Msika Succession Race Hots up

THE succession race to replace the late Vice-President Joseph Msika and possibly fill the position of Zanu PF chairman if it becomes vacant has further intensified in the deeply-divided party as more candidates throw their hats into the ring.


The need to find a suitable candidate to replace Msika has caused another wave of political infighting in Zanu PF, guaranteeing a fresh power struggle likely to weaken further the already unstable former
liberation movement. The changes would take place during the Zanu PF congress in December.

 

The battle has become so intense that some of the candidates have resorted to the unusual practice of writing newspaper articles and giving interviews designed to showcase their credentials.

Sources said those scrambling to replace Msika now include John Nkomo, Cain Mathema, Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu, Simon Khaya Moyo and Obert Mpofu. There are also efforts to rope in former Zanu PF politburo heavyweight Dumiso Dabengwa who quit the party last year in protest against President Robert Mugabe’s failed rule.

Informed sources said this week there was also pressure on Zanu PF bigwig Emmerson Mnangagwa and secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa from their camps for them to enter the race and seize the opportunity to rise to the top of a hierarchy where changing positions in the pecking order is invariably difficult.

However, Mnangagwa and Mutasa have more hurdles to jump compared to the other candidates because they were not originally PF Zapu cadres. Almost all the old key Zanu PF luminaries came originally from Zapu. They formed a splinter party in 1963 which became the ruling party in 1980.

In terms of an internal Zanu PF arrangement ensuing from the 1987 Unity Accord, Msika’s position and the chairmanship are only open to those from PF Zapu. This is because Zapu and Zanu agreed to share the top four positions — president, two vice-presidents and chairman — equally.

There was however an attempt in 1999 by Mnangagwa to upset the order but it was thwarted when he lost to Nkomo in the contest for the chairmanship.   

The state media outlets have become the platform for the current campaigns some of which are packaged in the form of Msika obituaries. Some of the candidates are also actively lobbying behind-the-scenes through secret meetings, telephone calls and cellphone short message services (sms’s).

Nkomo, Mathema, Ndlovu, Moyo and Mpofu all appeared in the media pushing campaigns under the guise of commenting on Msika’s history. Nkomo gave television interviews in which he tried to sound authoritative and optimistic about his prospects. Ndlovu and Mpofu also appeared on state television making their own claims.

Mathema and Moyo wrote articles in the Saturday Herald and Sunday Mail respectively. Mathema’s article read like a political CV. He portrayed himself as an educated nationalist who studied in Nottingham in Britain and a liberation fighter of the retired army commander Solomon Mujuru calibre who deserved a high post like that of vice-president. He displayed his Zipra credentials where Mujuru came from before joining Zanla.
Zipra was the Zapu armed wing, while Zanla was Zanu PF’s military branch.

Mathema, the Bulawayo governor, even went to the extent of using expressions like “we the Ndebeles” in a bid to put himself on an ethnic pedestal and show with anticipation that he fitted the billing to replace Msika from a regional point of view while at the same time placing himself above tribalism which is tearing his party asunder.

Apart from Msika, he also showered the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo and Mugabe with praise as part of the article which came across as a campaign pitch.

Sources said Mathema on Monday contacted close Mugabe advisors openly declaring his interest in becoming vice-president. “He declared his interest and is prepared to fight it out,” a source said.

Albeit restrained in his media article, Moyo also wrote brandishing his nationalist credentials and closeness to Msika and Joshua Nkomo. He announced that he was writing a book, Service To My Country, for which Msika wrote the preface just before his death.  

Sources said there were also efforts by senior Zanu PF members to bring back Dabengwa to enter the race. Some senior Zanu PF officials held meetings with Dabengwa before Msika’s burial at Heroes Acre on Monday over the issue. However, sources said Dabengwa was noncommittal although he was inclined to refuse. Mugabe is also said to be opposed to the Dabengwa initiative.

Sources said the way the contest was developing showed that John Nkomo would come up mainly against Mathema for the post of vice-president, although Nkomo’s political advantage is almost unassailable. Nkomo is already in the Zanu PF presidium as chairman and is known to have close ties with Mugabe. Coming from outside, Dabengwa appears a long shot.

Sources said in terms of seniority, Ndlovu would become chairman but the problem was that he was now too old for hectic party politics.

Mpofu is seen as a dark horse with limited opportunities because of early floor crossing from Zapu to Zanu.
Sources said if former Zanu PF Women’s League leader Thenjiwe Lesabe had not fallen out with Mugabe, she would have had a chance to become chair after her failed attempt to become vice-president in 1999 following the death of Joshua Nkomo. Lesabe had squared up against Msika who used his history and force of personality to brush her aside.

Sources said Mnangagwa and Mutasa had no chance if the current Zanu PF sticks to the party arrangement of equally sharing presidium positions between the old Zanu and Zapu.

“There is pressure on them, but both of them, especially Mutasa, are very clear on the issues,” a source said. “They know this is mainly a Zapu contest, just like when (Vice-President Simon) Muzenda died in 2003 the succession contest became was a Zanu affair.”

Mnangagwa took on Vice-President Joice Mujuru after Muzenda’s death during the run up to the 2004 Zanu PF congress. The fight was bruising and Mnangagwa lost again after Mugabe intervened in support of Mujuru.

Mnangagwa’s defeat in 2004 — which was followed by political purges in the party amid accusations of a succession coup plot — appeared to have broken his spirit after the disastrous 1999 campaign. Lesabe also had the same experience before she was dumped on the political scrapheap.

The Mnangagwa faction is however still fighting on in a war of attrition with the Mujuru camp as
part of the protracted power struggle for the heart and soul of Zanu PF.

Dumisani Muleya