IF President Robert Mugabe secures victory, as he looks certain to, the spotlight will shift to Zanu PF internal politics as it remains unclear whether he will finish his term or someone will succeed him.
Report by Brian Chitemba
Last night election trends showed Mugabe and Zanu PF will win resoundingly, making a dramatic return after they lost the 2008 March polls to outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party.
The 2008 elections almost brought to an abrupt end Mugabe’s political career spanning over five decades.
But with advanced age and ill health stalking him, many will continue to ask if Mugabe (89) will be able to complete his seventh term. The long-running Zanu PF internal strife is also set to intensify after his victory as the party goes to its congress next year where a possible Mugabe successor will be chosen.
Despite Mugabe’s victory, fears linger he may not to complete his term, forcing him to anoint an heir in accordance with the provisions of the new constitution which says the sitting president’s party chooses a successor in the event of the incumbent retiring, getting incapacitated or dying in office.
Mugabe is reportedly battling prostate cancer –– although he claims its eye cataracts –– something which has seen him shuttling to the Far East to seek specialist treatment.
But after casting his vote with his family in Highfield on Wednesday, Mugabe told journalists he would complete his term. If he does manage to finish it, he will be 94, making him the oldest president in Africa and possibly the world.
Mugabe said: “I am going to serve the whole term. Why should I put myself as a candidate if I were to resign?”
While Mugabe may want to finish his term, Zanu PF officials fear he might die in office as shown by the section inserted in the new constitution to manage the situation if he does not see through his term.
However, even if he hangs on, Mugabe’s next term is likely to characterised by renewed factionalism and infighting. Zanu PF is split into two warring camps, one reportedly led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and the other by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mujuru currently appears to be in a strong position to succeed Mugabe. During the run-up to the elections, Mujuru was a cog of the campaign machinery as she made whirlwind tours across Mashonaland provinces canvassing for support while also addressing several rallies in Harare. Together with Mugabe, she was the face of the campaign.
To her credit, Mujuru managed to deliver a Zanu PF landslide win in the Mashonaland regions, while penetrating Harare and Chitungwiza, key MDC-T strongholds.
On the other hand, Mnangagwa also played a crucial role in events leading up to the elections as he is said to be part of ministers who had a critical meeting at State House with Mugabe and Nikuv International Projects on Tuesday, a day before voting.
Nikuv is said to have been central in securing Mugabe and Zanu PF the good results in this election through manipulating the voters’ registration process and results although the company denies it.
The succession battle has been going on for a number of years as Mugabe refuses to relinquish power despite his record of failure, old age and frailty.
No one in Zanu PF has openly challenged him and party congresses over the years have been reduced to rubber-stamping shows where members give Mugabe a ringing endorsement despite a groundswell of demands for change.
Another major challenge of Mugabe’s new term in office will be naming a successor to the late Vice-President John Nkomo, who died of cancer in January, amid internal strife over the issue.
Although the race to replace Nkomo is still open, it has become obvious that party national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo will land the top job leaving his current post up for grabs, something which will trigger a new fight.
A number of high ranking Zanu PF officials, including secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, Mines minister Obert Mpofu and Mnangagwa have been linked to the position.
With voting trends in Wednesday’s poll, Mugabe will have a headache to choose the party chairman as tribal politics will come back into play strongly. The Manyikas from Manicaland and Karangas from Masvingo and Midlands are likely to demand a seat in the presidium after they secured huge votes for Mugabe and the party, recovering lost ground.
Mugabe will thus have sleepless nights as he seeks to appease regional and ethnic sentiments in a bid to ensure the traditional Zanu PF matrix of tribal balancing. He has to ensure the party and country’s stability amid widespread complaints over the Zezurus’ colonisation and dominance of the state at the expense of other groups.