PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s factionalism rants at his party’s national Youth League assembly meeting last Saturday suggest the ageing leader does not want anyone to succeed him indicating a thickening plot to impose his wife Grace as his successor, Zanu PF insiders say.
Wongai Zhangazha/Elias Mambo
Zanu PF insiders said Mugabe attacked his deputies Emmerson Mnangagwa as well as Phelekezela Mphoko whom he accused of forming alliances around themselves as the succession problem rears its ugly head again in the party, suggesting hidden plans.
“Mugabe attacked youth leader Lewis Matutu, the Zanu PF youth league national secretary for administration, during the briefing when he said ‘ndiwe unofamba uchiti ndiri waMnangagwa’ (you go about saying you belong to Mnangagwa),” the source said.
Ironically, it was Matutu who told Mugabe, in a stormy meeting with the youth leaders before the Zanu PF December congress that he was increasingly becoming isolated and was surrounded in the party presidium by leaders plotting to oust him.
“Mangosara mega President nekuti vamugere navo vese kutable ikoko havachakudii vanotodawo chigaro chenyu ichocho (You are now isolated Mr President because all those sitting with you at the high table — vice-president then Joice Mujuru, former secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and and national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo — no longer want you, they are plotting to unseat you,” Matutu said in August last year.
The youths then teamed up with First Lady Grace Mugabe to topple Mujuru for allegedly plotting to unseat and or assassinate Mugabe.
In his address to the youths, Mugabe said forming alliances around vice-presidents Mnangagwa and Mphoko were futile as ultimately ordinary people would decide who the next leader was.
“If you are choosing between my two vice-presidents, you are beginning your own Gamatox. They (VPs) occupy equal sphere. If you say you want this one to succeed, you are already bringing divisions to the people and this so soon after our election.”
Gamatox, a pesticide that has since been outlawed, refers to a faction led by Mujuru to succeed Mugabe in the run-up to the last Zanu PF congress. Mnangagwa and Mphoko, since their appointments as the two vice-presidents, have been engaged in a fierce battle over who is senior between the two and ultimately who would succeed Mugabe.
After the removal of Mujuru, Mnangagwa is widely seen as the front-runner to succeed Mugabe as he could become Zanu PF presidential candidate in the 2018 general elections although his bid continues to be challenged internally.
Mphoko is fighting his rival as he sought to gather damning dossiers of information to expose and nail Mnangagwa over his role in Gukurahundi massacres as part of his campaign to discredit potential rivals in the cut-throat race to succeed Mugabe well before his current appointment.
Such is Mphoko’s determination that lately he has taken to publicly rejecting the notion by some sections of society and the media that he is second vice-president and therefore under Mnangagwa.
At a public lecture at Great Zimbabwe in May, Mphoko said: “I want to make a correction before I proceed. As a Vice-President, I am still referred to as honourable. Again, we do not have a first and second Vice-President in our structures. We just have two Vice-Presidents.”
Political analyst Stanley Tinarwo said statements by Mugabe were intended to demonstrate that he was still in charge.
Said Tinarwo: “The President did not only want to show that he is still in charge, but to also show that he is aware of any schemes that may be going on behind the scenes. In part, they can also be viewed as veiled threats of expulsion in similar fashion to what happened to the former vice-president Mujuru.”
Senior researcher for Zimbabwe and Southern Africa with the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga, said: “What is becoming clear now is that Zanu PF has made a mistake that a number of governing African political parties have made, that is to concentrate all power in one individual at the expense of the organisation and democratic values.
“At its December 2014 congress, Zanu PF made changes to its constitution to give all power to Mugabe to appoint all senior party officials including his two deputies, paving way for him to be a life president.
“But what is more worrying is the real possibility that, with all the power concentrated in him, Mugabe may finally make the audacious move to establish a family dynasty by by-passing his two deputies to leave power to his wife, Grace.”