HARARE - This week could prove to be one of the most important and significant periods in the long political life of embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, as the post-congress Zanu PF war to succeed President Robert Mugabe gets hotter and nastier by the day.
Team Lacoste, as Mnangagwa’s camp is now referred to by his supporters in the warring ruling party, suffered two devastating blows at the weekend.
First, the party’s women’s league in Mashonaland West openly demanded the return of a women’s quota system in Zanu PF — a clear indication that they want First Lady Grace Mugabe to take over from Mnangagwa as party vice president as soon as possible.
Secondly, the Midlands godfather’s bitter rivals, known as the Generation 40 (G40), swept the board in the party’s key Harare district elections — which means reduced influence in the former liberation movement’s citadel of power.
Grace has reportedly lined up marathon rallies from tomorrow up to Saturday where the G40 expects that she will take aim at Team Lacoste, as the succession wars in Zanu PF continue to escalate.
In the wake of last weekend’s stunning developments, and as votes of no confidence against perceived Mnangagwa allies are piling up at provincial, district and ward levels, Grace is expected to address tense rallies in Mbare tomorrow, Mberengwa on Friday and Murewa on Saturday.
While the Murewa rally has been virtually confirmed, frantic efforts were being made last night to ensure that the first lady addresses rallies at Chishawasha Grounds in Mbare and in Mberengwa as temperatures rise in Zanu PF before the party’s much-anticipated conference in Victoria Falls next month.
Sparks are expected to fly at Grace’s high-octane rallies this week where “successionists” (G40 code for alleged succession-obsessed Mnangagwa supporters) can expect to come under the cosh.
A politburo member who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said it was “almost inevitable” that Team Lacoste would also clash with the G40 at the party’s next politburo meeting because the situation was fast approaching a “winner takes all scenario”.
But Zanu PF national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, told the Daily News last week that the next politburo meeting would receive a report on the party’s restructuring exercise and also deliberate on whether the former liberation movement should elect substantive provincial chairpersons or not.
The restructuring exercise has been full of challenges in line with the ruling party’s seemingly-unstoppable factional and succession wars. At the weekend, two local officials in the Harare dormitory town of Chitungwiza were axed to death by one of their colleagues, who has since also died in mysterious circumstances, as the divisive exercise winds up.
“We are almost done with restructuring. In fact, we should be through this (last) weekend and a report will be tabled in the politburo which will then decide on the election of provincial leaders,” Kasukuwere said.
Almost all of the party’s provincial chairpersons are working on an interim basis, a situation that both insiders and observers say is untenable, but likely to continue for some time as Zanu PF leaders fear an implosion of the party should they embark on electing new substantive leaders now.
“What makes the next politburo meeting explosive is that the G40 are likely to raise the issue of constitutional amendments to allow the return of the women’s quota system.
“We are all worried that the party could explode into deadly warfare over this issue, as it will be resisted very strongly,” a party bigwig linked to Team Lacoste said.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo did not bear fruit.
But that Team Lacoste is under pressure at the moment is not a subject for much debate in the party. G40-aligned candidates took at least three quarters of the contested posts in the influential Harare province, a development that one source described as “a very bad omen” for Mnangagwa’s assumed bid to succeed Mugabe.
Party insiders say the G40 are rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding the increasingly-frail nonagenarian, and that the ambitious Young Turks are backing Grace to take over from her husband.
A well-placed source who spoke to the Daily News also revealed that Harare province would move to support the resolution by the Mashonaland West women’s league, that the ruling party returns the women’s quota system at next month’s increasingly-important Zanu PF conference to be held in Victoria Falls.
“Harare province is also going to demand the return of a women’s quota system. We were supposed to have our conference as a province on Saturday but we are still strategising.
“We heard that in Mashonaland West they have already demanded the return of the women’s quota system and we are going to do the same. I tell you, we want to deal with Ngwena (Mnangagwa) at the conference,” the source added.
The Daily News’ sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday, reported exclusively at the weekend that Grace’s presumed ambitions to elbow out Mnangagwa in the post-congress Zanu PF’s bitter war to succeed Mugabe had got a massive boost on Saturday.
This followed the ruling party’s women’s league in Mashonaland West province openly demanding the return of the women’s quota system in the Zanu PF constitution, a clear statement that they want the first lady to take over from Mnangagwa as party vice president.
Mnangagwa, who has since late last year been heavily tipped to take over from Mugabe, was derailed by the same policy in 2004 when the women’s league again pushed for the elevation of former Vice President Joice Mujuru to be one of the nonagenarian’s deputies.
Sources who attended the women’s league meeting and spoke to the Daily News on Sunday afterwards said there was “unanimous agreement” on the need for a woman to be in the party’s presidium — a move that confirmed what the Daily News accurately reported on last week.
Under this arrangement, the women — together with the G40 — will push for the party to revert to its old constitution at the Victoria Falls conference, so that among the party’s top three leaders “one shall be a woman”.
If this proposal is adopted, it will put paid to Mnangagwa’s long-mooted ambition to succeed Mugabe.
Sources also say all of Zanu PF’s provinces, except for Masvingo and Midlands, are pushing for Grace to become vice president as also exclusively revealed by the Daily News last week.
Meanwhile, senior Zanu PF official and Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao has also savaged what he has described as “attempts by successionists to propagate narratives that seek to suggest that president Mugabe should announce a successor when he has not even completed half of his term”.
“Such successionists seek to hijack and steal president Mugabe’s mandate perhaps because of the realisation that their succession candidates are unelectable,” Zhuwao said, in a politically-pregnant statement at the weekend.
“It is necessary and important that all appointed officials in government and the politburo are reminded that they were appointed to assist the president and as such they must remain loyal and distance themselves from successionist narratives.
“Failure to do so confirms disloyalty to the one centre of power, president Mugabe,” Zhuwao added.