Zanu PF has to shun factionalism or die

Dr Masimba Mavaza
Last year saw a quake and shake in Zanu-PF with some undisciplined cadres accused of selling out. The year saw increasing ideological shifts and most pillars of the party were shaken to the root.The greatest mistake or the greatest injustice that can be done in Zanu-PF is to lie to the President that there is 100 percent unity. The fool is the one who lies to himself to the extent of believing his lie.

It is true that the grassroot is complaining and those tasked to address the grievances hear the cries as praises. The important issues of bread and butter are ignored as the leaders concentrate on factions and even steal from the country to support the factions.

Despite President Mugabe speaking strongly against factionalism, scant attention has been given to his wise words – a sign of intolerable indiscipline. This is because some people have lied that there is no factionalism in the party.

The factionalists bite the hand which feeds them and forget that they are serving at the mercy of the one who appointed them. The interesting trend in the party is that all who are destroying the party claim to be doing so in the name of the President.

In actual fact, they are trying to destroy the President and his legacy. Zanu-PF is of central importance for the functioning of democratic systems in Zimbabwe.

It is therefore not surprising that its actions and processes, as well as the factors which determine or influence it, have been in the public eye time and again. Zanu-PF is the party in Government and running the affairs of the country.

As such, party politics and policies should cascade to Government level.

This has brought in a notion that those with important party posts should not have ministerial posts. The party needs serious revamping.

Like all organisations, parties exhibit alongside their formal organisational structure informal relational systems, operating procedures, and norms which are institutional. A central insight of the behaviour of faction pursuers on party organisation is no longer homogenous organisation which is sure of its goals and which follow some sort of unitary will. Rather, the party now consist of coalitions of political actors who pursue their individual interests and goals.

The factions are formed to protect and cover up corrupt actions by those leading them. All the faction leaders claim to be the ones who are the guardians of the party.

Just as politics can be seen as a process based on the conflictive and consensus-oriented relations among interdependent individuals, intra-party politics is characterised by conflict and consensus between interdependent groups within parties. In Zanu-PF, factions are barely mentioned in important meetings.

The deafening silence at the conference gives conflicting views of factions and how the party will deal with factionalism before the impending elections.

In extreme cases, factions can be more relevant actors than the parties which host them. The term factionalism refers to a group or combination acting together within and usually against the larger body – as in a state or political party,

The faction arises in the struggle for power and represents a division on details of application and not on principles. What makes factions destructive is that they are relatively organised groups that exist within the context of some other group and which (as a political faction) competes with rivals for power advantages within the larger group of which it is a part’.

From this perspective, factionalism in political parties can be understood as a form of conflict organisation which reflects the tendency of intra-party actors to act collectively to reach common goals. What characterises these factional cliques is that they have very little structure. They are either almost totally unorganised or exhibit only a very ephemeral organisational set up for pursuing a single issue.

Recruitment to such amorphous groups does usually not take place in a coordinated manner and leadership of the group exists, if at all, on an ad-hoc basis. Usually there are no hierarchical command structures.

Individuals might play a prominent role in such groups but this role is usually based more on charisma than on clientelistic inks. As a rule, such groups do not have offices or headquarters of their own, structured meetings, formalised procedures or symbols.

They use the facilities of the main party to further their personal agenda.

There is also no real group identity or formal group membership to speak of. More often than not, such groups exist only for a short time, especially if the common interest of the group members is confined to one issue. Personalised factions are based on clientelism which also serves as the central mechanism for mobilisation. Such groups are characterized by what are usually asymmetrical exchanges of power resources.

As a rule, hierarchies and chains of command in such groups are vertical. Horizontal links between group members might even be discouraged, although there can be subgroups.

When such personalised groups have a name, it often refers to the group’s leader who is vital to the identity of the group. The respective degree of institutionalisation of factions is based not only on their durability and cohesion but more importantly on their organisational structure, ranging from tendencies to highly organised factions.

It is of major concern that time is being wasted in Zanu-PF to strengthening the factions at the expense of the party.

The gains of the party are blown in the air as factionalism divides the electorate.

A factious party followers resemble a family going through divorce. Children are the ones who suffer more.

When leaders fight for positions and deny that they are doing it, the followers protest in the ballot box. This spells disaster to the party as a whole and not to the few selfish power hungry gluttons.

Thus not only material gain and the allocation of posts can be at the centre of factional activities. Factions can also help to satisfy emotional and social needs of their members by means of reciprocal support and respect, intensive contact and providing a sense of belonging.

It can be noted that the functions of factions are closely related to the prevailing type of intra-party conflicts, that is whether they are about power and careers, policy issues and ideologies, or different sectional interests. Also, intra-party conflicts can follow cyclical patterns, for example when it comes to generational change within parties or ‘eternal’ questions such as the role of the state in the economy.

Indeed, factions can undermine the cohesion and the effectiveness of the party. Clear-cut dissent within a party and ensuing repression can take parties to the verge of disintegration and beyond.

Factionalism can also lead to intra-party decisions on personnel lines. This leads to hand picking candidates which is always disastrous and harms the party in a bigger way.

Faction-based dissent can damage a party’s ability to recruit new members, to fight effective campaigns, and to win elections. People need a united front to trust, not depleted leadership.

Faction-based intra-party conflict can also lead to blurry and contradictory positions of a party and thus render voters’ decisions more difficult. Leaders will compete to make public announcements which are contradicting.

Rallies are called to exonerate oneself and not to promote the party. Some undiplomatic accusations fly around and this only serves to destroy the party.

Factionalism can impede or block intra-party discussions and issue-oriented debates can be drawn into the vortex of inter-factional power struggles.

In some cases, factionalism can be responsible for corruption within a political party or even within the political system at large. Factions can damage or weaken the moral authority and integrity of individual parties or the whole party system. They destabilise the party system and it leads to growing cynicism on the part of voters.

This is a recipe of disaster when national elections are within a year.

We should understand that factionalism continues to define the actions of groups that push against authority outside of the established channels of dissent, most often in political arenas. Factionalism is rebellious in nature and demonic in spirit. Factionalism brings in contemporary struggles and conflicts in the party. In terms of organisation and structure, factions are bodies built on close ties between leaders and followers. They have no formal structure, but tend to form a tight core of hierarchical arrangement based on their personal attributes and abilities.

The leader and this core actively recruit others to expand the faction, finding people who are dedicated to the vision of the leader. The leader and the core confer directly with others in the group, and do not delegate through intermediaries.

If factionalism is allowed to freely roam the party – Zanu-PF – will face a hard time in the coming elections.

Dr Masimba Mavaza is a law lecturer based in the United Kingdom. He is a former prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs in Zimbabwe and has lectured at the Zimbabwe Republic Police Staff College and Zimbabwe Staff College.


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