AS the succession race, which appears like a dead heat reaches its climax ahead of the Zanu PF congress in December in which Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s faction is going for broke plotting to oust Vice-President Joice Mujuru, including by fielding President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace against her, the day of reckoning is around the corner.
The Zimbabwe Independent was this week told by one of the two main faction leaders in Zanu PF that the Mnangagwa faction is finalising plans to throw in Grace as a last resort to topple Mujuru in what would be the major highlight of the watershed congress.
Grace has since last week launched a nationwide campaign blitz, racing from Chinhoyi to Gweru, Harare, Masvingo yesterday and Mutare today. She has been ruthlessly attacking the Mujuru faction throughout. The siege on the Mujuru camp intensified yesterday with the suspension of vocal Mashonaland West provincial chairman Temba Mliswa who is aligned to the Vice-President.
“Barring last-minute changes, congress in December is going to see an interesting contest between Mujuru and Grace,” the top Zanu PF factional leader said on Wednesday. “That’s what we have come up with as our plan A, although there are still some issues to sort out which might be resolved by Friday (today).”
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, aligned to the Mujuru faction, yesterday refused to comment on whether Grace openly being hand-held by Muchinguri — is eyeing the vice-presidency or throne itself in the final analysis.
“I do not know anything my friend concerning that issue. She is just having thank you rallies and that is all we know,” Gumbo said.
Zanu PF legislator, Justice Mayor Wadyajena, who is a Mnangagwa ally, recently said Grace had the credentials to be vice-president.
“As a party we are delighted that she has attained the highest level of education expected and she has done so at a time when the Women’s League has endorsed her to be their boss,” he said.
“I want to say this today, we don’t want her to end there (Women’s League), we are saying she should go higher, even to the presidium. She has the qualities which could make her challenge even for the vice-presidency of the party.”
However, other sources said Grace’s challenge against Mujuru could be a decoy for Mnangagwa to stage an ambush against his bitter rival although he himself has told insiders that he would not enter the race now. Mnangagwa’s close allies say he is waiting for the “big one” and not relatively lower positions which are only springboards to power.
“If Grace does not challenge Mujuru, then either Mnangagwa or (outgoing Women’s League boss Oppah) Munchinguri is going to, that is plan B. The certain thing though is she will be challenged,” another Zanu PF official said.
Insiders say Mnangagwa’s overall plan is to field candidates to challenge Mujuru and all her allies at the top head-on to wipe them out of the Zanu PF presidium.
So, according to the well-placed insiders, the situation could see contests in this form: Mujuru versus Grace; Zanu PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo up against Phelekezela Mphoko and Ambrose Mutinhiri, and Zanu PF administration secretary Didmus Mutasa clashing with Kembo Mohadi who has also indicated an interest in taking on Khaya Moyo for vice-presidency.
Only Mugabe would be unchallenged at the congress tentatively slated for December 9-14.
Some of the most interesting points to note in this developing situation which has created a volatile scenario, Zanu PF officials say, include the following:
Mugabe has lost faith in Mujuru and wants either Mnangagwa or Grace to come in to protect his family interest and ensure his security after power;
Although Mujuru has popular support, Mnangagwa has the backing of security forces, particularly Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga, who are critical in the power matrix;
Grace might challenge Mujuru as a decoy for Mnangagwa and the two, including Chiwenga, will then have an arrangement on how to share power;
Khaya Moyo, seen as shoo-in, might also be given a good run for his money even though his challengers are relatively weak compared to him, and Mutasa could be dumped as Mugabe no longer wants him and Mohadi may well come in as chairman, especially if he drops his vice-presidential bid and marshals former Zapu leaders’ support.
Zanu PF officials say in terms of Grace taking on Mujuru either to succeed Mugabe or pave the way for Mnangagwa, certain issues still need to be resolved before the faction decides on the final line up of contestants.
“The Mnangagwa camp, for instance, is still battling to come up with a solution on how Muchinguri will be accommodated in this equation because she has surrendered her Women’s League position to Grace which will become her springboard to other senior positions,” said a senior Zanu PF official.
“What will happen to Muchinguri if Mugabe decides to appoint Mnangagwa as the new secretary for administration?, for instance.
These are issues which need to be dealt with.
“The other hurdle which needs to be negotiated is what will happen in the event that Mugabe eventually decides to resign, if incapacitated or dies. The state constitution says if that happens the vice-president who last acted as president takes over for 90 days after which the party will nominate someone to the Speaker of Parliament as a permanent replacement for the remainder of the term. So if Grace last acts as president, will she take over herself or defer to Mnangagwa?
“Where does Chiwenga come in? These are the issues which need to be thrashed out.”
Sources in the Mnangagwa faction said there are high-level discussions over the strategy to topple Mujuru, which is now agreed on, while a tactical approach is being considered to field Grace.
“During the 90-day interregnum after Mugabe’s departure whichever way, Grace might open the path for Mnangagwa to take over as president, while she remains as vice-president and then after that they give each other a chance to rule with Chiwenga involved.”
The sources also said this plan could see Mnangagwa being president for one or two terms before passing on the baton to Chiwenga and eventually Grace.
Sources also said the Mnangagwa faction has done its homework and conducted a countrywide survey to assess whether Grace could oust Mujuru through nominations or in the proposed secret ballot at congress.
“A survey has already been completed and shows Grace has the potential to defeat Mujuru,” a source said. “After that things will be sorted out properly.”
Grace’s surprise entry into Zanu PF politics has, however, complicated matters in the party and heavily divided it. Sources say Zanu PF politburo members close to Mugabe, including Cephas Msipa, have been actively trying to intervene to ensure the party does not split after congress.
“There are so many problems and several officials, including Msipa, have been trying to ensure the explosive situation does not spin out of control and break the party,” one official said. “Mugabe seems determined to push Grace to the top to work with Mnangagwa to protect his own interests.”
The move, seen as similar to former South African leader Kgalema Motlanthe’s suicidal attempt to oust President Jacob Zuma from the helm at the ANC Mangaung conference in 2012, could have far-reaching implications for Zanu PF.
It could lead to events similar to what happened in the aftermath of the ANC conference in Polokwane in 2007 when former president Thabo Mbeki’s defeated allies broke away from the party to form Cope which has, however, declined into oblivion.