PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s volatile succession struggle has become more explosive than ever with the fiercest fights breaking out in party and government structures ahead of a constitutional amendment to m
anage the issue.
Sources said infighting in the ruling Zanu PF has intensified as ministers, government and party officials, and MPs clash over control of the party along factional lines.
This comes as Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa prepares to table an 18th amendment to the constitution to postpone the scheduled presidential election from 2008 to 2010 as part of measures to manage Mugabe’s increasingly divisive succession tussle. Zanu PF MPs are being marshalled by party leaders to close ranks over the issue.
Sources said the succession struggle is fast becoming a cutthroat fight with fierce clashes erupting at various levels within the party and government.
“They are fighting everywhere you find them,” a source said. “Clashes are now to be found at the politburo, central committee, and other lower levels of the party. In government, that is cabinet and parliament, as well as in key state institutions, the fights around the succession issue are going on.”
This week the ruling party called an emergency caucus meeting in a bid to quell rivalry among its Lower House MPs and senators. The legislators had been drawn into the vortex of the succession conflict.
This follows reports of wrangling between Finance minister Herbert Murerwa and the Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono as well as clashes between Chinamasa and Attorney-General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele.
The Zanu PF power struggle — which is threatening to rock the party to its foundation — has complex scenes, plots and sub-plots intertwined with the country’s political direction and economy.
The power struggle is being fuelled by the realisation that it is almost a fait accompli now — although the situation remains fluid — that Vice-President Joice Mujuru will succeed Mugabe, supported by Speaker of Parliament John Nkomo and State Security minister Didymus Mutasa as her deputies, sources said.
The sources, however, said Mujuru prefers politburo member Obert Mpofu to Nkomo as vice-president. Elements from the intelligence community, on the other hand, want former Zapu intelligence supremo Dumiso Dabengwa in that position.
Simba Makoni is said to have once again vanished from the picture, although he remains “Plan B” for both retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru’s and party luminary Emmerson Mnangagwa’s factions.
Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi is also “Plan B” for the Mujuru camp.
To confirm the line-up comprising Mujuru, Nkomo and Mutasa, an amendment to the Zanu PF constitution to remove the clause — inserted on November 18, 2004 to block Mnangagwa from outmanoeuvring Mujuru — has to be made.
The provision says that one of the two second-secretaries (vice-presidents) of Zanu PF has to be a woman. Plans are already under way to change this.
Sources said the succession issue also has a new dimension. While Mujuru is now almost certainly assured of succeeding Mugabe, her chances were being threatened by a fierce stand-off between Mugabe and the Mujuru camp. They are at odds over the time-table of the president’s departure.
Sources said the Mujuru camp wants Mugabe to quit now, but the president is riled by any efforts to stampede him out of office.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that the state security agencies — intelligence, army, and police — are also roped in to the battle although their loyalty now firmly lies with Mugabe and nobody else.
There are also feuding camps within the Mujuru faction, further making matters worse.
The amendment, which is being marketed through the setting up of the proposed Human Rights Commission, will introduce a constitutional clause changing the current provision that says if a sitting president becomes incapacitated or is unable to continue for whatever reason, a fresh election will be held within 90 days.
Sources said the new clause will say if the incumbent fails to continue in office a designated vice-president will take over for the rest of the term.
This, as first reported by the Zimbabwe Independent last year, will assist Mujuru in her bid for ascendancy. The plan is to ensure Mugabe goes in 2008 and Mujuru takes over as an interim president, elected by a two-thirds majority of both houses of parliament, from 2008 to 2010.
Mujuru takes over as Zanu PF leader in 2009 and becomes presidential candidate in 2010.