PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s succession battle is expected to intensify ahead of the ruling Zanu PF’s annual conference in Masvingo following the death of party stalwart, Vi
ce-President Simon Muzenda.
Zanu PF sources said horse-trading has been gathering pace over the past few months and is likely to accelerate in the aftermath of Muzenda’s death that has left Mugabe in a dilemma about how to re-arrange his party line-up.
The current party hierarchy shows that Zanu PF chair John Nkomo, who was acting vice-president during Muzenda’s long illness, is the next in line for promotion.
However, Nkomo’s elevation is not possible in the context of the 1987 Unity Accord between Zanu PF and PF Zapu in which the two vice-presidents come from the two constituent wings of the party.
Vice-President Joseph Msika is a former PF Zapu deputy to the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo.
Promoting Zanu PF secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa,
who is the next in line from the old Zanu crew, has its own problems. It would upset the party’s existing pecking order as he would suddenly become senior to Nkomo who defeated him in the race for the chairmanship during the party’s congress in 1999.
Mnangagwa was rescued by Mugabe from the political scrapyard where he was dumped in the 2000 parliamentary election by an opposition Movement for Democratic Change candidate. He was imposed both as Speaker of Parliament and in his current party position.
It is thought Mugabe could leave the vice-presidency post vacant for some time. Following Nkomo’s death in July 1999, he did not appoint his replacement for over six months. There was controversy over Msika’s appointment as the Zanu PF Women’s League tried to push its leader, Thenjiwe Lesabe, as Nkomo’s replacement.
“The current situation is interesting because Mnangagwa and Nkomo are the frontrunners in Mugabe’s succession race,” a source said. “Although Mnangagwa is seen as Mugabe’s favourite, the odds are heavily stacked against him.”
Sources said after Mugabe declared his succession debate open in April, three Zanu PF heavyweights, retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru, retired Air Marshal Josiah Tungamirai and politburo supremo Dumiso Dabengwa approached Mugabe to ask him about speculation that Mnangagwa was the anointed successor.
“Mugabe simply denied the rumour,” a source said. “But he tasked them to make an input on how to deal with the succession and they later submitted a document to him on that. They made it clear that if Mnangagwa was imposed, they would have nothing to do with the party anymore,” the source said.
That introduced new dynamics into the whole issue. It is understood some of the 10 Zanu PF provinces had already nominated their candidates who will be presented to the Masvingo conference if the issue arises. The ruling party will soon elect new provincial and districts leaders ahead of the Masvingo conference.
But Zanu PF elects new leaders at congresses that occur every five years and not annual conferences. The next congress is next year.