Succession madness must end

TOMORROW President Robert Mugabe and his marauding band of loyalists, fronted by the women and youth leagues, take their nationwide political roadshow to Gwanda where they are expected to reinforce their messaging around Zanu PF succession power struggle issues.

Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya

This has been the theme at their rallies in Marondera, Mutare, Masvingo and Chinhoyi.

Even at women’s national assembly meeting at the party headquarters last month, the same theme applied. In fact, Mugabe and his wife Grace came out more aggressively on succession there.

Grace demanded that Mugabe must now anoint a successor. Mugabe attacked some military commanders for interfering in his succession politics, warning some of their manoeuvres bordered on a coup.

He went on to say he will soon reconfigure the Zanu PF presidium by bring in a woman to make his deputies three or maintain the two, meaning the removal of either Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa or his counterpart Phelekezela Mphoko.

The discourse was clearly framed around the succession issue, as they sought to catalyse the process towards denouement.

It is becoming increasingly clear Mugabe wants Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi to succeed him. There seems to be a strategy which Mugabe and his wife are rolling out gradually to prepare the red carpet for Sekeramayi.

Whatever the plan, the trouble is that resolution of the Mugabe succession conflict alone won’t be enough to put Zimbabwe on a sustainable recovery path. There is thus a need for people to think beyond succession — about what is to be done going forward after Mugabe.

Resolving the Zanu PF succession problem and holding elections next year, without a broad-based consensus plan of action or arrangement, on the way forward won’t help much.

It is clear the succession battle would be divisive and messy, so there would be a need to pick up the piece afterwards. The elections outcome will as usual be disputed, and the legitimacy crisis won’t go away.

It seems evident from all the foregoing that the ship of the state, and all those sailing on it, whether with Mugabe or his successor as the captain, is heading into deeply troubled waters. It might be shipwrecked by political storms ahead, sinking or breaking up.

The succession struggle has led not only to chaos in the ruling party, but also to paralysis in government, and the distinct possibility that Zimbabwe is gradually moving from a fragile to a failed state, which is a dangerous development.

Consider the economic implosion, characterised by company closures, low production, job losses, declining exports, trade or current account deficit, liquidity crunch, cash crisis, among other problems, then it becomes clear resolving the succession conundrum and holding elections alone would not be enough.

That is why a convergence of forces and minds is needed to craft a recovery plan beyond Zanu PF and opposition politics, as well as elections, which only help to fuel and not resolve the problem.

The most worrying issue at the moment is that there is no national response to the national crisis. There are a series of actions among citizens, political parties, government, civil society, and regional and international players, which are not necessarily coordinated and linked to produce an all-inclusive outcome.

It is not in doubt that Zimbabwe has deep economic difficulties, but underlying all the problems is the even more serious political predicament. There is leadership failure and crisis everywhere.

Those in power have no viable ideas, while those who have ideas have no power to make a difference. And the country is running on autopilot and memory, not imagination and leadership. This is what the Research Advocacy Unit (Rau) observed in its latest report.

Rau says research on transitions from authoritarian rule to democracy suggests that many successful transitions unfold incrementally and that external players, as well as key internal political leaders, can play an instrumental role in this process.

This is what Zimbabwe needs to navigate this turbulent transition.

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