COUNTLESS Shona phrases have been used to describe ZANU-PF ever since it was formed in 1963. Those that more or less sum up the party's character include ZANU-PF inehanganwa (ZANU-PF is forgetful) and ZANU-PF ndeyeropa (ZANU-PF is synonymous with blood-letting), among others.
One enduring example denoting the forgetful nature of ZANU-PF is the gulf between Enos Nkala and the organisation that he helped to form.
The then ZANU was formed as a splinter group from the Joshua Nkomo-led ZAPU at Enos Nkala's Highfield house 50 years ago with a vision to create a just society.
Yet another example is how the party has viciously dealt with other founding fathers that Nkala sat down with at his Highfield house five decades ago to give life to the party; they included the late Edgar Tekere who was banished from the party until his death and Henry Hamadziripi who was denied a hero status on flimsy excuses.
And as the wave of political change gained currency in 2000 following the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), party mandarins came up with an advertisement that said ZANU-PF yakakurera ukakura (ZANU-PF raised you). This was a direct message to hordes of youths who gathered in 1999; the likes of Tendai Biti, Nelson Chamisa, Job Sikhala, Tafadzwa Musekiwa, and Munyaradzi Gwisai to help form the then united MDC party led by Morgan Tsvangirai in a bid to oust President Robert Mugabe even though the incumbent's successful education policy had helped bring them up to where they are today.
But in as much as the party forgot about its founding members, it would seem it also abandoned its founding principles, resulting in it losing its yesteryear popularity.
Over the years, ZANU-PF has gravitated from its guiding principles of establishing a just and fair society and intolerance to corruption resulting in a free-for-all situation in its rank and file. Instead of being a servant of the people, peasants and workers alike as was envisaged at the beginning, a top down type of decision-making has taken root.
Be that as it may, as the party celebrates its golden jubilee this year, analysts note that it does so under a mixed bag of achievements and failures.
Chief among its achievements is that it was ZANU along with ZAPU that liberated the country during a period of unquantifiable sacrifices, bringing to an end the unjust colonial system that operated in Rhodesia.
What stands out as the party's monumental failure has been its inability to manage internal processes such as leadership succession, which has more or less reduced it to a dictatorship.
While ZANU-PF is generally credited with successful socio-economic policies such as education, health etcetera, all this has been reversed by the crisis that characterised the state of affairs from 2000 to 2008.
"Though debatable, in some quarters ZANU-PF is credited with making an effort to redistribute wealth through such programmes as land reform," said political analyst, Ricky Mukonza.
"On the other hand, being in government exposed some of the major weaknesses of ZANU-PF. Their biggest problem which manifested itself in various forms is that the party failed to transform itself from being a liberation movement into a governing party. Evidence of corruption, maladministration and poor leadership are some of these manifestations."
Mukonza said while ZANU-PF has a proud legacy of liberating the country, it needs to transform itself into a modern-day democratic party that addresses real issues facing Zimbabweans. An overriding requirement would be to seriously look into the issue of leadership change.
Over the years, ZANU-PF has mutated into an organisation that cannot separate the State from the party. In addition, it has pursued a vague form of Pan Africanism and distorted the national interest by reducing their meanings to defending positions of its leaders, however wrong.
Gone also are the days when the party used to rally behind a Shona saying that said iwe neni tine basa (everyone is important to the task at hand).
Political analyst, Takavafira Zhou, said ZANU-PF has failed to maintain its ideological purity, with the introduction of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) in the early 1990s being the final nail in the coffin. With the coming of ESAP, the party also adopted the "each man for himself and God for us all" approach, which saw leaders stampeding to amass wealth.
Even during the previous decade of political and economic hardships since 2000, some of the party's leaders also amassed wealth, sometimes through looting national resources while blaming sanctions for everything as the majority of people sunk further into poverty.
"ZANU-PF has become a vanguard party. A vanguard party is a party where a few individuals make policies and impose them on the majority and then claim that the people have spoken," said Zhou.
"With the exception of a few, ZANU-PF has completely abandoned the principles of nationalism and has become preoccupied with survival at any cost, hence the violence and killing."
The weakening of ZANU-PF can also be seen in the highjacking of the party by the so-called Mafikizolos and the sidelining of those who were in the party since the days of the liberation struggle. In other words, those veterans "won the liberation war and lost the peace."
In recent weeks, the state media has chronicled how those who made sacrifices for the country and the party such as the late general Josiah Tongogara's widow Angeline, were sidelined and languished in poverty after independence in 1980.
President Mugabe has himself said he is not resigning at this juncture because if he bows out the party would be consumed by divisions. But judging by his age, how much longer can he hold on? Is it possible for ZANU-PF to go all the way to 100 years as South Africa's African National Congress did last year or it would falter on its way as Zambia's United National Independence party that governed that country from independence between 1964 to 1991 under former president Kenneth Kaunda?
"ZANU-PF is now riddled with divisions, factionalism, regionalism and ideological impurity. It is therefore hanging on the cliff of a mountain. Unless a common sense revolution takes place, unless it goes back to its founding principles, its future is bleak," concluded Zhou.