HARARE – With President Robert Mugabe looking increasingly frail due to advanced age and failing health, there are apparently moves within the warring post-congress Zanu PF to push the long-ruling nonagenarian to announce his retirement and anoint a successor at the party’s conference next month.
Well-placed sources told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that allies of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa were sensing that they had weathered the political storm that has surrounded the embattled VP over the past few months, and that they now needed to move with speed to press home their advantage.
“Ngwena’s (Mnangagwa) allies think that the worst is over and that the tide is beginning to turn against the VP’s real enemies, the G40 (Zanu PF’s ambitious Young Turks known as the Generation 40 who are said to be opposed to the VP), who have been trying to set him up against Amai (Mugabe’s wife, Grace).
“This is why some of them see the party’s annual conference in Victoria Falls next month as a possible opportunity to press their advantage and encourage the president (Mugabe) to not just announce his retirement roadmap there, but also to actually anoint his successor.
“Their reasoning is that this will stop the debilitating fights obtaining in the party and lead to stability. They are also aware that were that to happen, the VP is the best placed after Gushungo (Mugabe),” one of the sources said.
This comes as the warring ruling party is awash with talk about the possibility of Mugabe relinquishing power before the end of his current term, which ends in 2018 — amid a counter push by the G40 and other Grace supporters that the first lady should take over in that unlikely event.
A Zanu PF bigwig seen as aligned to Mnangagwa’s camp said it would be “a good thing” if Mugabe indicated now when he would retire and who would take over from him.
“This will bring normalcy back to the party, and by extension to the country, and we desperately need such stability. As we all know, even investors are reluctant to invest in the country because of the infighting and policy inconsistencies that are now the order of the day as a result,” he said.
He also suggested that Mnangagwa’s supporters, in pushing for this, wanted to take advantage of amendments to the Zanu PF constitution that made it possible for the party’s national conference to become an elective gathering.
But a rabid opponent of a Mnangagwa presidency said such “manoeuvring would come to naught”.
“Yes, we hear that Mnangagwa and his supporters want to take advantage of amendments to the Zanu PF constitution that were adopted at the party’s December 2014 congress.
“They are clearly worried about the increasing power of the first lady and want to ensure that she is stopped. They also know that if they fail to arm twist the president in this plot then they are finished. But it will all end in tears,” the politburo member said.
Efforts to talk to Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, yesterday were unsuccessful, with the person who answered his phone saying he had left the phone at home.
Political analysts who were canvassed by the Daily News on Sunday on the matter also seemed to think that this “final push” would come to nothing given the history of the party.
Prominent academic, Ibbo Mandaza, said while the ruling party’s constitution now allowed its annual conference to be elective, it would be difficult for the Mnangagwa camp to have its way as Mugabe was more inclined to the G40 camp that is associated with Grace, than with the VP’s faction.
“While such an amendment was adopted by congress, it is not explicit in the final document and even if it were, the elections will only be a formality because they will all endorse Mugabe, especially with the G40 or Grace or both as the dominant force in the party presently,” Mandaza said.
He added that with the one centre of power mantra currently dominating the discourse in Zanu PF, Mugabe had become even more determined “to die in office”.
“It would be day-dreaming for anyone to think that the old man will hand over power. Bob will die in office and someone actually said recently that his physical presence was not necessary anymore, and that he can rule from the wheelchair.
“That explains why with confidence, the first lady can stand in front of people and speak like she is the president,” he said.
Another Zanu PF bigwig closely associated with the G40 said among the things party members could ask for at the December conference was for a female representative in the presidium.
“It was a mistake to not insist on a woman occupying one of the three top positions in the party. Some of us will push for that, and for its immediate implementation.
“If this is adopted, as we suspect it will be without any difficulties, you can rest assured that will be the end of secessionists (Zanu PF code for Mnangagwa faction),” he said.