PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has reportedly named four top Zanu PF officials as his possible successors in a recent conversation with South African President
Reports this week indicate that Mugabe two weeks ago spoke to Mbeki about the ongoing talks between the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to resolve the country’s worsening situation and in the process delved into his leadership succession.
The reports say Mugabe noted that there were four serious candidates to succeed him, senior Zanu PF politburo members Emmerson Mnangagwa, John Nkomo, Sydney Sekeramayi and Simba Makoni.
The notable omissions from Mugabe’s list are Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, both widely touted as potential successors. Mujuru, whom Mugabe during the Zanu PF congress in 2004 publicly anointed as the next president, has fallen out with her boss over internal squabbles.
The president’s spokesman George Charamba exploded yesterday when asked to clarify reports that his boss had indicated to Mbeki potential successors.
“Don’t waste my time on such speculation and rumour-mongering,” he said angrily. “I want serious journalistic enquiries, don’t waste my time on such issues. You can go and write what you want.”
Earlier, Charamba had refused to discuss with another Independent reporter his recent controversial briefing to state editors which has irked senior government officials, including his superior, Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.
The briefing — which touched on intensifying infighting and deepening divisions in government and the ruling Zanu PF — sent shockwaves through the party and angered officials who are now loudly complaining behind the scenes.
The reports said Mbeki asked if it was possible for Mugabe to indicate who his successor would be so that South Africa and other countries could help to facilitate a smooth transition and support that person to prepare for future responsibilities. The reports say Mbeki wanted to know if there were no credible successors to Mugabe in Zanu PF and he was told that there were.
Gono’s name continues to crop up during debates on who will take over from Mugabe.
Mnangagwa and Nkomo were in 2004 named by Zanu PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira as possible successors to Mugabe in an interview with a South African journalist. The Independent published the recorded details of the interview, although Shamuyarira tried in vain to deny it.
The reports say Mugabe said Mnangagwa could be his successor but was unpopular with the voters and so was Nkomo. The two are not elected officials. Mnangagwa was defeated in the past two general elections by the MDC, while Nkomo has avoided elections apparently in fear of defeat. It is further claimed Mugabe said although there were people who want Makoni to take over from him, the problem was that he had failed in previous government assignments.
The succession story doing the rounds in the corridors of power further says Mugabe said Sekeramayi was his preferred choice because he was cool, calm and collected, but if he advanced his name in the party there would be outrage because he has no grip on the shifting dynamics of leadership in the party. In the end, it is understood, Mugabe indicated that was why he has to stand as the Zanu PF presidential candidate in next year’s polls to hold the party together.
Mugabe has publicly said that he needs to remain as the Zanu PF leader to prevent his divided party from disintegration due to factionalism and infighting. The power struggles in Zanu PF are intensifying ahead of the party’s extraordinary congress in December, a stage-managed elective assembly.