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There’s monkey business going on

By Dumisani Muleya

THERE is an expression for describing deceit and mischief. It is called “monkey business”. Looking at the Zanu PF conference whic

h officially opens today in Goromonzi, we may find that there is a great deal of monkey business going on.

The political shenanigans of the embattled Zanu PF regime are being advertised in Goromonzi via the proposal to postpone the presidential election to 2010 under the pretext of holding it simultaneously with the parliamentary poll.

The background to this Zanu PF monkey business is interesting. President Robert Mugabe is currently in a rat’s cage because of his leadership and policy failures. He has become a hostage to his overstay in power and is just hanging around even if he may want to leave. He is in a cul de sac.

In the meantime, his beleaguered regime is reeling from the current political and economic meltdown. Mugabe and his government cut lonely figures in the international arena. This explains why Mugabe now has to align himself with communist and former communist countries. Although he had always tried to be close to them, he also used to enjoy the benefaction of Western countries, Britain in particular, which he no longer does.

Russia, China, Cuba, Iran and North Korea — some of them outposts of tyranny, at least according to the Americans — feature prominently in his roll call of friends. Mugabe is also trying to play close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as well.

In Africa, Mugabe has lost his friendship with Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi, apparently over failed fuel deals and Gadaffi’s shift towards the West.

Among neighbours, there is no love lost between Mugabe and South African President Thabo Mbeki. The leaders of Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana are at best indifferent, at worst frosty.

In fact, in the Sadc region Mugabe seems to have lost most friends. The recent Lesotho summit was instructive. Mugabe had to beat a hasty retreat from the meeting after his regional counterparts tabled Zimbabwe, alongside Swaziland, Africa’s remaining absolute monarchy, as hot spots which deserve special attention.

At the African Union meeting in July, Zimbabwe was also an issue. In September at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mugabe took pot shots at Western countries over their role in the current global order, but his undiplomatic comments — even though they may have had some merit — failed to win new friends. Chavez did it better.

It is against this background that Zanu PF is going to adopt the 2010 proposal in an attempt to rescue its leader from the hole he has dug for himself. The idea of the 2010 initiative — which the Zimbabwe Independent first revealed in May last year — was to begin with a very simple issue.

Initially, the proposal was meant to postpone the presidential election to 2010 by amending the constitution to ensure that when Mugabe quits in 2008 (he had promised to do so although he is now backtracking), an interim president (Joice Mujuru) was appointed by parliament to act from 2008 to 2010 when elections would be held together. This was premised on the assumption that Mujuru was Mugabe’s anointed successor.

As part of this Mugabe succession agenda, the senate was revived to manage the issue. The original intention was to have the senate for five years between 2005 and 2010. A new constitution crafted by the current parliament would then be introduced before the 2010 polls.

Mujuru would then be the Zanu PF candidate after consolidating herself as interim president for two years. It was assumed in that case she could win. Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa was in charge of the project. But now it seems there are new dimensions to the succession monkey business. Mugabe appears to have a new game plan. Mujuru no longer seems to be the anointed successor. Some say Mugabe took her for a ride when he made it appear she was going to be the next president during the 2004 Zanu PF congress.

This happened to Emmerson Mnangagwa before. He was led to think he was the anointed one, but in 2004 things changed dramatically. In the aftermath of the Tsholotsho episode, Mugabe supported Mujuru and even asked his party congress whether it wanted her to only end up as vice-president, suggesting she deserved ascendancy to the top.

New dynamics have emerged. Zanu PF chairman John Nkomo has come out in the open to declare his presidential ambitions. Nkomo’s remarks appear sponsored for a purpose. It appears Mugabe’s political handiwork was at play here.

The Reserve Bank governor is now also being touted as a possible candidate. He is straddling the political arena as a gladiator due to his central role in the economy. But Zanu PF hawks must be anxiously watching his moves.Simba Makoni, who recently fired a salvo of sharp comments criticising African leaders apparently to try to remain visible from Botswana, may well still be in the picture even though some think his chances are too slim. Sydney Sekeramayi is still hanging in there. But he is so inscrutable as to be virtually invisible. This creates a puzzle.

Mugabe seems to be the main beneficiary of the 2010 project because it is understood he will become ceremonial president in 2008 when he re-introduces the post of prime minister. But will Mugabe not end up as life president through such monkey business?

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