VP Nkomo's health sparks vicious power struggle

HARARE - Amid talk of Vice President John Nkomo’s possible retirement due to renewed health setbacks, a fresh and vicious power struggle has erupted in Zanu PF’s top echelons, it has emerged.

This also comes as there is a strong push in President Robert Mugabe’s party to retire several ailing party cadres, including the coolheaded ex-Zapu supremo.

With the latest jockeying reportedly pitting party chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo and other Zapu stalwarts the former Zimbabwean envoy to South Africa (SA) is highly favoured to take both Nkomo’s party and national VP posts should the latter be incapacitated or retire.

But there is talk however, that the resourced Mines minister Obert Mpofu, could be the most favoured by Mugabe.

Besides being one of the few Zanu PF officials with support in Matabeleland, he is said to be more trusted by Mugabe having joined Zanu PF before the Unity Accord between Zanu PF and Zapu.

He will also be an asset to Mugabe because of late he has proved to be more popular in Matabeleland than his fellow Zanu PF colleagues in the region.

On the other hand, retired general Ambrose Mutinhiri is also tipped to replace Khaya Moyo as chairperson — a move reportedly favoured by Vice President Joice Mujuru’s faction, among other groups.

While Mpofu has stoked debate about his interest in bigger things by recently declaring that he was in the top six of Mugabe’s hierarchy, insiders say he could still fall foul of the octogenarian leader’s political balancing act under the 1987 Zanu PF-Zapu pact.

“He is rich and has been busy pulling the crowds in the region (Matabeleland), but it will all count to nothing when it comes to this contest because if you analyse how Mugabe has been handling this thing — from a hierarchical and political point of view — he falls way of the perch,” one insider said.

“But to his advantage he is the only one who is pulling the crowds at his rallies and has been easily elected in his constituency, while people like Khaya Moyo have never been elected and have no support on the ground.

“Mpofu is busy donating grain — some might call it vote buying — but the bottom line is that he is performing better than even the national chairperson (Khaya-Moyo) in terms of trying to mobilise support for Mugabe.

“Last time, Mpofu was blocked because some said he is not Zapu but this time Mugabe might look at who will help him better in the region,” said an insider.

Moyo and Mutinhiri’s rise, the party insider said, was not only favoured by groups aligned to Mujuru, but would also help her ease off pressure from another faction allegedly led by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Like the late VP Joseph Msika, Mutinhiri is a former Zapu military leader with strong Zezuru links and connections — a scenario, which Mugabe also favoured in building up his top four and party presidium in fulfilment of the 25-year-old arrangement.

Under a unity accord, which came about following the massacre of nearly 20 000 supporters of Joshua Nkomo’s once-dominant party, Mugabe’s Zanu provides the president and one deputy, while the former PF Zapu will also bring in the national chairperson, and a second deputy.

And to add drama, and intrigue to the latest succession plots, Mutinhiri has been receiving good coverage — if not profiling — in the state media amid growing expectations of his rise in a revamped Zanu PF presidium.
With Mugabe playing one faction against the other for his own political survival since taking over the ex-ruling party in 1977, others said the 88-year-old leader was also letting Mpofu “with all these acquisition of wealth” only to use it against him when the need arises.

Khaya Moyo’s fortunes, meanwhile, are not only dependent on his closeness to the late Zapu leader, but enjoys a very warm and cosy relationship with Mugabe, which has seen him being deployed to key assignments such as the Pretoria diplomatic mission and lately as full-time party functionary.

On the other hand, Khaya Moyo and Mutinhiri’s rise could signal the death knell of Mnangagwa’s ambitions in the short run, analysts said.

While Mpofu is perceived as a Mnangagwa ally, — or at least that group has actively sought to court him under a shaky alliance — he is also seen as a solo campaigner and is actually loyal to Mugabe.

Mpofu has reportedly refused to join any of the warring camps, preferring to be aligned with Mugabe.

And with renewed speculation over VP Nkomo’s fast-deteriorating health, Mpofu is seen as having another shot at the presidium without any equivocation or apologies.

He has not only ruffled feathers in his native Matabeleland Province, but there is no love lost between him and party chairperson Khaya Moyo as they have clashed on a number of issues, including provincial leadership structures.

Mpofu’s trump card will be his rising popularity in Matabeleland while the likes of Khaya Moyo struggle to conduct even a single rally. — Weekend Post

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