HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s brutal pruning of Vice President Joice Mujuru’s allies has fuelled speculation that the nonagenarian is looking beyond his embattled deputy — and possibly Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa as well for a successor.
The glut of theories about how the 90-year-old is likely to solve his party’s worsening succession brawl come amid suggestions that the Zibagwe-Chirumanzu legislator is currently in the pounds seat to eventually takeover from the Zanu PF leader.
But some other dark horses such as Mugabe’s own wife, Grace — the self-appointed author of Mujuru’s woes — as well as Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi are also being increasingly talked about as well.
Although the reasons on the complex succession drama and conundrum are as varied as the sources on the subject, analysts say Mnangagwa is the best placed of all potential successors, particularly as his camp has played a key role in decimating Mujuru’s structures.
On the other hand, Sekeramayi’s equally important experience in the security and intelligence structures of the veteran leader’s successive governments, and his relatively unblemished track record also places him in good stead to be a worthy contender.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, a media and democracy scholar, said the country was witnessing a repeat of the 2004 succession debacle and where Mugabe single-handedly felled Mnangagwa through unconstitutional means, and in favour of Mujuru.
“This does not mean that Mugabe wants him because if he wanted Mnangagwa he would have allowed him to take the vice presidency then. If the Justice minister benefits, it will be accidental because what the old man wants is to die in office and whoever will succeed him is not known,” he told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday.
“Essentially, the man wants to move from State House to the Heroes Acre, in a similar manner to what happened to the late Simon Muzenda, Joseph Msika and John Nkomo. The essence in Zanu PF is that succession is through death,” Ruhanya said, adding if Mugabe was to appoint a successor “it will be the greatest political surprise of the century”.
The British-trained academic added that if Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s favourite candidate, this would be clearer at Zanu PF’s December elective congress and if the former was rewarded with a big post.
Alex Magaisa, a Kent University law professor, said Mugabe’s moves against Mujuru were pre-emptive to ensure that she was not a serious challenger, but the old man was largely “working for himself more than anyone”.
“I think he has his own choice of a successor… and those who think they are within reach after the decimation of the Mujuru faction are mistaken. Mugabe is a master of divide and rule politics, and that is exactly what he has done so far,” the ex-Morgan Tsvangirai aide said.
“He used Mujuru to fight off Mnangagwa in 2004 and now he is using Mnangagwa to fight off Mujuru. He has no intention of leaving office, but he wants to ensure that whoever comes after him will be his choice, presumably someone who can look after his family. This is very personal,” Magaisa said.
The law professor also said Mujuru’s opponents feared that they could not compete against her and beat her in an internal party contest.
“The idea (currently) is to ensure that she does not even contest in an election… because of the fear that she could spring a surprise. Further, if it is correct… in terms of the Zanu PF constitution that for one to stand as a candidate for the VP post, they need the nomination of at least six provinces, this probably means, with chairpersons loyal to Mujuru now ousted, her chances of getting a nomination have been whittled down significantly,” Magaisa said.
“If this is the correct constitutional position, the suspension of provincial chairpersons would seem to effectively end Mujuru’s bid even for the VP position, let alone the presidency,” he added.
“But whatever the case, the set… has caused a seismic shift in power and advantage in the succession race, reducing Mujuru from a position of significant strength to a position of severe vulnerability. And the architect and main beneficiary of all this is Mugabe himself. He is merely doing in dramatic form what he has been doing since he took over Zanu’s leadership in 1976,” Magaisa said, adding that it is exactly what he did to comrades like Gumbo whom he “threw in pits for daring him”.
Gladys Hlatywayo, the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust executive director, said “both factions (Mnangagwa and Mujuru camps) in my opinion will not benefit as long as Mugabe is alive”.
“The president has been playing one faction against the other like a seesaw,” she said. “It is now evident that he wants to die in office. Mugabe is the biggest beneficiary of this entire charade. He is fixated on ruling until he joins his ancestors”.
Even, though, Mujuru’s career hangs in the balance, Mugabe could still very well retain her — albeit without key henchmen to push her charge for power, they said.
As it is, the move to unseat her has not been a stroll in the park given the other dynamics in Zanu PF, relative support base, security sympathies and the possible forces of nature (on Mugabe and those diametrically opposed to the status quo).