A BITTER struggle over who will succeed Vice-President Joseph Msika has escalated in Matabeleland amid vigorous campaigning for the positi
The battle for the vice-presidency is threatening the unity of retired general Solomon Mujuru’s camp as the frontrunners in the race to succeed Msika are all from that camp.
Senior politicians in Matabeleland, who include Zanu PF national chairman John Nkomo, politburo members Dumiso Dabengwa, Obert Mpofu, Simon Khaya Moyo and Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, have emerged as frontrunners to succeed Msika.
Also standing an outside chance of sneaking into the presidium to replace Msika is political survivor, Sithembiso Nyoni.
Events in Matabeleland in the last two months have shown a bitter battle by the senior officials to win the hearts and minds and the jockeying has led to open clashes.
Indications are that a candidate from the Emmerson Mnangagwa camp is now a non-starter as most of the shrewd Midlands supremo’s backers are juniors in the province while those in the Mujuru group are racing ahead despite their own infighting.
So intense is the struggle for control of the party structures that senior members of the province are now conducting individual meetings instead of as groups as they used to do soon after the Tsholotsho debacle of 2004.
Political analyst and activist, Jethro Mpofu, said despite machinations to out-do each other, the people of Matabeleland would back a compromise candidate.
“All the contenders in the race have been disappointing and the current succession battle shows that all those people are not popular in Matabeleland. What the region needs is a compromise candidate who is not too deep into Zanu PF,” Mpofu said.
He said Obert Mpofu was “too Zanu PF” and his defection from PF Zapu before the Unity Accord compromised his chances to succeed Msika.
“From the frontrunners, the only candidate that is not too Zanu PF and is acceptable to the people of Matabeleland is Dabengwa because people still regard him as more of a PF Zapu cadre and that improves his chances,” Mpofu said.
He however said politicians in Matabeleland were not pushing a development agenda but were bootlicking President Mugabe to be rewarded with positions in government.
Another Matabeleland-based political analyst, Swithern Chiroodza, also said Dabengwa’s work with Mujuru in the restructuring of the war veterans’ association enhanced his chances.
“Dabengwa by virtue of working with Mujuru will get the general’s support and Mujuru will use his influence to campaign for Dabengwa,” Chiroodza said.
Just last week a group of women demonstrated against Mpofu, allegedly at the instigation of two other contenders in Matabeleland.
The demonstrations, according to Zanu PF officials in the province, were meant to smear Mpofu and portray him as unpopular in Matabeleland.
Mpofu has clashed with Matabeleland North governor, Sithokozile Mathuthu, who is believed to be campaigning for Nkomo.
Mathuthu however distanced herself from the succession battle and said she was only doing her job as mandated by President Mugabe.
“I have no agenda against anyone. I am just doing my job and I have no agenda against any politician in the region. For anyone to say I am pushing another politician’s agenda would be untrue,” Mathuthu said.
Political commentator, John Makumbe, said events on the ground point to SK Moyo and Dabengwa as likely successors to Msika.
“Moyo is a loyalist and stands a chance to succeed Msika but Dabengwa has been steady and resilient. However, Mugabe is not happy with him because of the Gukurahundi issue. But the majority in former Zapu recognise that he is the next in line to succeed Msika,” Makumbe said.
He said Mugabe was desperate not to lose Matabeleland forever and said Nkomo had not done much to win Matabeleland for Mugabe.
“Nkomo and Mpofu left PF Zapu when the heat was on and Mugabe knows that they are Ndebele. But he knows pretty well that the two are not acceptable in Matabeleland,” Makumbe said.
Dabengwa has been using his influence in the committee to transform the war veterans’ association nationwide to position himself through establishing committees sympathetic to him in the Matabeleland provinces.
However, events at the Bulawayo provincial heroes acre on Heroes day this year indicated that the former Zipra intelligence supremo still has a lot of work to do in the province as war veterans refused to recognise a committee put in place by Dabengwa.
The committee’s former chairperson, Themba Ncube, accused Dabengwa of imposing the new executive so as to get support when the succession issue came up.
Over the weekend another confrontation erupted in Matabeleland South province when MP for Insiza, Andrew Langa, filed a report with the police alleging that Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises, Sithembiso Nyoni, threatened him on the phone.
The telephone conversation between the two government officials was a result of a meeting Langa addressed where he is alleged to have made derogatory statements about Nyoni at Fort Rixon in Matabeleland South.