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Makoni back in succession race

Dumisani Muleya

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s convoluted succession struggle has taken a new twist with disclosures that a ruling Zanu PF coterie is mulling a novel ethnic balancing act to unravel the tangled le

adership crisis.

Official sources said the dominant Zanu PF faction seen as led by retired army commander Solomon Mujuru has come up with a multi-ethnic plan to unscramble Mugabe’s succession logjam in a bid to avert a damaging split in the ruling party.

Sources said the latest proposal revolves around a delicate quadrilateral plan involving senior Zanu PF officials, Simba Makoni, Joice Mujuru, John Nkomo and Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The sources said the new plan – which is a reaction to growing internal factionalism and infighting – suggests that Makoni would be the Zanu PF presidential candidate in 2010. If he wins, Mujuru and Nkomo would be his vice-presidents, while Mnangagwa becomes prime minister.

Although Mugabe is said to be hostile to the idea of Makoni succeeding him, sources said a powerful clique wants to push for this plan because they think he is the only one who could win Zanu PF an election if given adequate initiation.

Makoni is seen as the only one not tainted by the current policy failures including the damaging Operation Murambatsvina.

He is also seen as an acceptable compromise candidate likely to appeal to critical constituencies at home and abroad. But, like Nkomo and Mnangagwa, he does not have a solid power base in his home region.

Although Mujuru remains Mugabe’s anointed successor for now, Zanu PF insiders are beginning to think the presidency could be too big a task for her. They think she should remain as vice-president under Makoni. Nkomo and Mnangagwa would provide stability, it is suggested.

This proposal was said to be linked to the coming stop-gap Senate, which will be in office for five years only, and an expected floor-crossing arrangement.

Zanu PF thinks it would be the main beneficiary of floor-crossing if the opposition MDC remains locked in leadership wrangles and ineffectiveness.

A new constitution, drawn up by parliament, is expected to be introduced in 2010 as a final point of the grand plan.

The Senate poll would be held in December. After that the constitution would be amended to push the presidential election to 2010 and make floor-crossing legal.

Sources said the new succession proposal is designed to deal with the fallout of the Tsholotsho saga in which a rival Zanu PF faction led by Mnangagwa was accused by Mugabe of plotting a palace coup.

Mugabe meted out severe punishment to those involved, but his backlash left the party fractured. The Tsholotsho incident also left Zanu PF riddled with factionalism and infighting.

Sources said the Mnangagwa camp was making manoeuvres to recover lost political ground either from an inside or outside vantage point as a Third Force. This has raised the fear of a Zanu PF split.

The sources said the new scheme was also aimed at dousing the ethnic fires burning inside the Zanu PF tribal cauldron. In terms of the plan, Makoni is expected to represent Manyikas, Mujuru Zezurus (although she is said to be Korekore), Nkomo Ndebeles, while Mnangagwa would represent Karanga interests.

“This is the deal they are working on. It’s not surprising because Zanu PF politics are largely defined through the narrow prism of simplistic ethnic and historical dichotomies,” a source said.

“This arrangement is influenced by the Tsholotsho fallout and the need for ethnic balancing. The movers and shakers of the ruling party think it’s a masterstroke which will address competing interests and concerns.”

As first reported in the Zimbabwe Independent in May, Zanu PF plans to amend the constitution again to postpone the scheduled 2008 presidential election to 2010 under the pretext of harmonising the presidential and the parliamentary polls.

But sources said the real reason was that the party was afraid it could not yield a candidate who could win the 2008 election. Insiders say the ruling party feels a contemporaneous election system would benefit the party because prospective MPs would also campaign for the presidential candidate.

The amendment will stipulate that the 2008 poll will be held in 2010 and that an interim president would be elected to run the country for two years. The changes would also say if the incumbent president cannot continue in office due to incapacitation, ill-health or death, a designated vice-president would take over. Mujuru would be the designated one.

The 2010 presidential election would then be held with Makoni as the ruling party candidate.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who first hinted at these proposals at a Zanu PF central committee meting on May 27, said this week the ruling party was looking at different scenarios for harmonising elections.

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