President Robert Mugabe (92) is very old. Inevitably, speculation about the question: “After Mugabe, who?” has become rife in the world of Zimbabwean politics. The answer to this question seems to be shaping in the form of two Zanu PF groups that are positioning their candidates to assume the nonagenarian’s political mantle in the near future. One of the groups is the so-called Generation 40 (G40).
How a group of young politicians within Zanu PF came to be called G40 is a subject of endless speculation. Professor Jonathan Moyo, the Higher Education minister, has since laid claim to coining the moniker. Rather than referring to a group of young politicians, Moyo claims that when he wrote about G40 in the state-controlled Sunday Mail in 2011, he was using the term in its demographic sense, simply putting forth the argument that a broader spectrum of young people across political persuasion had become a reality that the Zimbabwean polity needed to recognise. The professor denies that such a political grouping exists as a faction within Zanu PF, adding that the ruling party has never known of a faction in its history.
The professor’s denial is not anomalous, nor is it something new, which is why Moyo should not be taken seriously on this matter. Denial of divisions in political organisations is standard practice that predates Zanu PF.
In an attempt to explain the existence of this faction, a number of theories have been proffered. First is the thinking which suggests that G40 is a group that is attempting to aid the ascension of the First Lady Grace Mugabe to her husband’s throne. This argument is difficult to sustain considering her unelectability, something which even Grace herself is very much conscious of.
The second theory is borne out of the G40’s perceived ambitions. The suggestion is that they have a younger candidate. As a result G40, as a group of young politicians, is pushing for Mugabe to continue as president.
Supposedly, Mugabe’s continued leadership of Zanu PF and the nation will assist G40’s cause by allowing them time to consolidate their support base within the party, state bureaucracy and amongst voters.
The third, and probably more plausible theory, is that the young group of politicians are united by their disdain of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ambitions.
Indeed, these theories seem to suggest that there is seamless elite consensus among the members of G40. But this tendency to view the interests of G40 as monolithic can be misleading. Members of G40 should also be understood as having disparate and at times conflicting interests.
Professor Jonathan Moyo
To understand Moyo’s motives, one has to understand his character. Hopefully, this story shared by one of his colleagues at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) might help us get a glimpse of his character, which in turn drives his ambitions.
Reportedly, during his time at UZ, Moyo made many enemies in the university’s department of politics. Even students were not spared in these often purposeless fights.
“He likes to pick fights and he is determined to find a way to win those fights,” said a softly-spoken woman who was a politics department assistant or secretary at the time that the professor taught at the UZ.
Reportedly, for the man of his energy, the fights against students were often long and tiring. As a result, Moyo had to devise a way to quickly settle these fights, as a winner, of course. Allegedly, he bullied the chair of the department of politics, and also the dean of the faculty of social studies, until they gave in to his demand. The demand was that one of the minor politics course or module that he taught, had to be made into a core course.
At the UZ, failing a core course meant that one would not graduate. In other words, this triumph was also an implict threat to students that at some point during the fights, they had to give in, otherwise the consequences would be dire.
Whether this is true or not (there is no reason not to believe the lady who told me the story), the story is parallel to current developments in the professor’s political career. The professor, akin to picking fights at university, has this time picked a fight against Mnangagwa.
As a one-time ally of Mnangagwa, Moyo was reportedly behind what became known as the Tsholotsho Declaration to have him appointed as vice-president in 2004. When this move was thwarted by Mugabe, Mnangagwa was simply slapped on the wrist and given a ministry at the backwaters of politics. However, Moyo, who had been given to think that Mnangagwa was powerful enough to protect him, was kicked out of the party.
As a result, Moyo cannot forgive and forget the fact that the man that he had been working for not only failed to protect him, but is also said to have briefed against the professor when he apologised for his adventure against Mugabe. It is alleged that it was this subterfuge which has fuelled the animosity that today has become all too apparent. Indeed, Moyo can barely conceal his contempt for Mnangwagwa and he has made it clear that he intends to make him a casualty of his politics.
Though he is at the zenith of his power, it would be difficult to say that Moyo has further political ambitions. He is aware that he is not trusted by voters, but most importantly, by political elites that are hesitant to align themselves too closely — a fatal political weakness if one wants to be a leader. Indeed, a part of his inevitable downfall is written in his propensity to make too many enemies and inability to sustain the few political relationships that he has.
Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko
Mphoko was not a name that registered among a huge chunk of the Zimbabwean population, until when, in a surprise move, was appointed vice-president by Mugabe. Many people expected Simon Khaya Moyo, the now out-of-favour Zanu PF spokesperson, to be elevated to the vice-presidency at the 2014 party congress.
Since he ascended to the vice-presidency, Mphoko has attended Grace’s rallies with members of G40, literally making him the Godfather of the young group of politicians. His utterances at those rallies, clearly indicate his disdain for his collegue in the presidium. For example, in May last year, in an apparent dressing down of Pyschomotor minister, Josiah Hungwe, who has on previous occassions described Mnangagwa as son of God, Mphoko embarrased him in front of a crowd of supporters by telling him never to address him as second to Mnangagwa. Also, in February this year, in a direct attack on Mnangagwa, he told supporters that it was not given that a Karanga should be the next president of Zimbabwe.
What motivates his disdain for Mnangagwa is yet to be established. It could just be seen as “sibling rivalrly”. He certainly does not want to feel like the smaller one. In other words, it’s a power thing and it appears that he feels that he is likely to project his power better with the aid of G40.
Few serious political analysts believe that he habours any political ambitions. He is largley unknown across the country and has little elite support base, let alone the backing of the securocrats, whose predilictions and preferences are regarded as crucial in the succ