Mugabe succession war takes new twist

HARARE - Zanu PF youth league leader, Kudzanai Chipanga, made a sensational proposition yesterday that is guaranteed to set tongues wagging within the warring ruling party, saying President Robert Mugabe should only be succeeded by someone who carries the same surname as the country’s long-ruling leader.

Speaking to the Daily News in an exclusive interview yesterday, Chipanga made it clear that the youth league knew who it wanted to succeed Mugabe whenever he leaves office, saying further that party youths were even prepared to back powerful first lady, Grace, to take over from her husband and retain the “Mugabe brand”.

However, Grace has previously denied strenuously that she had designs on the country’s top job, arguing that by virtue of her being Mugabe’s wife, she was very close to the seat of power and did not, therefore, need to be president.

Chipanga emphasised that while youths did not expect to be seized with looking for the nonagenarian’s successor anytime soon, because Mugabe would remain on the throne “for a long time to come”, they were of the view that the only name that could lead the ruling party to electoral victory was that of Mugabe.

“We cannot imagine a situation where we do not have our president, but should we be forced into that situation, we would second someone with the name Mugabe because that name is sellable.

“Our people have got addicted to that name and they will easily vote for such a name as long as it has been forwarded by Zanu PF,” Chipanga said.

Pressed by the Daily News to say if he meant that one of Mugabe’s relatives, including his wife and children, should take over from him, Chipanga said such a situation would be ideal.

“It is not secret that the youth league and the women’s league work closely together, hence we will have no problem with supporting a woman to any position in the party, including the presidency, as long as it is done according to the dictates of the Zanu PF constitution — and like I have said, that person must carry the name Mugabe.

“By the way, it (Zanu PF’s constitution) does not bar women from contesting. Our point is that we prefer to go into any election riding on the back of the Mugabe brand. It does us good to have the name Mugabe on the ballot paper,” he said.

This comes as there have previously been hushed whispers in sections of the ruling party that Mugabe intended to groom his wife as his successor, instead of the likes of his long time aide and now second-in-command, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Notwithstanding this speculation, Grace has consistently denied harbouring any presidential ambitions, insisting she is content with the position of women’s league boss.

However, the lack of a clear successor for Mugabe has triggered a bitter tribal, factional and succession war within Zanu PF, which has left the once formidable ruling party split into two bitterly-opposed camps.

One of the factions, Team Lacoste, is backing Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe and counts within its ranks the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA).

The other faction, the Generation 40 (G40) group, which allegedly boasts of among its members the likes of Chipanga, Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, is rabidly opposed to the Midlands godfather.

While the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led war veterans have threatened bloodshed if Mnangagwa is blocked from becoming president, the G40-linked Zanu PF youth league has similarly threatened to take up arms in Mugabe’s defence, while at the same time pushing for the nonagenarian to be declared life president.

Pressed to say yesterday how party youths hoped to win the war against the seemingly powerful Mnangagwa faction, which is said to enjoy the support of the country’s military establishment, Chipanga said “everything is under control”.

“One can have the support of the armed people but our biggest weapon is the will of the people. As long as we fight to make sure that the people’s will is not subverted by way of attempting to take power without going to an election as provided for by the law, then we are guaranteed their support.

“Over and above that, we have got the energy and willpower to fight for that just cause. We are further emboldened by the fact that we will all be doing it for the sake of the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, the boss of the army, making it even easier for us,” he added.

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