HARARE - Controversial State media columnist, Nathaniel Manheru, widely believed to be President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba, says the nonagenarian has, by expelling former vice president Joice Mujuru, finally resolved the succession puzzle and is now set to “bow out like all mortals”.
In his typically long and verbose column in The Herald yesterday, Manheru boasted about his proximity to the seat of power and which gives him intimate knowledge of the goings-on in Zanu PF.
Mujuru, for long viewed as the leading candidate to succeed Mugabe, was summarily expelled from Zanu PF last Thursday, having been brutally removed from both her State and party positions late last year — with insiders saying that the road had now been cleared for her main rival Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to eventually take over from the 91-year-old.
“There is stress on orderly succession. There is stress on bi-partisan political structure, with no median politics ever surviving. You are either Zanu PF or MDC-T, and in between is nothing, at least for now. In the case of Robert Mugabe, it is a matter of duty. Soon he will bow out like all mortals,” the often well-informed Manheru said.
Over the years, Mugabe has refused to anoint a successor, preferring to keep his ambitious lieutenants guessing. But things appeared to change ahead of the party’s damp squib “elective” congress last year when Mujuru was humiliated and reduced to an ordinary card carrying member.
“She (Mujuru) had continued to be a counterpoint within, enjoying a legitimacy to approach and use party structures for her own outcomes. And to organise against the party, to meet foreigners, to divide loyalties,” Manheru said in his column as he attempted to explain the former VP’s expulsion from the ruling party.
According to Manheru, Mujuru was allegedly using expelled Zanu PF stalwarts Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa “to push forward her campaign”.
“Occasionally she would emerge from the parapet, from twilight, take a shot at the President and party, thereby reminding the world she still existed, existed as the only one with the legitimacy and courage to tackle mukuru (Mugabe),” Manheru added, warning that more heads were likely to roll even if that could lead to more by-elections.
“Today she is out and no one in the party can hobnob with her, without declaring counter loyalties, without inviting disciplinary action. And from where I seat, there is a readiness to take hard decisions, to settle the whole matter comprehensively, even if it means another mini-general election.
“So let no sitting MP think that there is fear to expel, a fear to go back to the people. And the days ahead will have many eyes,” Manheru said.
In a rare admission from someone close to the establishment, Manheru also revealed that the deadly factional fights in Zanu PF presented a danger of degenerating into open warfare.
“He (Mugabe) can’t leave a dispute in his party, a dispute still unresolved and what is worse, one with real potential for gunpowder. Historically putsches in Zanu PF have always been a bloody affair.
“Thank heavens this one happened in the life of the commander in chief of politics. And for me, the man has discharged a key assignment to do with succession,” he said.
Mugabe is the only leader that Zimbabweans have known since the country’s independence from Britain 35 years ago, and in two weeks time the country will mark its Independence Day with the majority of its people wallowing in abject poverty.
On another note, the often media-unfriendly Manheru also threatened to use the report by the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) to clamp down on the country’s vocal independent media.
“Thankfully, IMPI has reported back, and far-reaching decisions will have to be taken to carry forward its recommendations. And the report came from the same journalists who abuse readers in its blatant way, fortified by a constitutionally ill-gotten sense of impunity. Bones have to rattle,” he warned ominously.