PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, who is increasingly leaning towards Zanu PF’s G40 faction, is said to be agonising on whether to keep or remove Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa as purges of his allies intensify. Insiders say Mugabe will for now continue to purge Mnangagwa’s allies in a bid to isolate and weaken him in the succession battle, but is unlikely to boot his deputy out of the party and government, Zimbabwe Independent has heard.
The G40 faction, which has coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe, has desperately been trying to push Mnangagwa out of the vice-presidency using the Zanu PF Women’s League, which has been calling for the return of the women’s quota in the party constitution.
But Zanu PF insiders say Mugabe still values Mnangagwa and does not want him kicked out of the party for now although he has approved the purging of his allies.
“Mugabe has a clear plan which is basically to isolate and weaken Mnangagwa by purging his close and most vocal allies. This is the reason why the likes of (former war veterans minister Christopher) Mutsvangwa and (former women’s league secretary for administration Esphinah) Nhari have been purged,” a senior Zanu official said.
“The axe is hanging over the heads of a number of his lieutenants and most of them are likely to face the same fate as Mutsvangwa. But for the time being, Mnangagwa is not in immediate danger unless of course he tries to fight back recklessly.”
The insiders said, among the many reasons, Mugabe wants to keep Mnangagwa close for his loyalty over a 50-year period, his ability to undertake difficult and controversial tasks, including election related matters and stabilising the security sector.
Mugabe is aware that Mnangagwa enjoys the backing of many senior security officers, particularly from the military.
But officials, however, also said Mugabe was under intense pressure from Grace not just to weaken but also to remove Mnangagwa.
The vice-president was seen as shoo-in to take over from Mugabe when he leaves office for whatever reason, but has suffered serious reversals at the hands of the G40 faction, which is using Grace’s proximity to the president as its major weapon.
The G40 faction has vowed to derail Mnangagwa’s presidential bid and hopes to either have him removed from the vice-presidency by the time the country holds the next general elections in 2018.
Alternatively, the faction hopes to substantially weaken Mnangagwa to such an extent that he will not have enough support to propel him to the helm of the party should an extraordinary congress be called to choose the Zanu PF presidential candidate for 2018 if Mugabe fails to stand.
G40, though, is pushing for Mugabe’s candidature in 2018.
“What is clear, however, is that Mnangagwa is likely to have a bumpy ride in the party and in government ahead of the 2018 elections although getting rid of him will not be as easy as it was when Mugabe expelled (former vice-president Joice) Mujuru. The military factor has been one of Mnangagwa’s major strengths,” said an official.
Military bosses, including the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Constantine Chiwenga, are backing Mnangagwa’s presidential bid, hence the frosty relations between Grace and the military.
At a rally in Chiweshe last month, Grace attacked Mnangagwa and military bosses insinuating they were behind the attempted bombing of her dairy in Mazowe and to kill her son.
Mugabe blasted security sector bosses for interfering in Zanu PF’s internal affairs while addressing delegates at the party’s conference in Victoria Falls in December last year.