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Succession fire still glowing

IN the aftermath of Zanu PF’s historic congress in which the force of naked coercion was used in the internal power struggle, fuelled by President Robert Mugabe’s unresolved succession, amid purges, the bloodbath continues as shown by this week’s firing of Vice-President Joice Mujuru and eight ministers.


Mujuru, whose faction was disorganised, paralysed and strangled to suffocation, was cheekily replaced with her rival, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who won’t relinquish his ministerial position, ensuring he will also remain leader of government business in parliament. Mnangagwa will also chair Zanu PF on a rotating basis with his counterpart, Phelekezela Mphoko.

With Mugabe having consolidated power to halt his faltering grip at the helm, Mnangagwa and Mphoko, who have strong military and security backgrounds, reinforce the new Zanu PF presidium which resembles a strongman’s club.

Those trying to figure out the direction of Zimbabwean politics following a brutal succession fight in the run up to congress and subsequent relentless tumultuous developments might find out that the victors have only managed an inconclusive victory.

It would be useful to put things in their historical and contemporary context, while taking a broader view of the situation. Zanu PF has a long history of militarised politics and succession struggles, and so Mugabe’s appointments must be seen in that context.

As stated here before, the Zanu PF congress last weekend proved to be about one thing and one thing alone in the final analysis: Mugabe’s self-preservation.
Events in the run up to congress and during the occasion showed Mugabe was behind the removal of Mujuru whom he feared had become too powerful and ambitious to constitute a threat to him. Hence, Mujuru had to be removed at all costs.

Grace Mugabe initially became the stalking horse which her husband, backed by vested interests, used to remove her. The strategy was to keep Mugabe safely ensconced in power and Grace, who has a vested interest, was used to spearhead the tactical onslaught while the president remained the taskmaster.

Mugabe, however, did not want Mujuru, a freedom fighter and long-time comrade who regarded him like a father, to be removed in that brutal way as he later admitted, but once Grace, who seems to be now running the show, crossed the Rubicon, there was no going back.

Mugabe would have wanted to remove Mujuru in a smart way; without too much political drama, but then Grace went too far. She also admitted that at congress but tried to justify it, saying she was vicious because she had been provoked.

However, the bottom-line is Mugabe was behind the plot to remove Mujuru to stop her faction’s political juggernaut which would have left her as shoo-in to be his successor. Mugabe was doing all this for himself and not anyone — he wants to be president for life to avoid being held to account for his excesses in power.

Incidentally and in the process of all this there was a convergence of interest between different elements within Zanu PF: Mugabe wanted to ensure he remains safely entrenched in power, Grace mainly wanted to ensure she protects her personal and family interests, while Mnangagwa took advantage of the events to help fight Mujuru to sink her succession plans and rebound. Of course, there was an overlap of interests.

Yet despite all this the congress outcome was inconclusive: Mugabe’s succession remains unresolved and there will be more rounds of infighting going ahead, first within the winning camp which has various and even conflicting agendas, and later after Mugabe is gone.

To avoid prolonged uncertainty and exacerbation of the current problems, Zanu PF should have decided conclusively at congress who will replace Mugabe were he to be incapacitated, not seek re-election in 2018 or die. The embers of succession remain smouldering and a conflagration might reignite anytime consuming the party and the country.

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