HARARE - Embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, crumpling under the intense political pressure that is being exerted on him and his close allies by his determined Zanu PF foes, is apparently seriously mulling quitting both his party and government positions.
Well-placed sources close to the Midlands godfather told the Daily News yesterday that, as was first reported exclusively by our sister paper the Daily News on Sunday at the weekend, the 74-year-old VP was “anxious about his position and future” in the wake of the brutal public skinning that he received from powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe on Friday.
“Lacoste (Mnangagwa) is a pragmatist and he knows that things are not looking good for him and those who support him.
“I understand that he is seriously thinking of stepping down, if that will heal the party which has been at war with itself for a long time,” one of the sources said.
But another insider who confirmed that “resignation is an option on the table” for Mnangagwa, said it was clear that “his enemies the G40 (Zanu PF’s Young Turks known as the Generation 40 group)” would crank up their assault on him now that he “is wounded”.
“You know his enemies the G40, they are not going to stop here, as they now clearly want to finish him off. By resigning of his own accord, Ngwena (Mnangagwa) will therefore avert further humiliation and the clubbing to death of his friends,” the second source, a senior party official, said.
The Daily News on Sunday reported exclusively yesterday that senior members of the VP’s faction were debating what the best response to the stunning developments of the past week would be: whether to fight back harder or make a strategic retreat.
“It has not been an easy time, with some saying he should escalate the fight, and others of the view that the best way forward is to make a strategic retreat to allow the team to assess the situation properly, calm emotions all round and gather strength.
“Some comrades have even been suggesting that perhaps he (Mnangagwa) should consider handing in his resignation from both his party and government positions seeing that he is no longer enjoying the full support of his principal.
“On the other hand, others are saying that such action is unnecessary and that it risks inflaming the situation even more, as it would create the impression that he is too emotional and in effect declaring war,” one of the sources told the paper which together with the Daily News has been reporting accurately and consistently over the past five years on Zanu PF’s deadly factional and succession wars.
Those who wanted Mnangagwa to quit were apparently pointing to mooted plans this week by the influential Zanu PF women’s league to ratchet up their demands on President Robert Mugabe to appoint a woman as one of his two deputies — a move that is said to be targeted at the beleaguered VP.
Ever since his appointment as VP, following the ruthless purging of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and her allies from the ruling party in 2014, Mnangagwa has, figuratively speaking, been riding on the back of a hungry hyena — with his party foes taking frequent pot shots at him and his offices being broken into on several occasions, as the war to succeed Mugabe has escalated.
But other sources close to the VP who spoke to the Daily News yesterday claimed that Mugabe was not “enthusiastic” about the idea of Mnangagwa quitting his party and government positions —claims that could not be independently verified.
“He (Mnangagwa) is helpless at the moment and what he can probably do is wait and see what happens next, as Mai Mujuru did.
“However, it is as obvious as it was with Mai Mujuru’s case that Grace has the blessings of her husband because you do not have your deputy as president being humiliated and bruised like that without your permission,” the head of the Southern African Political and Economic Series (Sapes) Trust think-tank, Ibbo Mandaza said.
But University of Kent academic, Alex Magaisa, said Mnangagwa was not “easily disposable” because he had been close to Mugabe for a long time in a way that Mujuru never was.
“He has been with Mugabe for more than 40 years, with close roles in security-related matters. He has played an integral role in Zanu PF’s electoral successes, by means both fair and foul.
“For years he chaired the powerful Joint Operations Command (JOC). He is a man who knows a lot, perhaps too much. Can they get rid of him just like that?” Magaisa asked rhetorically.
Professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London Stephen Chan concurred with Magaisa’s view saying, “I don’t think Zanu PF can afford to lose both Mujuru and Mnangagwa.
“I think that he will remain in his post but, obviously, a campaign of destabilisation is under way”.
Southern Africa senior consultant at international conflict prevention organisation, the International Crisis Group — Piers Pigou — said it was difficult to know whether there were serious efforts to remove Mnangagwa from power.
Meanwhile, the Daily News on Sunday also reported yesterday that there was palpable fear within the VP’s faction, as the G40 were allegedly moving to rid “the entire system” of any trace of Mnangagwa’s key allies, followers and sympathisers.
“We understand that widespread purges affecting the party, the Cabinet, the security sector, the civil service and even State media are in the offing, which has sent many people into panic mode. The next few weeks will be crucial in terms of deciding what happens going forward,” a source said.
This followed ominous accusations levelled against Mnangagwa — once seen as a shoe-in to succeed Mugabe — by Grace at a rally in Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central, on Friday.
In her thinly-disguised attack on the embattled VP, the First Lady not only accused him of deception, fake love for the First Family and working feverishly to topple Mugabe from power, but also pointedly said he would not succeed the soon-to-be 92-year-old.