Beijing according to an Asian diplomat in Harare, who spoke to this publication in a confidential telephone interview this week, has made it clear that it can only unlock much needed financial funding for the dislocating economy, if Mugabe steps aside for his VP, in a bid to maintain continuity of her foreign policy on Zimbabwe, while safe guarding it’s cross-section of economic interests in the country.
Mugabe is facing a worsening balance of payment crisis, which has triggered cash shortages, and seen his troubled administration struggling to pay civil servant salaries on time.
Mnangagwa is said to also enjoy the support of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who visited the country last December on a one-day official visit, following instrumental lobbying for the trip by Mnangagwa’s office.
Media reports in August 2014, when Mnangagwa was defence minister, suggested that Mugabe had discussed his succession power handover with Jinping during his State visit to China that year behind closed doors, where the ruling Zanu PF first secretary was said to have laid an initial time frame for his departure, and Mnangagwa’s eventual elevation to replace him.
“Although China claims not to interfere in the internal processes of other countries, it has just done that in Zimbabwe indirectly by giving Mugabe’s exit as a condition to bail out the economy,” said the diplomat. “They are not even hiding their desire to have vice president Mnangagwa moving in to succeed President Mugabe, and a time window of three months has been given, for him to sort out the succession issue, and handover power before the end of 2016, for the mutual benefit of Beijing and Harare’s economic and political relationship.”
“On September 4 (Sunday), President Xi Jinping, met President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, President Michel Temer of Brazil and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, for an Informal BRICS Leaders Meeting held in Hangzhou. My colleague in Pretoria said there was a sideline Zimbabwe briefing between the Chinese leader and President Zuma, where China is said to have engaged South Africa about a workable economic package for Zimbabwe, only if President Mugabe leaves the stage in three months.”
The informal BRICS meeting, took place during the 2016 G20 Hangzhou summit, hosted by China for the Group of Twenty (G20). It was held from 4–5 September in the city of Hangzhou.
The private media reported early this year, that Mugabe was reportedly angry with Mnangagwa over his trip to China last year, at the invitation of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The VP visited Beijing from July 6 to 10 2015. During his five-day visit, he met business leaders as well as a number of senior ruling party and government officials, including Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao. Spotlight Zimbabwe has been reliably informed, that Mugabe’s offence and anger could have emanated from the “Presidential reception”, which was accorded to Mnangagwa, and that there is suspicion he had telephoned with Jinping to discuss Zanu PF succession matters.
Government insiders yesterday said, Mnangagwa was supposed to fly out to China this week to attend an International Investment and Trade Fair event in the coastal city of Xiamen, but his Zanu PF opponents aligned to the so-called G40 faction rallying around Grace Mugabe to become the party’s 2018 presidential candidate, threw spanners into the trip, resulting in the country’s second vice president, Phelekeza Mphoko, taking his place. Mphoko left Zimbabwe on Monday, accompanied by a small delegation of senior government officials.
A political officer at the Chinese Embassy in Harare said they could not comment about China’s mooted economic package to Zimbabwe, nor could they confirm that Mnangagwa is receiving backing from Beijing, referring all questions to the foreign office.