Zimbabwe: Real power shifts from Chikomba to Buhera

First it was Chikomba. Now it is Buhera. When Charles Utete was secretary to the President and Cabinet he was the de facto Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. He called the shots. His home district Chikomba was the axis of power.

Power shifted one district down when Gideon Gono was appointed governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. He became the de facto Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. If you wanted anything done, you had to go through him.

During the era of Utete, the heavyweights from Chikomba included Utete himself, former army commander Solomon Mujuru, war veterans leader Chenjerai Hunzvi and of course, the First Lady Grace Mugabe.

Mujuru has been one of the most powerful powerbrokers in the country since independence. He has been viewed as a kingmaker, calling the shots from behind the scenes, but reportedly without any presidential ambitions of his own.

But his star seems to have started fading since he opposed the candidacy of President Robert Mugabe in the 2008 elections. Sources say he has remained in the politburo with his wife as vice -President largely because the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and Mugabe himself believe in "keeping your enemy close".

Chikomba was also the home of Chenjerai Hunzvi, the man who changed Zimbabwe's politics from 1997. Hunzvi, a junior medical doctor, rose from political oblivion after certifying war veterans as severely disabled so that they could be awarded astronomical compensation.

He was catapulted to lead war veterans although most doubted his liberation credentials. But he won their hearts when he forced the government to award them hefty pay packages which were, unfortunately, not budgeted for.

Though he should have rotted in jail for his very unprofessional assessments which granted favoured candidates disability of over 100 percent, Hunzvi became the ZANU-PF darling when he led farm invasions and the violence that accompanied the elections in 2000. When he died the following year he was declared a national hero when he had done practically nothing except bankrupt the nation.

Chikomba is also the home of the First Lady Grace Mugabe. Though she has been more famous for her shopping trips, her link to Chikomba had hidden benefits. It gave the district respect and attention.

Of course, the most important person from Chikomba, though not a politician, was Charles Utete. He ruled the roost, deciding who should become minister, who should be appointed ambassador and who should be posted to which country especially the coveted cities like London, New York (for the United Nations), Washington, Brussels, Geneva or Bonn.

This all ended when Gono became central bank governor. He started calling the shots. Gono became even more powerful than Utete because he held the purse. His reign was only put to an end when the inclusive government was set up last year.

But his wings were not entirely clipped. Though he was reported, for more than 15 months, to be one of the stumbling blocks to the implementation of the Global Political Agreement which brought about the inclusive government, most people were shocked when his so-called arch-rival Finance Minister Tendai Biti confirmed him as chairman of the new RBZ board instead of firing him as he had threatened all along.

Incidentally Gono is from Buhera which now rules the roost. It is the home of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Commissioner of Taxes Gershom Pasi and interestingly President Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba, just to name a few.

Buhera is interesting in the sense that unlike Chikomba where all the key people belonged to ZANU-PF, it is a pot-pourri. It has powerful people, but from opposing sides. This tends to hide the power it wields. But it also raises interesting questions. Do these people really not see eye to eye? Or are they deep down home mates who only pretend not to see eye to eye to hoodwink the public that expects them to be at each other's throats?

The reappointment of Gono begs everyone to rethink.

Tsvangirai is inevitably the most powerful politician in Zimbabwe at the moment. Of course, others would want the world to believe that President Mugabe is. Yes that is true. President Mugabe holds the reins of the state. That makes him very powerful in terms of governing the country. But Tsvangirai has the electorate behind him. That makes him the most powerful person in terms of deciding which way the country should go.

While those who wanted Tsvangirai to be head of state insist he is playing second fiddle to Mugabe, the two seem to have reached a pact where they understand that one cannot entirely do without the other until the country holds fresh elections and gives one of them a clear mandate.

Gershom Pasi is not a politician but is the person who can make or break the country as he controls government revenue. Almost all the government revenue comes from taxes. If Pasi put his house in order and the government got all the taxes it deserves, and he got rid of corruption from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Zimbabwe would not need to go grovelling for donor support.

Charamba of course rules the roost when it comes to the dissemination of information and who has access to President Mugabe. Simply put, if it is true that "information is power", then Charamba has power. He simply cannot be wished away.

What is interesting about Chikomba and Buhera is that both have been used to whittle down the power of the two provinces dominated by the Karanga, one of the sub-groupings that has vowed that after Mugabe it is its turn to rule.

At independence, Buhera fell under Masvingo, then known as Victoria province. One of its most respected politicians, Kumbirai Kangai, was even detained with Karangas accused of killing former ZANU-PF chairman Herbert Chitepo. But after independence Kangai rose to become provincial chairman for Manicaland.

Chikomba was part of the Midlands, but was weaned away to Mashonaland East. Ironically when it was part of the Midlands, the Midlands was home to some of the most powerful politicians in ZANU-PF such as Simon Muzenda who represented Gweru, Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa who represented Kwekwe. Now Mujuru and Mnangagwa are bitter rivals.

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