ZANU PF is likely to hold an extraordinary congress this year which will either confirm President Robert Mugabe as the party’s candidate in next year’s presidential election or elect a new leader amid revelations the nonagenarian’s health is fast deteriorating as shown by his recent holiday shuttles to Singapore for medical attention.
The Zimbabwe Independent yesterday confirmed from the state-of-the-art Gleneagles Hospital and Medical Centre in Singapore that Mugabe visited the facility during the festive season.
“The President of Zimbabwe came here a couple of times for medical attention in December and last month,” a doctor at the hospital told the Independent this week. “He set to back for reviews and further attention.”
Officials said that due to the veteran leader’s worsening health woes, the two main factions in the party — one led by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the G40 group which has coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe — want an extraordinary congress this year for different reasons.
“The Mnangagwa faction wants the extraordinary congress so that a new party leader may be chosen before elections next year, while the G40 faction is praying that Mugabe is strong enough to stand because they don’t have a candidate. The G40 faction also wants vice-presidents be elected so that Mnangagwa may be removed from his position,” a senior Zanu PF leader said.
Insiders said the Mnangagwa faction is confident that Mugabe will not be able to stand for elections because of old age and deteriorating health, and hence the need for a special congress.
The faction also believes an extraordinary congress at which Mnangagwa would be catapulted into leadership is in their interest as it ensures he becomes a shoo-in for the presidency. They fear that if Mugabe wins elections, he would purge his ambitious deputy and puts someone.
Sources said Mnangagwa’s team, which includes Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga and State Security minister Kembo Mohadi as vice-presidents, is pushing for Mugabe to go before the end of the year to allow the new leader to prepare for elections.
Sources said there could be changes, however, as some of his backers believe the team could be seen as too militant, reinforcing widely held views that Mnangagwa is a strongman. This has led to the possible inclusion of Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, who is seen as reformist and has good relations with multilateral institutions, as deputy president.
Mnangagwa is also said to be entertaining dialogue with Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa to come in as his other deputy, although officials say there is little chance that the former Zipra intelligence supremo will agree given their personal animosity towards each other due to the Gukurahundi detention and killings. Dabengwa was a victim of detention and torture in the 1980s when Mnangagwa state security minister until 1988.
“For the Mnangagwa faction, they know that there may be a high risk that Mugabe may purge him and his associates under influence from Grace, should the president contest and win the elections. Mugabe is unlikely to make such a move before the elections as it will destabilise the party. But after the polls Mujuru-like purges can occur,” another senior party official said.
Officials said the G40 faction believes Mugabe’s prolonged stay in power would give them a chance to reverse the gains made by Mnangagwa in the succession race. Mnangagwa is considered a front-runner to succeed Mugabe as he has the support of most Zanu PF politburo and central committee members.
He is also controlling cabinet and has the support of the military and war veterans.
However, G40 faction has Mugabe’s backing and controls the party’s national structures and support base.
Owing to the uncertainty over Mugabe’s future, both camps have been conducting doing some scenario-planning to prepare for possible change and contingencies.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisayi Ruhanya, in an article titled Zimbabwe Probable Scenarios and Possible Outcomes: 2017 and Beyond, said the most likely scenario “but also the worst-case scenario” is where Mugabe is in charge throughout the period under consideration.
“It is essentially a status quo scenario, but marked by the intensification of the ongoing governance maladies in both the party and government with the attendant policy incoherence and even immobilism,” he said. “At a practical level, however, and given Mugabe’s advanced age and increasing frailty, he is not likely to have the physical and mental stamina to be fully and always in charge. This is actually already happening and will be accelerated during this period. In a way, by the end of the period, it will resemble the ‘wheelchair scenario’ where Mugabe will be governing from a wheelchair. This is what both the First Lady and war veterans alluded to in November last year.”
Ruhanya said there was also a possibility of Mugabe standing and winning elections before serving until the party’s 2019 congress where he retires and anoints a successor.
“The successor is most likely to be a compromise figure, that is, neither G40 nor Lacoste, but someone accepted (or at least not hated) by both. This will mean the status quo will continue until 2019 and then the successor takes over. Given that Mugabe will still be alive, though progressively unwell, the successor will tread carefully, only making incremental changes especially in the economic arena, by seeking to normalise the situation,” he said.
Ruhanya said there was also a possibility that Mugabe would die in office anytime.
“This is a State House-to-Heroes Acre scenario and, should this happen, whether before or after elections, the chief beneficiary is most likely to be Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa,” he said. — Staff Writer.