PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is reportedly in a dilemma over how to solve the succession crisis in Zanu PF as he finds himself caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place on whether to stick with the popular support which Vice-President Joice Mujuru has, or Emmerson Mnangagwa who controls handy instruments of cohesion.
As a result, sources said this week, Mugabe is increasingly looking beyond the two feuding prospects and may have settled for his wife Grace, who is already on an aggressive nationwide campaign trail.
Over the years, Mujuru has consistently demonstrated that she can beat Mnangagwa in Zanu PF internal elections, although the polls have always been marred by allegations of rigging, vote buying and other glaring anomalies.
In 2009 she crushed Oppah Muchinguri, who was sponsored by the Mnangagwa faction in the race for the vice-presidency, initially by nine provinces to one, before Masvingo which had nominated Muchinguri changed its stance and supported Mujuru, handing her a clean sweep.
Mujuru was influential in the party’s decision to dissolve District Coordinating Committees in 2012 after Mnangagwa had gained an upper hand, before romping to a controversial victory last year in crucial provincial executive elections marred by a host of irregularities, thereby giving her firm control of structures, including the politburo and provinces going into the make-or-break December congress.
She also has the majority of members in the central committee.
The Mujuru faction also beat the Mnangagwa faction in Zanu PF’s primary elections ahead of last year’s general elections, resulting in the group having the larger representation in parliament.
A senior Zanu PF official said that Mujuru enjoys the popular support is undisputable, although Mnangagwa has close association with an influential military clique, which could be crucial in determining how the Zanu PF succession matrix is resolved.
“For Mugabe, popular support is important and he is aware that Mujuru enjoys it. Mnangagwa does not have popular support and Mugabe is not so sure he would beat (opposition MDC-T president) Morgan Tsvangirai in an election. Mnangagwa though, unlike Mujuru, is close to the security establishment, having spent many years presiding over security ministries and has particularly good relations with the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga,” said a senior Zanu PF official.
“This (relations with the security establishment) is also very important to Mugabe. Ideally he would have preferred someone who enjoys both the popular support and military support. He is now caught up between the popular candidate internally (Mujuru) and the Zanu PF strongman (Mnangagwa), but crucially none of the two has all the attributes he prefers. Hence his wife Grace’s emergence on the political scene.”
Mujuru and Mnangagwa have been in cabinet since Independence in 1980. Mnangagwa was the country’s first State Security minister, a position he held between 1980 and 1988. He used the time to forge a close relationship with the intelligence services.
He also served as Minister of Defence during the inclusive government era, which drew him closer to hardline military commanders. Even as Justice minister in the late 1990s, Mnangagwa had good relations with the military establishment and worked with them during the Democratic Republic of Congo war.
Mnangagwa has always had close relations with Mugabe. He has acted as Mugabe’s chief election agent in several elections. Before that he was his personal aide during the liberation struggle.
Despite falling out with late retired General Solomon Mujuru, Mugabe is reportedly grateful to the Mujurus for helping him ascend to the helm of Zanu PF during the liberation war.
“Although he has not publicly stated his position, Mugabe seems to have taken the position that his wife could be a viable alternative candidate. She lacks popular support and appeal, but her ‘meet-the-people’ rallies are meant to precisely address that,” said an official.
“If she manages to rally people behind her and manages to secure the vice-presidency, the plan would be that he teaches her the ropes while helping her to consolidate power and bring the state apparatus on her side before leaving her on the throne.”
Grace, recently conferred with a doctorate by the University of Zimbabwe under controversial circumstance, is on a mission to build her national profile and appeal to the grassroots through her “meet-the-people” tour, which her critics believe are in fact thinly-veiled campaign rallies ahead of the congress in violation of politburo resolution.
The First Lady has also met members of the Women’s League, Youth League, chiefs and church leaders as part of her efforts to reach out to the people.