VICE-President Joice Mujuru has intensified her campaign ahead of the Zanu PF congress in December where she is likely to be challenged by Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri, who is reported to be vigorously canvassing for support behind the scenes.
Faith Zaba/Owen Gagare
This comes at a time when strategising and jockeying for positions within the party has reached fever-pitch ahead of the congress which will have a huge bearing on the acrimonious but largely covert Zanu PF succession battle.
Zanu PF insiders say although President Robert Mugabe (90) is likely to be given a fresh mandate at the congress, he does not appear to have the stamina to represent the party in the 2018 elections, hence the intense jockeying for positions as the factions position themselves for the final onslaught on the presidency.
Mashonaland West province has already endorsed Mugabe’s leadership of Zanu PF, a move likely to stampede other provinces to follow suit.
Zanu PF is allegedly divided into two main factions, one led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and the other by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, although both publicly deny being factional leaders.
“It’s given that we will be having another candidate in the 2018 elections, and in any case there are questions on whether the president will be able to complete his current term. Considering all these factors, the congress has become very crucial,” said a politburo member.
“It is therefore vital to control the party structures and have adequate numbers in the politburo, central committee, provinces and so on. The importance of the congress cannot be over-emphasised considering Mugabe’s age and health status.”
Party insiders say although the Mujuru faction appears to be in control of the party ahead of the congress, she was wary of the challenge by Muchinguri, who also challenged her for the position at the 2009 congress.
Muchinguri is in the Mnangagwa faction and was involved in a nasty fight with the party’s secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, a key Mujuru ally, in the run up to provincial elections last year.
“She (Mujuru) is not leaving anything to chance and has been going around the country meeting women and ironically Muchinguri has been forced to tag along.
Mujuru controls most of the provinces, so the provincial Women’s League chairpersons have been calling for meetings and inviting the Vice-President to address them as the guest of honour,” said another politburo member.
He added: “Muchinguri has also been invited for the provincial meetings in her capacity as Women’s League chairperson. Mujuru has used the meetings to campaign and stay in touch with Women’s League structures countrywide as well as party officials at grassroots level.
“She is confident that she will win given that she has control of the four Mashonaland provinces in Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West and Harare which normally vote as a bloc. In addition she has Manicaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo which puts her and her team in good stead.”
The second vice-president’s post, vacant since John Nkomo’s death in January last year, will also be filled at the congress with national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo, who was chosen by former Zapu officials at a meeting in Gweru last year, a favourite to fill the position.
Zanu PF’s last two vice-presidents Joseph Msika and Nkomo were elevated from the national chairperson’s post.
However, Khaya Moyo is facing challenge from former South African Ambassador Phelekezela Mphoko, who has also been campaigning for the vice-presidency.
Those backing Mphoko argue he is more senior than Khaya Moyo, having been one of Zipra’s commanders during the war of liberation.
“Khaya Moyo however has the advantage of already being in the presidium unlike Mphoko who is not really in the party structures. Khaya Moyo was also an ambassador not too long ago, but even when he was a diplomat he was a politburo member and would come back every month-end for politburo meetings — that’s where his advantage is,” said an ex-Zapu official.
Zanu PF insiders believe the most intense battle will be for the national chair, given reports that Mnangagwa may throw his name into the hat where he is likely to square off with the party’s secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, despite protestations from ex-Zapu officials who believe the position should be reserved for them.
Others linked to the position include Obert Mpofu and Kembo Mohadi.
“The battle for the national chairship will be key considering Mnangagwa’s interest. If he loses to Mutasa or any other candidate it will be a huge blow for his presidential ambitions. The prospects of defeat though are very high considering that Mutasa will have Mujuru’s support. It may be wise for him to throw in someone else and remain in the shadows,” said a senior official.
“If he fails to make the presidium and suppose the president fails to complete his term, he will have to rely on the clause in the constitution which says party members will choose the president’s successor. This clause throws open the race, provided one has support in the party structures.”
An ex-Zapu official said they may meet as former Zapu members to agree on a candidate for the position, and then lobby other provinces for support like they did in previous years.
However, there is strong belief in the politburo that no one in the party structures from the remaining former Zapu members has national appeal, other than Khaya Moyo.