Zanu PF presidential hopefuls must open up

HARARE - Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and First Lady Grace Mugabe must all start talking straight and openly declare their ambitions to take over from President Robert Mugabe.

The crusade for the presidency has started slowly, with contenders playing their cards close to their chest, obviously because they all have to adhere to Zanu PF’s prescription that campaigning may only begin when the party says so at congress.

All the contenders have tried to circumvent this by dropping hints that they were ready to take over.

The first lady, Grace, is clearly now a potential successor to Mugabe after openly challenging her husband at a women’s league national assembly meeting to name his preferred heir.

She repeated the call at a youth interface rally in Chinhoyi.

It is clear she has ambitions for the highest office, which seems to be tacitly supported by Mugabe himself.

Grace may be angling to be the power broker, engineering a Mugabe successor behind the scenes. And that candidate is Sekeramayi. The Swedish-trained medical doctor has been named by G40 kingpin, Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo, as a deserving successor to Mugabe, not Mnangagwa.

For now, it seems Grace is hell-bent on occupying the powerful vice president position together with another trusted ally.

Just like all the contenders, Sekeramayi has refused to openly lay a stake on the presidency, and just like others, just dropped hints. He has made thinly-veiled attacks against the rival Team Lacoste.

“President, Gushungo havanzi mdara achauya, mdara aripo (There isn’t going to be a new leader, Mugabe is already there), and he is going to lead us, he is still there. We endorsed him as the Zanu PF candidate and he will represent us in the elections,” Sekeramayi told Zanu PF supporters in Mbare two weeks ago.

Then there is the sly and cunning Mnangagwa. Speaking at a ground-breaking ceremony of agro-residential stands in Kadoma three weeks ago, Mnangagwa compared himself to the biblical Joseph — a very important figure in the book of Genesis, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, but rose to become the Vizier, the most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh.

“Tine ma (We have) clusters mana (four) under Zim-Asset. Ini ndiri (I am) vice president responsible for two clusters, food security and nutrition; nevalue addition and beneficiation. Ndiri we (I am for) command. Ndakaita saJosefa wemubhaibheri. (I am like the biblical Joseph) ”

With the country poised for a bumper harvest under the Command Agriculture scheme, it is easy to locate Mnangagwa’s cryptic message in the context of Joseph.

Joseph was enthroned Vizier or king after he successfully interpreted the dream of Pharaoh of seven years of abundance after a crippling famine.

This is almost what is happening in Zimbabwe, bumper harvest after drought.

Mnangagwa is subtly claiming credit for the success of Command Agriculture, which has lifted Zimbabwe’s 2017 growth outlook to 2,8 percent due mainly to a bumper maize harvest as the impoverished country recovers from severe drought.

And when he says “ndiri we (I am for) command”, does he mean Command Agriculture or, which command?

This is open to varied interpretation. Some people claim he means the military command.

All the candidates believe they have something to offer in terms of leadership.

The pool to choose from now is very limited.

The three candidates’ success will depend on how effectively they can rally the support of the people and the ranks of Zanu PF.

All candidates must be a bit more forthright. They are all subtly campaigning and making it clear they are an option for president. But it will take deals and forging alliances to make it happen. It is too early to say who stands with whom, but definitely those talks are beginning to shape up.

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