AFTER emerging as practically shoo-in to succeed aging President Robert Mugabe in the aftermath of the Zanu PF’s watershed congress last December, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa is now on the ropes in the escalating internal power struggle as the ruling party opens its annual conference in Victoria Falls today.
Owen Gagare/Elias Mambo
Senior Zanu PF officials say First Lady Grace Mugabe — a stalking horse for her G40 faction which wants to front Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi — is reeling in Mnangagwa like a giant fish on a fishing rod to catch and finish him off as she did with his predecessor Joice Mujuru during last year’s acrimonious congress.
A resolute Zanu PF Women’s League deputy secretary Eunice Sandi Moyo, a top Grace ally, told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday she was confident their resolution to have a woman in the party presidium would be adopted by the conference as it has been unanimously agreed by their constituency countrywide.
Once adopted, women will then push for a party constitutional amendment using the Central Committee, the party’s supreme decision-making body in between congresses, to have Grace appointed vice-president alongside Phelekezela Mphoko, while Mnangagwa is redeployed. That would clear the path for Sekereramayi or whoever eventually leads G40.
This is the same tactic that was used to block Mnangagwa to elevate Mujuru in 2004.
However, last night the Mnangagwa faction caucused and emerged with a counter-plan.
Insiders said they will support the proposal for woman vice-president, but they want her to be from the former Zapu, meaning Mphoko, not Mnangagwa, must be sacrified.
In fact, they want Sandi Moyo to replace Mphoko to keep Mnangagwa secure.
Top officials who privately briefed the Independent this week ahead of today’s conference said the woman vice-president proposal is part of Grace and her allies’ strategy and tactics — a line of attack — carefully planned to achieve their end: to take over power after Mugabe.
The plan involves ensuring Mugabe remains in power, hence the proposal by Grace and her Women’s League allies to declare him President for Life to block Mnangagwa and clear the path for Sekeramayi, a veteran nationalist with liberation struggle credentials, experience and links with state security structures critical in the succession matrix, just like his rival. Sekeramayi is 71, while Mnangagwa is 73.
“The G40 battle plan is clear. Engage Mnangagwa and his faction in a vicious war of attrition; a prolonged period of political battle during which each side seeks to gradually wear down the other by a series of small-scale actions,” a senior Zanu PF official said. “In the process you destabilise, weaken and stymie his ascendancy, while you mobilise and get a leg up or boost by supporting Mugabe for re-election or President for Life. Mnangagwa and his group are anxious for him to go before 2018, hence their story line that the vice-president has been assured he will take over ahead of the next general elections.
“G40’s multipronged approach includes removing Mnangagwa’s key allies like it happened this week with Monica Mutsvangwa and Esphinah Nhari who have been ruthlessly dealt with for fighting Grace. Before that it was Happiness Nyakuedza in Manicaland. So vocal and aggressive Mnangagwa allies will be purged. Just watch the space.
“If Mugabe stands in 2018, then it gives the G40 a new opportunity to fight on and consolidate. So far Mnangagwa has failed to contain G40 when he should have been the rallying point behind Mugabe after congress last year. The woman’s push and other self-reinforcing measures might eventually derail and force him out.”
However, Mnangagwa’s allies say their approach, based on transitional manoeuvres rather than G40’s consolidation strategy, is different. They say they will wait for Grace and her allies to play all their cards and then launch a fierce backlash when Mugabe becomes too frail, incapacitated to lead or is gone. They will insist Mphoko must give way to a woman vice-president, not Mnangagwa.
“Let them run for now, but we will catch them in the end,” a Mnangagwa ally said.
“When the president goes, they have no chance. They are abusing their proximity to the centre of power, but things will change. Mnangagwa is not Mujuru.”
Yet for now Mnangagwa could emerge as the biggest loser at conference if women steamroll him and Mphoko digs in. On Tuesday the Women’s League adopted two key resolutions: the need for Mugabe to be declared Life President and the restoration of a woman vice-president, leaving Mnangagwa vulnerable.
Although Zanu PF is unlikely to declare Mugabe Life President, Grace’s allies say they will ensure the proposal for a woman vice-president is adopted.
Moyo said yesterday: “The women’s league has passed a resolution for 50-50 representation between men and women. As women we are serious about it. We don’t need to vigorously push for this because this is a position taken and supported by women countrywide. It’s only natural that it should be adopted.
“You must also remember that during the constitution-making exercise women were asked their views and the consensus was that they wanted gender balance. Wherever we went, the women wanted 50-50 representation and this is recognised in the new national constitution. So we are not re-inventing the wheel. We are merely asking for what we deserve.”
Moyo said demands by women were also in line with a Sadc resolutions and practices that there should be 50-50 representation of men and women in governments by 2015.
“And besides, women are the majority in Zimbabwe. There is no need for anyone to question why we want a woman vice-president or 50-50 representation. All we are doing is asking our party, and not government, to align its constitution with the national constitution because this is what people want,” she said.
“Before the national executive met, women from all over the country met on Friday last week and came up with those resolutions. So this is not a resolution from the national executives, it’s a resolution from women. We expect the resolution to be adopted by conference.”
Once adopted, Grace and her allies will pull out all the stops to ensure she becomes vice-president at Mnangagwa and not Mphoko’s expense.
The central committee, the principal organ of the party which acts on behalf of congress when it is not in session, will facilitate the process.
It has “full plenary unfettered powers to amend the constitution, if deemed necessary, subject to ratification by congress”.
Asked what would happen should the resolution by women be adopted, Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, a key G40 player and Grace ally, said: “The president will decide what to do with the resolutions.”
Although Moyo insisted the push for a woman vice-president has nothing to do with factionalism and succession, it is common cause in Zanu PF this is designed to propel Grace and her allies, while putting Mnangagwa’s faction under siege.
“Only a person who leads a faction or is involved in factions would be worried by women’s desire for 50-50 representation. But as women, we are simply asking for what we deserve,” she insisted.
Grace and allies, who include Mphoko, Jonathan Moyo, Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao, Sandi Moyo, Kudzai Chipanga, Sarah Mahoka and Sekeramayi, among others, have gained traction and momentum towards conference in their succession bid.
Mnangagwa, supported by Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga, former Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri, removed Women’s League spokesperson Monica Mutsvangwa, her husband War veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa and long-time allies such as July Moyo, Josiah Hungwe, Shuvai Mahofa and Larry Mavhima, appear to be on the ropes as shown by the removal of their allies this week.
Even the vocal and militant Chris Mutsvangwa, viciously attacked by Kasukuwere earlier this week over infighting, last night sounded subdued when asked about his wife’s removal and other latest developments in the party.
“My only comment is that the president spoke about these issues at the Central Committee (on Wednesday) and I follow his cue,” he said.