LYRICS of the song Sink or swim by Lewis Watson, a young English singer-songwriter, ring true for Vice-President Joice Mujuru as she fights to retain her position at a time a faction led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is piling pressure on her after roping in President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to oust her at congress in December.
The lyrics go:
I see the evil in their eyes
I hear the lies behind their grin
They wander in the dark
Do not have a heart
Don’t let them take it away
Brace for impact!
… So save yourself
Because the undertow (current) is rising high
It’s sink or swim
Events within Zanu PF show the Mnangagwa faction is fine-tuning its plot to topple Mujuru, and lately Grace has become the ace up its sleeve.
The Zanu PF congress on December 9-14 increasingly looks like it will be Mujuru’s biggest battle of her political career as she risks sinking into political oblivion if she fails to retain her position, political observers say.
“It’s now becoming clear that the fight for the vice-presidency will be the highlight of the congress. It’s a winner-takes-all battle. A few months ago Mujuru seemed to be in cruise control, but Grace’s entry into politics has stirred the waters, catching her completely off guard,” said a Zanu PF official.
“She is facing a big battle now and the fight for all other positions has been dwarfed. At one time, it seemed the most vicious fight would be for the national chair, but the dynamics have completely changed.”
There are indications that Grace will challenge Mujuru for the vice-presidency, with the support of the Mnangagwa faction.
The battle for Mujuru’s position, Zanu PF officials say, has become so vital because whichever faction wins will most likely come into power should Mugabe (90) retire or fail to finish his current term, for whatever reason, which ends in 2018. Mugabe has been slowed down by a combination of old age and ill-health.
Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo is expected to land the other vice-president’s position because his challengers, Phelekezela Mphoko, Kembo Mohadi and Ambrose Mutinhiri, are relatively weak and do not hold positions of authority in the Zanu PF hierachy which they could use as a springboard.
The country’s constitutional arrangements favour Mujuru to succeed Mugabe should she retain her position.
Currently, a special bridging provision introduced into the Sixth Schedule of the new constitution, which states that “the vacancy in the office of president must be filled by a nominee of the political party which the president represented when he or she stood for election”, governs how Mugabe’s successor will be chosen.
The party is expected to notify the speaker of the National Assembly of its chosen nominee within 90 days, but in the interregnum the vice-president who was last appointed acting president on account of the president’s absence or ill-disposition assumes this role.
Zanu PF officials believe should Mujuru reclaim the position, and Khaya Moyo lands the vice-presidency, they will work together to get the former into power.
But the officials believe should Grace or any other candidate sponsored by the Mnangagwa faction land the position, they are likely to use the period to consolidate power in a similar manner that Mujuru would, putting them in the driving seat to claim the presidency.
Mujuru is the Zanu PF second secretary, meaning she is second to Mugabe both in the party and government, and would retain the position if she wins at congress.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Professor Eldred Masunungure said the December congress was very critical not only to Mujuru, but for everyone eyeing senior positions.
“It’s a critical if not a decisive congress,” he said. “It’s like the last supper congress in the sense that it is likely to be the last congress that the incumbent presides over as the president and first secretary of Zanu PF. It’s imperative that those that are keen to get critical positions do so at this congress and that may also be the motive behind the First Lady’s entry into politics.”
Masunungure said if Mujuru loses her position at congress, it may not necessarily be the death of her political career, but she would require a lot of time, possibly up to 10 years, to bounce back into serious reckoning.
He also said it was not cast in stone that whoever wins the vice-presidency would take over from Mugabe given the many dynamics at play in Zanu PF.
“We also have to consider that politics does not move in a linear direction; if it did, Mujuru would not be struggling as she would be the natural successor,” he said.
But Zanu PF insiders say if Mujuru loses, she is gone.
Grace has not declared her interest in squaring up to Mujuru, but she has attacked her several times at her rallies with the aid of her sponsor Oppah Muchinguri, who is spearheading her campaign.
Youths aligned to Mnangagwa — among them Gokwe-Nembudziya Zanu PF MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena and former youth deputy secretary Edison Chakanyuka — have said Grace should be elevated to the vice-presidency.
The Mnangagwa faction recruited Grace after realising they had lost a lot of ground to the Mujuru faction which had seized control of the Zanu PF politburo, central committee and provincial co-ordinating committees, placing it in good stead to lead the party.
Zanu PF insiders say Grace was willing to jump onto the political boat so that she gets an influential position which would enable her to protect her family and business interests when Mugabe is no longer in office.
She has reportedly fallen out with Mujuru and does not believe Mujuru will protect her interests when Mugabe is no longer in power.
Grace’s entry has rattled the Mujuru faction as it was a bolt from the blue, leaving the veteran politician at sea as congress approaches and her waterloo looms.