HARARE - Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa has insisted that Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is not in the running to succeed President Robert Mugabe, as the party’s succession politics become more convoluted.
This comes as the Presidential Affairs minister has — for the umpteenth time — tipped Vice President Joice Mujuru to take over from the 90-year-old nonagenarian, but Mugabe himself has recently ruled out both “contenders”.
“It is you the media that wants to bring Mnangagwa’s name in the issue (of succession), but he is not in the top line-up,” Mutasa told the Daily News yesterday, adding the Midlands supremo was a “low-ranking” official whose chances of making it to the party’s presidium were slim.
“If someone becomes lucky amongst the people you refer to, he will be voted to be in the top order in the party at our next congress in December but not now. You must read the Zanu PF constitution and understand it,” he said.
With the ex-Defence minister locked in a perpetual succession duel with Mujuru, the Chirimanzu-Zibagwe MP has emerged as one of the leading contenders to take over from Mugabe — but Mutasa said he was a distant number 14 and far beyond the pecking order of making it into the presidium.
Although the country and ruling party’s constitution place the VP as the front runner, Mnangagwa has often been touted as the 90-year-old ruler and other hard-line elements’ choice or preferred candidate.
And with Mugabe flatly refusing to name anyone as his successor, other names have cropped up and these include ex-Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, and Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
In a recent interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Zanu PF leader hinted he may not contest the 2018 election and the people would have to choose his successor — although he had not made that decision yet.
“I have people in mind who would want to be,” Mugabe said in the documentary dubbed “Robert Mugabe @ 90”.
“But I have looked at them. I have not come to any conclusion as to which one, really, should be. I leave it to the choice of people,” he told Ghanaian-born British film-maker Roy Agyemang in the interview.
But just as the decision not to contest the next elections has surprised many in the 51-year-old party that has won successive elections since independence in 1980, albeit under controversial circumstances. Mugabe’s views lacked clarity on what exactly he thought would happen at the elective December congress which is expected to choose his successor.
With the next congress due in 2019, a year after the presidential ballot, he might have to call an extraordinary congress ahead of the next plebiscite to choose a candidate for the election.
But given his advanced age, it is not clear if he will still be around to make that call and analysts warn his failure to appoint a successor has presented a very dangerous scenario for Zanu PF.
Even though Mutasa has routinely tipped Mujuru, the Manicaland supremo has refused to commit himself to what would happen at the party’s elective December congress and whether there would be any presidium configurations.
“Are you saying that President Mugabe does not know that Mujuru is the vice president when he made that statement?” he said.
Further, he claimed that Mugabe had made it clear that the VP “was his natural successor”.
“She was supposed to officiate at the ZITF (Zimbabwe International Trade Fair) in Bulawayo as the VP and also does she not act sometimes as the president in the absence of VaMugabe (President Mugabe)?” Mutasa asked.
However, the Zanu PF women’s league stalwart — who was expected to be a keynote speaker at a business conference with more than 350 delegates in attendance — has failed to attend the annual gathering and instead dispatched party chairman, and senior minister Simon Khaya-Moyo to act on her behalf.
As it is, Mugabe himself will officially open the trade showcase.
“Although SK Moyo is there officiating, he is not doing so as the president or vice president,” Mutasa said.
While many have claimed that the 90-year-old president has for long preferred Mnangagwa, his recent visit to Gono’s Harare farm has sparked unprecedented panic and speculation on who he really wants for the top job.
Many see considerable hurdles in Mnangagwa’s way and especially given Mujuru’s respect among Zanu PF supporters, and other neutrals.
These include Mnangagwa’s alleged involvement in the 2004 Tsholotsho plot which was described as a “coup” by Mugabe and was meant to rearrange the Zanu PF presidium.
Nonetheless, the Tsholotsho gang, including other top party officials and mainly provincial chairpersons, failed to block Mujuru’s ascendancy to the vice presidency, with Mugabe taking strong disciplinary action against the bunch.
In the aftermath of that episode, Mnangagwa was relegated to manage a backwater ministry for Social Amenities and Rural Housing.
He was, however, rewarded after the bloody 2008 poll, where he was Mugabe’s chief election agent and was accused of spearheading the faction-riddled party’s brutal campaigns.
While analysts say the prospect of taking over from the ageing leader gave Mnangagwa a clear incentive to ensure that last year’s elections went Zanu PF’s way, others such as Mujuru claim to also have worked hard for that victory.
Together with her late husband Solomon, the ‘modest’ VP is reportedly leading a faction vying for power as party and State president.