe managed to create a façade of unity in his party. He had lost trust in his deputy, Joice Mujuru after the Bhora Musango strategy that nearly cost him power in the 2008 elections. But by a strategy of deception, he kept her believing that they were together, only to drop her dramatically just a year later. This time, his hand has been forced by a combination of factors to strike early and get rid of Mnangagwa. This means going into the 2018 elections minus two factions – Gamatox and Lacoste. If the opposition reads the game well, they would know that a more united front would stand a better chance against a wounded and much diminished opponent. Unfortunately, there is no sense of urgency and the appetite to seize the opportunity seems to be lacking. Lady Fortuna has dealt the main opposition a hard blow with the illness that currently afflicts the veteran leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, which unfortunate circumstance has deprived the opposition movement the active leadership it needs at this crucial time.
In conclusion, this BSR has shown two possible ways of explaining what is going on in ZANU PF. An optimistic view, which favours G40 is that the party is undergoing renewal through a process of creative destruction. On this view, the demise of the Gamatox and Lacoste factions represents a generational shift, from the liberation generation to a younger generation, an idea that is at the very heart of Moyo’s Generation 40 doctrine. A pessimistic view is that these are the final stages of the process of disintegration of an authoritarian system. On this view, the fall of two key factions in just 3 years represents a major loss for the ruling party particularly considering the fissures that have widened and left the structural foundation of the party weaker than ever before. Finally, the BSR has argued that there are potential opportunities that have opened up for the opposition as a result of the succession battle. However, they have to seize those opportunities rather than hope that ZANU PF will simply disintegrate and leave them with the spoils.