PRSIDENT Robert Mugabe last week stunned senior Zanu PF officials in a private briefing before addressing thousands of supporters at a rally in Marondera when he tacitly endorsed Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi to succeed him, with the words: “When the sun sets, it shall rise from Mashonaland East; do you hear me?”
Sekeramayi comes from the province.
This comes amid a heated debate within Zanu PF as to who is senior in terms of history and arrival at liberation struggle front and bases between Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo stirred a hornet’s nest last week while making a presentation at Sapes Trust Policy Dialogue Forum under the topic Whither the Nationalist Project in Zimbabwe?
Although the general public seems to take it for granted that Mnangagwa is senior, Moyo rocked the boat, saying Sekeramayi was senior and would actually be a better candidate to succeed Mugabe.
Some senior Zanu PF officials this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that depending on the measure one uses, Sekeramayi could also be regarded as senior to Mnangagwa.
Officials and journalists who attended the Marondera rally said this issue came up during meetings and on the sidelines of the gathering. In one discussion, sources said, Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi found themselves talking about it, amid indications that the former arrived in Tanzania — one of the initial bases of the liberation movement — in 1963, while the latter got there a year earlier.
In terms of military training and hierarchy then, Mnangagwa is senior to Sekeramayi. He underwent training as a Zapu cadre in Egypt in 1963. However, he abandoned the training and joined Zanu at its formation that year.
Mnangagwa arrived in Tanzania through Bagamoyo training camp, Mozambique liberation movement Frelimo’s headquarters then. He was among the first Zanla cadres to undergo military training in China.
Mnangagwa was also in the first group of trained Zanla combatants to operate in Rhodesia where they blew up a locomotive near Masvingo.
He was subsequently arrested in January 1965 and jailed. However, he escaped the mandatory death sentence by a whisker because he was underage, although he served a 10-year sentence at Khami Maximum Prison near Bulawayo before being deported to Zambia upon his release.
After years in Zambia, where he even worked with Kenneth Kaunda’s Unip party and practised law, he was appointed Mugabe’s special assistant at Zanu’s Chimoio congress in 1977. In terms of who arrived first in Tanzania, some senior Zanu PF officials say it was Sekeramayi in 1962.
Sekeramayi was expelled from Goromonzi High School on July 27 1961, after taking part in protests against the settler colonial regime.
According to his parliamentary profile, on December 28 1961, with the assistance of Mugabe, he left the country to Tanzania and then overseas to join the struggle and in pursuit of further education. After initially being in the National Democratic Party (NDP), he then joined Zapu and later Zanu.
Sekeramayi was offered a scholarship to study in Czechoslovakia, where he remained until 1964, after which he left for Sweden. He attained a Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and Bachelor of Surgery (ChB) from the University of Lund in Sweden. He also got a Diploma in Tropical Medicine from Karolinska Institute, also in Sweden.
During his stay in Sweden, Sekeramayi was one of the leaders of the Zimbabwe Students’ Union mobilising political and material support for Zanu. He also served as the Zanu representative in Sweden for some years.
He received military training at Takawira Base 2 in Chimoio, Mozambique, upon his return. But in Mozambique he mainly worked as a battlefront doctor.
Both Sekeramayi and Mnangagwa were in the first Zanu executive after the ousting of its founder leader, Ndabaningi Sithole. Sekeramayi was secretary for health, while Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s special assistant.
According to Zanu PF sources, in the Marondera briefing attended by senior Zanu PF leaders, provincial officials and members of the Youth League executive — where Mugabe was flanked by Mnangagwa on one side and on the other by Zanu-PF Youth League leader Kudzanai Chipanga, followed by the First Lady Grace and Sekeramayi — Mugabe hinted Sekeramayi would succeed him, saying the “sun will rise from Mashonaland East”.
“Mugabe was briefed about the political situation in the province by provincial leaders. He then spoke on the state of the party, focussing on divisions and infighting, adding that the succession debate has turned ugly and unacceptable. He said some senior party officials were divisive and the party was now at odds along tribal lines,” a senior Zanu PF official said.
“He went on to say he was happy that the Youth League had invited him to Mashonaland East Province, adding the province that was part of the north-eastern front during the liberation war.
“Mugabe told officials present that when the sun sets, it will rise from the east. He said it twice and the second time bellowed ‘muri kuzvinzwa here?’ (do you hear me clearly?) — the sun will rise from Mashonaland East.
“People were shocked and some took it to mean when the current leader goes the new one will come from that province. It created a tense atmosphere.
People just said ‘tazvinzwa’ (we hear you). The people who were in the meeting could tell by his body language it was clearly a political statement.”
Mashonaland East province was an important front during the liberation war as it is close to the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border to the north east.
Another official said Mugabe in the briefing also said he was aware of the explosive regional and tribal dimensions of his succession power struggle and attendant political plots.
“Mugabe said he was aware of the new discourse within Zanu PF structures in which some people are now saying Zezurus have overstayed in power and must give a chance to others. He said he has heard that some people are saying it’s time up for Zezurus; Karangas must take over. He said he was aware of secret meetings being held to discuss his succession and allocation of positions,” the official said.
The Zanu PF official added that Mugabe said senior party officials and their supporters were “rushing to skin the animal before even catching it” — running ahead of themselves.
“Mugabe before he addressed supporters in the briefing used the metaphor that people were ‘rushing to skin the animal and giving each other parts before it had even been caught’ (focussing excessively on their plans or on prospective future events without paying adequate attention to the present).
He said leaders are chosen by the people, not private caucuses” the official said.
Addressing thousands of his supporters, Mugabe said since the formation of the initial liberation movement, the NDP, party leaders were elected on merit, without lobbying.
He said but now some party officials were visiting “sangomas or n’angas” (traditional healers) to secure power and positions.
“We looked at capabilities; that’s the culture we want to continue. We now have factions and some are approaching sangomas. They approach the youths and say support me, I will do certain things for you.
Izvozvo hatidi, zvonyangadza musangano, zvouraya musangano (We do not want this. It tarnishes the party, it destroys the party). To the leaders, we also say Stop It! Stop It! Stop It!” Mugabe said.
“If you are known as someone who takes sides, who holds secret meetings, don’t think people don’t see. They see. Don’t think Mugabe doesn’t see, he knows a lot, but we want people to unite.
We have a congress and we are a party with guidelines. Munhu anogona anowonekwa, akatwasanuka anowoneka (people will see a good and upright leader through his or her work) and congress will decide. That is what we want such that congress exercises its powers as outlined in the constitution.
“We don’t want to start fights before the time comes. Ndokuvhiyaka mhuka musati maibata (skinning the animal before catching it). Hamusati maibata, kurodza mapanga kuti haaa ini ndichatora bandauko, ini chidya, aewa, (You have not yet caught the animal; so you can’t say I will have the thigh, no) be at peace. The time will come, it will certainly come . . .”