PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has, over the years, adamantly refused to choose a successor, notoriously playing ambitious lieutenants against each other to his advantage by seeming to encourage one faction and then brutally putting them down for misreading his intentions.
But insiders suggest Zimbabwe’s Machiavellian leader is finally moving to resolve the age-old question, hence the current commotion in his Zanu PF party which has seen the merciless destruction of a faction aligned to Vice President Joice Mujuru.
NewZimbabwe.com was this week told that Mugabe’s hand has been forced by the three key issues; the fact that he is 90 years-old, the term limitation in the new constitution and Mujuru’s alleged rebellion.
“The president is not a fool. He is alert to the fact that time may not be on his side,” we were told.
“Again, even if he is well enough to run again in 2018, the two-term limit in the new constitution means that the succession issue has to be dealt with. The reason this is being done now is probably because of the rebellion by the vice president.”
And apart from the alleged rebellion, Mugabe is said to have long concluded that Mujuru was not up for the job, a view backed by opposition politician Eddie Cross who, in a recent article, said the vice president would “head an administration that was less draconian and disciplinarian but at the same more corrupt.
“The present decline in our economic fortunes would be perpetuated and this would create opportunities for the opposition.”
A party source added: “Well, even her own faction is not convinced she can do the job. Remember, in 2008 they put forward Simba Makoni, not the vice president.”
Senior party figures said Mugabe was keen to resolve the succession question in a manner that secures his legacy as well as the interests of his family; the former by propping up a trusted loyalist in Emmerson Mnangagwa and the latter by getting his wife into the Zanu PF politburo and massing the ranks of key party organs with members of his Gushungo clan.
It is important to clarify however, that this interpretation of current events comes from members of Mnangagwa’s own faction. Views from the rival group have proved difficult to elicit, with most cagey about freely briefing journalists over concerns their private conversations are being monitored.
|Meanwhile, the Mnangagwa camp, perhaps feeling triumphant, is understood to be planning to gather at the National Sports Stadium this weekend for a ‘Gushungo Cup’ football match pitting league champions Dynamos against Highlanders with the justice minister as guest of honour.
“If you attend, you should watch not just the football but, and perhaps more importantly, name check who will be there,” said a party official aligned to the group.
Officially, the tournament has been organised to celebrate last year’s July 31 election triumph. But, in hushed tones, officials say they are celebrating Mugabe’s reclamation of total control of Zanu PF … and their man’s emergence as the chosen one ahead of Mujuru.
Ten years ago, the now embattled vice president thought she had received clear endorsement and encouragement when Mugabe told the party faithful: “you surely do not want her to end there (as vice president)”.
Mugabe had just used her to stop Mnangagwa becoming vice president after he was nominated by a majority of the party’s provincial structures.
Reversal of fortunes?
Since then and encouraged by Mugabe’s apparent backing, Mujuru has built the structures and power base to ensure she eventually succeeds as president of both party and country.
But in a stunning turn of events she finds herself accused of trying to topple Mugabe or, failing that, assassinating the 90-year-old. The state media carries allegations of grand corruption against her almost on a daily basis and her allies have been brutally purged from party structures.
The most shrill of the allegations have come from Mugabe’s own wife who, clearly terrified, claims she has recordings of the vice president threatening to seize the First Family’s assets when the president is gone and throwing her to vengeful forces keen to extract revenge for wrongs suffered under her husband’s lengthy and often violent rule.
But has the cunning Mugabe settled on Mnangagwa or is the “crocodile” prematurely counting his chickens?
Political analysts are convinced of the latter view and warn the Mnangagwa group that they risk repeating Mujuru’s mistake.
“This (Zanu PF purges) is absolutely nothing new,” said Rejoice Ngwenya, a Harare based political analyst.
“We do not know that (Mugabe’s choice) yet because he has not yet come out guns blazing in support of Mnangagwa. What we simply know is that he always pits Zanu PF factions against each other; that has always been his strategy.”
Repeating Mujuru’s mistakes
Ngwenya added: “You can’t guarantee anything. Jonathan Moyo literally insulted that man but where is he now, he is back. The same has happened to Dzikamai Mavhaire. Mugabe recycles them. He is just a pawn broker.
“He thrives in his unpredictability. He has always been thinking like that. He has no conscience; does he really care about Grace. His horizon is slightly deeper than what we are seeing of him.”
Takura Zhangazha, another political analyst, said Mugabe’s current actions have nothing to do with his legacy but power-retention.
“You could argue that he is doing it for his personal interests, but most significantly he is doing it to try and cement control over his party and to rule out any alternative leadership while he is still the executive president of not only his party but also of the country,” said Zhangazha.
He added: “It’s about power and control essentially; whether that is for his family or for his own power retention, the bottom line is that he will leave no stone unturned in whipping people into line.”
Zhangazha said Mugabe’s current whipping of emotions would not splinter Zanu PF.
“It’s not going to have an immediate backlash,” Zhangazha said.
“At most, those who are being purged will not leave Zanu PF. They will stay in Zanu PF and get their turn and they will eventually get their turn again; it’s going to be a reversal of fortunes.” NEWZIMBABWE