Mugabe 'resolves' succession issue

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s mellowing and his concessions to democratic reforms have sent shivers down Zanu PF officials and his military backers who fear he is capitulating and “has sold out”.

Stabbing his loyalists and military backers in the back, Mugabe accepted a raft of measures which in one stroke dealt with his succession problems.

Sources in the ex-majority party say Mugabe’s military cabal and his hangers-on are literally quaking in their boots following the recent completion of a draft constitution which is likely to be endorsed in a referendum.

Mugabe and his coalition partner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai recently struck a deal that among other things solved his succession nightmare and also clips presidential powers.

At one time sworn enemies, Mugabe and Tsvangirai have warmed to each other much to the chagrin of Zanu PF hardliners and military chiefs who have vowed never to accept Tsvangirai’s rule, sources said.

Mugabe’s piercing vitriol is gone and what is left is a preacher of peace who recognises the MDC as a homegrown party with the right to rule if it wins an election, another sign not going down well with hardliners in the party and military.

At the burial of the late Vice President John Nkomo, last week, the Zanu PF leader reiterated his clarion call for a peaceful co-existence with the MDC, a major climb-down from inflammatory hate speeches that he used to deliver to the satisfaction of his sabre rattling backers.

Revelations by Tsvangirai, who now regularly dines with Mugabe that one of Africa’s oldest leaders will hand over power if he loses elections, has only added to the fear among the rank and file within Zanu PF.

Hardliners, some of whom have acquired questionable wealth since independence, fear that Mugabe is in some clandestine deal with Tsvangirai which will see him accepting defeat and leaving them to hang after elections while he soft lands, sources said, adding that some party officials and hardliners were edgy.

Military generals who have vowed never to accept a rule by anyone without liberation war credentials have been prepared to override an election result that does not favour Zanu PF as they are accused of doing in 2008. But Mugabe, whom they successfully propped up five years ago, is not playing along by accepting reforms, sources said.

Commandeering Zanu PF rhetoric that brands the MDC as a front for whites and British attempts at “re-colonisation”, the commanders say they were “guided by crucial values” — defending the gains of the 1970s war against white rule in the former Rhodesia and ensuring that slain guerrillas did not die in vain.

But there is much more at stake than nationalism rhetoric.

Unlike Mugabe who is now chasing 90 years, most of Zanu PF hardliners and army generals are still relatively young.

They have grabbed farms and seized mining concessions, ill-gotten riches that they fear losing once a law abiding government is formed, according to sources.

Linked in past atrocities such as the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s and the 2008 election bloodbath, many of the youthful Zanu PF leaders and army generals fear prosecution for human rights abuses.

Although the hardliners are rattled, openly confronting Mugabe over his mellowing stance has been tough as many of them are scared of personally being seen to be challenging him.

Sources said this resulted in the Zanu PF politburo endorsing the constitution draft deal struck between Mugabe and Tsvangirai even though they have previously expressed resentment at some clauses which Mugabe has now acceded to.

These include whittled presidential powers, term limits for security sector commanders and the creation of an Independent Prosecuting Authority and the running mate clause.

After Mugabe agreed to the draft constitution, sources say none of the so-called hardliners had guts to express disquiet, yet they are the same people who have vowed never to accept the provisions.

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