PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday made thinly-veiled threats against his ambitious potential successors, warning Zanu PF supporters to guard against those who want to grab power through the back door without the people’s support.
By Owen Gagare
Speaking at the Harare International Airport soon after arrival from the United States where he attended the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, Mugabe also slammed Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s backers for attempting to move First Lady Grace Mugabe’s rally next Thursday from Chimanimani to Mutare.
Mnangagwa is considered a favourite to succeed Mugabe, although Grace is seen as a potential dark horse. Other names that have been mentioned include Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga.
Mugabe’s remarks, however, seemed directed at Mnangagwa whose ascendancy is being fiercely resisted internally.
“Some come to you and say support so and so, but the party has direction, we support the party. We support the leaders of the party. Those you chose. But those who want to position themselves … are causing confusion among the people,” Mugabe said.
“We have rules and guidelines on how the party leadership is chosen from the branch level right up to the very top. It’s all laid down in the party constitution. So what is this happening behind our backs?”
Mugabe also waded into the escalating Zanu PF factional battles currently raging in Manicaland over Grace’s visit next week.
Grace’s backers, who include acting chairman Samuel Undenge and Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene want the rally held in Cashel Valley, Chimanimani, which is also Undenge’s constituency.
Mnangagwa’s backers, among them Oppah Muchinguri, Mike Madiro and provincial Women’s League chairperson Happiness Nyakuedzwa, however, want the rally held at Sakubva Stadium in Mutare, arguing it is more central.
Grace’s allies insist Cashel Valley is more suitable as there are many projects which have empowered people. They are also saying that Sakubva is not suitable because the First Lady was booed last year when she visited the area while on a campaign to derail former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s presidential ambitions ahead of the party’s congress in December.
Mugabe, however, said Grace preferred Chimanimani because she wanted to “meet the people”.
“Undenge had proposed that she visits Chimanimani, but others are saying no, she must visit our area. Can’t a meeting be held in a chairman’s constituency? We don’t want that kind of disunity,” said Mugabe.
In a move seen as a slap in the face of the Mnangagwa faction, Mugabe also defended Undenge, who has been under fire over the country’s power crisis.
The Mnangagwa faction has for a long time been pushing for Undenge’s removal on the grounds that he is incompetent. His position has been made worse by the power crisis in the country which has seen many areas going without electricity for up to 18 hours.
But Mugabe said Undenge was not to blame for the power outages saying the blackouts are due to the low levels of water at Kariba Dam.