By Andrew Kunambura
President Robert Mugabe is understood to have directed the ZANU-PF main wing to take over the organisation of the Youth League’s “million man” march, set to take place next week to avert a potential crisis after the event became a new frontier for factional hostilities simmering in the ruling party.
Events leading to the march took a surprise turn at the weekend with members of the main wing from various provinces suddenly announcing their interest.
Before the change of tact, the march was being organised by ZANU-PF youths ostensibly to reaffirm the league’s support for President Mugabe.
The planned march had initially been proposed as a vote of no confidence in Vice President Emmerson Munangagwa, thought to be positioning himself to succeed President Mugabe.
Youths belonging to Generation 40 (G40), a faction comprising youthful politicians seeking to renew ZANU-PF from within, had appeared to gain an upper hand over youths from Team Lacoste, another faction reportedly rooting for Mnangagwa to succeed President Mugabe.
The squabbles had left Mnangagwa’s camp heavily decimated after Pupurai Togarepi, who is Mnangagwa’s chief lieutenant in the youth league, had a vote of no confidence passed on him at the instigation of his deputy, Kudzanai Chipanga, a purported G40 supporter.
Chipanga has since taken over the reins of the youth league in the interim and has been the face behind the march.
Mnangagwa backers have been alleging victimisation, claiming that the march was targeted at Mnangagwa.
Other key forces in the ruling party such as war veterans, who have openly declared their dislike for G40, had threatened to boycott the march.
But last week, President Mugabe reportedly ordered the ex-combatants to join the march.
This was confirmed last week by Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) national spokesman, Douglas Mahiya, who told the press that war veterans would attend the march only because the president had ordered them to do so.
“It is no longer a million-man march, but a parade that has been called by the President. Now as military people, we have decided that we will take part because it is our leader who has called on us and not some ideologically bankrupt group with ulterior motives,” a local daily quoted Mahiya as having said on Wednesday last week.
However, war veterans would appear to sing a different chorus at their retreat in Chinhoyi three days later on Saturday, with some of them saying the ex-combatants were still not interested in taking part.
The former freedom fighters, numbering more than 500, gathered in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West province, on Saturday and stressed that they were unhappy with the tension between them and the youth league, particularly Chipanga who recently declared war on them and mocked them publicly as old and sickly.
ZNLWVA secretary general, Victor Matemadanda, reportedly told the gathering that they would not be taking part in the march, describing it as poorly mobilised and ill conceived.
But ZANU PF sources said given the new scenario whereby President Mugabe has intervened, war veterans were now torn between attending the event and boycotting it.
“They are undecided now. They do not want to appear to be rallying behind the G40 initiative, but again they do not want to appear to be sabotaging the President who has said they should be there,” said a top ZANU-PF official who did not want to be named.
Tight lipped senior members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) told the Financial Gazette confidentially that they were still undecided about their participation in the march.
“We are peaceful people who went to war to fight the enemy and we have been with the product of that war effort for the last 36 years. What more demonstration of solidarity with the President can be asked of us,” queried one high ranking ZNLWVA member who declined to be named.
“We do not want to be seen participating in a march when there is no harmony. This is nothing but G40 to show the President how many they can mobilise to give the impression that he can do without the other faction. Given this deadlock, we do not find a space to participate. The hostility that has been directed at us makes it difficult for us to participate,” added the member.
Matemadanda was not answering calls on his mobile phone this week while Mahiya simply said: “I am not commenting on that.”
Chipanga insisted youths were still in charge of the march.
“There is nothing like that,” he declared when asked to comment on the reports.
“It remains a youth organised event but everyone is invited,” he added.
Asked to explain the sudden interest by members of the main wing, Chipanga said: “All the other organs of the party are in support of the event.”
“We just had a meeting of the national executive of the youth league today (Tuesday) and we are having the last one tomorrow,” said Chipanga.
ZANU-PF national spokesman, Simon Khaya Moyo said: “What I know is that the youths are organising it, but they are answerable to party elders and they will report to the leadership of the party from time to time and seek guidance there.”
ZANU-PF has since directed all its provincial structures to mobilise enough resources to transport 100 000 party cadres per province.