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Opinion: Unpacking Zanu PF


For a number of years Zimbabwe has been meandering in the corridors of confusion, leadership failure and despondency. Lurching from one crisis to another and perpetually yearning for the ever elusive prospect of a transition has become the norm for the nation which was once the bread basket of Africa.

By Patson Dzamara

At the epicenter of this confusion, leadership failure and despondency engulfing Zimbabwe is a monster called ZANU PF.

Ever since the necessary but fallacious attainment of independence from white minority rule in 1980, ZANU PF has presided over the affairs of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s independence came divorced from its eternal twin called freedom and other would-be underpinning elements. It is imperative to note that ZANU PF deliberately calibrated it that way in order to consolidate its autocratic grip on power.

The result of that well thought out and excellently executed process is the monster we are grappling with today. The monster is called ZANU PF. Many have died while trying to fight the monster. Some have given up the hope of vanquishing the monster whereas some do not even bother to attempt fighting it.

Sadly and regrettably, most people do not really understand the monster called ZANU PF. In my research, I unearthed the sad reality that even some of those who are enmeshed in the alternative process towards change seem to possess a hazy idea of the monster’s powers and prowess.

ZANU PF History

The Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) has been the ruling party in Zimbabwe since the attainment of independence in 1980. The party has been dominated and led by Robert Mugabe, first as Prime Minister with the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and then as President from 1988 after the merger with the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and retaining the name ZANU PF.

ZANU was founded by Ndabaningi Sithole, Henry Hamadziripi, Mukudzei Midzi, Herbert Chitepo, Edgar Tekere, and Leopold Takawira at the house of former Defence Minister Enos Nkala in Highfield in August 1963.

In December 1987, after five years of a civil war known as Gukurahundi, the opposition ZAPU, led by Nkomo, was absorbed through the Unity Accord with ZANU to form an official ZANU PF.

Current dynamics

From the time of its formation in 1963, ZANU PF has gone through various phases. It has managed to weather all the storms encountered along the way.

However, ZANU PF currently finds itself in a precarious position, dealing with a different kind of a stubborn storm in what appears to be it’s sunset. Chances are very high that the current storm will leave an indelible mark on the party. Not only is the storm stubborn, it is multi-pronged.

The quest for internal democracy in ZANU PF dates back to the pre-independence era and has always been characterized by ruthless toppling of one faction from power by another or attempts to do so. For example, the coup against Ndabaningi Sithole and also the Nhari rebellion.

The revolutionary party has since then been rocked by power struggles and the latest manifestation is hinged on the succession of the nonagenarian leader.

On on side there is a faction believed to be led by the long time associate and confidante of the President, Emerson Mnangagwa or Ngwena as he is affectionately known by his fans. The faction nicknamed Team Lacoste is made up of war veterans and die hard extremists who want Mnangagwa to perpetuate the ZANU PF hard line nationalist stance but also embrace political and economic reforms to endear itself to the masses. This faction wants Mugabe to resign and give way to a younger Mnangagwa.


Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, believed to be the force behind an alleged Zanu PF faction named Lacoste

On the other hand, there is a faction termed G40 believed to be led by the now unpopular ZANU PF political Commissar, Savior Kasukuwere with the eccentric Professor Jonathan Moyo providing the brains.They are rallying around the idea of a much younger person succeeding Mugabe hence the Generation 40 tag. Grace Mugabe is widely touted as G40’s preferred candidate to succeed Mugabe.

Not only is ZANU PF teetering on the verge of an implosion as a result of factional wars but its strongman, Robert Mugabe, is in the sunset of his earthly life. At 94, he is no longer as proficient and able because of old age. He is now senile and incapacitated to such an extend that he now sleeps through meetings.

The average age of Mugabe’s cabinet is 75. That he and the political party he leads have reached the twilight of their natural and political life is without question. Also without question is the need for younger and more vibrant political players to attend to the pressing political and socio-economic challenges we face today.

ZANU PF’s Powers

Despite the challenges captured in the party’s current dynamics, ZANU PF remains a well oiled and resourced machine. It is a deeply entrenched system and what has to be accepted by all and sundry is the fact that dismantling the system will not be an overnight event.

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No-one must be penalized for salivating over the current dynamics in ZANU PF under the hope of them bringing about change. Unfortunately, change is highly unlikely going to emanate from there.

ZANU PF understands power more than anything. When it comes to power retention ZANU PF doesn’t joke. Despite their weaknesses and fights, they always find each other when it comes to retaining power. The political cost of them disintegrating is unthinkable and undesirable.

The following are some of the powers ZANU PF has:

  1. Institutional power 

One of the most critical powers ZANU PF possesses is institutional power. ZANU PF’s fingerprints are inscribed on each and every key institution in Zimbabwe. From parastatals to private entities and even learning institutions, ZANU – PF has a well calculated strategic presence.

In our context the line seperating the ruling party and government is not visible, it was obliterated. ZANU – PF is the government and vice-versa.

The government is the largest employer. It uses its power as employer against civil servants thereby weakening formal institutions like trade unions that could push for change. As unemployment has grown to unprecedented levels of over 90%, trade unions have become weaker and their voice is muzzled.

All institutions of governance, including ZEC, whose mandate is to preside over the electoral process, are controlled by ZANU – PF. In fact, all of them are an appendage of ZANU PF.

  1. Intellectual power 

ZANU PF has done a lot to invest in its intellectual capacity. Relying on state resources, they have sustained a clique of intellect within their system. The party has a clique of voracious  information consumers who religiously go to school. It also sends some of its proteges to school.

Not only that, the revolutionary party also has several schools of ideology and strategy such as the Chitepo Ideological College. Party leaders and members attend these schools for ideological grounding and party values indoctrination.


Zanu PF Politburo member, Prof Jonathan Moyo has for long been taunted as the brains behind Zanu PF election strategies

Unlike its opponents, ZANU PF has solid and well resourced think tanks. The think tanks’ primary job is strategy formulation. There are people who are paid to think and strategize for ZANU PF. That is their only job – feeding the system with strategy.

ZANU PF publishes how to manuals every year for its key leadership. The message is almost always consistent. The party’s maneuvers are seldom haphazard. They are meticulously formulated  and executed.

  1. Economic power 

The ZANU PF government is not accountable to anyone. They do as they please. When it comes to state resources, they pillage and plunder them wantonly. What is supposed to benefit the masses only benefits them.

They use state resources to their advantage, even to fund their party programs. Whereas the opposition grapples to raise funds, its a different story for ZANU PF. They have stolen more than enough. Their coffers will not run dry anytime soon.

While the general populace wallows in the agony of lack and despondency, life goes on smoothly for Mugabe and his acolytes. Nothing and no-one stops them from their flagrant profligacy – constantly rewarding each other with the nation’s resources. That is the reason why Mugabe could wake up one day telling the nation that him and his gang of thugs could not account for diamonds worth US$15 billion and life went on. There were no consequences.

Just because they can do anything with the nation’s resources, Mugabe had the audacity to present a cheque of US$ 1 million to the AU in January this year while turning a blind eye on the multi-faceted challenges faced by people he purports to be leading.

During the run up to ZANU PF’s 2016 congress, approximately US$ 3.5 million cash was raised in a matter of hours at a fund raising dinner. While everyone else was affected by an acute cash shortage, Mugabe and his gang were not affected.

Under the ZANU PF led government, anyone who is not connected to the oligarchy is treated as a second class citizen. The privileges and rights of those who are connected to the oligarchy and those who are not are not on the par.

  1. Evil power 

I have witnessed with my bare eyes how ZANU PF is a sanctuary of some downright satanic elements. In fact, I have been a recipient of ZANU PF’s satanic works more than once. I carry permanent marks of its evil works and I have publicly stated that Mugabe and his minions are certified satanists.

ZANU PF can be satanic to the extend of killing. They can kill for fun and continue with their lives as though nothing would have happened. So many people have been maimed and others have died as a result of ZANU PF’s satanic works.

That the ZANU PF government has a monopoly on violence is incontestable. Election violence, human rights violations and everyday abuses in everyday situations characterize the lives of many ordinary Zimbabweans.

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Morbid and atrocious acts such as Gukurandi, Murambatsvina and violent land grabs are evidence of the ZANU PF government’s evil nature. Those who never tasted its evil, live in fear of it.

  1. Oppressive (coercive) power

ZANU PF is out rightly oppressive. Nothing else matters to Mugabe and his minions than power. They have oppressed Zimbabweans in a willy-nilly manner just to maintain their hold on power.

Oppressive institutions were not disbanded after independence – in many ways, they were actually buttressed. At the end of the Federation in 1963, Rhodesia inherited its heavy artillery, state of the art aircrafts and military airbases. These were used to perpetrate mass terror.

It was not only the military that could mete out violence; the police were equally empowered to deal ruthlessly with African subjects. The anti-riot squadron were actually created for that specific purpose.

After independence, freedom fighters (mainly the Shona ones) were absorbed into the national army and like the Rhodesians before them who answered to Smith, they too answered only to Mugabe. The army which is meant to protect citizens is usually let loose to punish dissenters which in the past have included opposition party supporters and even college students.

The budget for defense is the least affected by economic austerity even though Zimbabwe faces no outside threats. It is not a coincidence. The huge army exists largely for the suppression of any internal dissent and thus to keep the Mugabe regime in power.

  1. Persuasive power

Relying on its deep pockets and incumbency advantage, ZANU PF uses unorthodox means to persuade people. Of course, despite the fact that they are the architects of poverty and the resulting despondency, they use it to their advantage.

ZANU PF is a party of cutthroat predators who prey and thrive on the desperation and vulnerability of the masses. They know how to pacify the jobless, homeless and hungry citizenry by giving them occasional measly handouts. For a downtrodden and dis-empowered populace, handouts of plastic rice or mealie meal go a long way in persuading them to support ZANU PF.


Zanu PF has often been accused of forcing people to attend their gatherings

Misusing its incumbency advantage, ZANU – PF even parcels out state land in order to buy support. It works for them. There are people who support and vote for ZANU PF not because they were coerced but because they were persuaded.

  1. Social power 

Not only does the ZANU PF government rely on the uniformed forces to silence the masses and to mete out violence. It also relies on a well regimented and bastardized social system. Almost all the chiefs and village heads are an appendage of ZANU PF.

They campaign and work for ZANU PF. Through a social structure presided over by chiefs and village heads who are pro ZANU PF, villagers are cajoled to support and vote for ZANU PF. Those who choose not to conform find themselves on the receiving end of violence and alienation.

This is the reason why the rural areas remain the the mainstay of ZANU PF’s support. As a result of this meticulous manipulation process, all rural areas in Zimbabwe are classified as ZANU PF’s zones of control. The opposition is prohibited from even campaigning in these areas. Opposition supporters are alienated and at times they even get killed.

Its a watertight vicious system. 


After all is said and done, it is apparent that a transition into a better Zimbabwe will not be a stroll in the park. It will cost sweat, tears and blood. We are not going to wish or cheat our way into a better Zimbabwe. That is not going to happen.

We are up against a voracious and cannibalistic opponent. Weaker it may be at this point but it remains a well oiled and resourced opponent. As we draw towards the 2018 election, we must not be under any illusion regarding the potency of our opponent.

Internal squabbles within ZANU PF must not divert our attention from the ball neither should we continue prevaricating and wasting time on trivia. We do not have time. Dismantling the monster called ZANU PF in whatever state it finds itself in, will only take place if we push past our frivolous and petty inclinations.

Until we are serious enough to do whatever it takes to cross over, we must not waste time on meaningless charades and pseudo stunts. It will take a lot more than meaningless talk shows and a confused, power intoxicated  opposition to dismantle the monster called ZANU PF.

The only way Zimbabwe will rid itself of the monster is for the people themselves to get organised, instead of relying on a group or individual to do it for them. Only an organised, dedicated and focused population can undermine ZANU PF’s pillars of power, and that is the only way we will rid ourselves of the monster.

A new and better Zimbabwe is possible in our lifetime. We shall come face to face with it.

Patson Dzamara is a leadership coach, author, political analyst and activist based in Zimbabwe. 
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