TINASHE KAIRIZA/ANDREW KUNAMBURA
ZANU PF stalwarts from Matabeleland region are angling to take up the Vice-Presidency left vacant after the disgraceful fall of Kembo Mohadi, who was entangled in an embarrassing sex scandal.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to announce a new Vice-President, in line with the dictates of the 1987 Unity Accord, which say that one of the two deputies should be drawn from Zapu.
The vacant position is a litmus test for Mnangagwa to see how he handles the military, tribal, gender and regional political dynamics.
Factional power tussles are also rocking the former liberation movement.
Mohadi was appointed Vice-President in 2017 following a military coup that toppled long-time dictator, the late former president Robert Mugabe. The Beitbridge godfather sheepishly resigned on Monday and accused his unnamed political nemesis for “sponsored spooking and political sabotage”.
Mohadi, however, still remains Zanu PF second secretary and it remains to be seen if Mnangagwa will appoint a State Vice-President, who does not hold a similar office at party level.
There were dramatic scenes at Wednesday’s politburo meeting, as heavyweights from Matabeleland fell over each other, trying to “bootlick Mnangagwa” as a sign of loyalty.
Politburo sources, in separate briefings this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, which was commissioned by Mnangagwa, was used as a campaign card by the jostling Matabeleland politicians.
The dramatic moments left fellow politburo members in stitches as the Matabeleland-based members went a gear up in trying to get the attention of the presidency.
“Politburo discussions centered on steps the government is taking to implement the MZWP and benefits it will bring to the people,” a Zanu PF official said.
“Interestingly, it became very clear that the comrades from Matabeleland, who are former Zapu members, came to life and fiercely tried to outsmart each other to please Mnangagwa. As a result, this agenda consumed time.”
“One would get the feeling that a Matabeleland clique found an opportunity during discussions on the water project to present themselves as potential replacements for Mohadi.”
Leading the pack was Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu, who once described himself as Mugabe’s “most obedient son”.
Party spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo, Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema and Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda seemed to be contenders.
However, politburo sources said, even senior officials were in the dark about Mnangagwa’s choices as he was playing his cards close to his chest.
Mpofu is seen as a front-runner, but top Zanu PF officials argued that the former Mines minister jumped the Zapu ship before the 1987 Unity Accord. He played an influential role during the military coup that propelled Mnangagwa to power.
On Mudenda, the source said: “He could leverage his current position as Speaker of Parliament and his long-standing association with Zapu to position himself for the vice presidency.”
“But, remember, it remains the President’s prerogative to appoint. Mudenda, within the structures of Zanu PF is viewed as lacking the political gravitas to unite the region.”
On Simon Khaya Moyo, a Zanu PF senior official said the party’s spokesperson boasted of a “relatively decent resume in Zapu having served as Nkomo’s personal assistant (PA). . . but his health challenges could be a major drawback.”
“Within Zanu PF circles, Moyo’s loyalty is questionable. You must remember that when Mnangagwa was expelled from Zanu PF in 2017, it was Moyo who read the dismissal statement. Therefore, there is talk that he could never get the job.”
Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema, sources said, is emerging as the dark horse.
“He could actually shock people. Although he does not command a huge support base, Mathema appears to be favoured by the president. He has the required liberation war credentials,” a source said.
Mnangagwa can still appoint outside Zanu PF structures, with Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander Valerio Sibanda’s name also being thrown in the hat.
But, sources said, although Sibanda was perceived a Mnangagwa loyalist because of his Midlands background, the president could hesitate doing so “due to the perception that it would fortify perceptions of militarising the State”.
Sibanda was commander of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) when the 2017 military coup was spearheaded, while Chiwenga was Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander.
“The temptation and persuasion to parachute Sibanda from the barracks to the presidium is alive. But the President is certainly mindful of the image it would create. Sibanda is Mnangagwa’s homeboy from Zhombe, Midlands. Apart from that, if he is appointed it would certainly deepen the influence of the military within leadership structures,” another Zanu PF senior official said.
And yet another factor that can influence Mnangagwa’s judgement on the vexing question could be presented by the need to appease the party’s Women’s League by appointing a female candidate, the sources added.
“The president might also see this as an opportunity to appease the women’s league by appointing one of their own but the problem is that the former Zapu does not have too many females at top level. Give me one name. The most senior female member is Sithembiso Nyoni who has no known Zipra links,” another source said.