2018 poll rumble: Mujuru Vs Mugabe

HARARE – With President Robert Mugabe’s warring Zanu PF having officially split into two bitterly opposed formations, it is becoming more and more likely that former Vice President Joice Mujuru will be among the stellar cast of candidates who will take the nonagenarian head on in the eagerly anticipated 2018 presidential elections.

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Analysts and insiders who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the recent splitting of the party into Zanu PF Mugabe and the “original” Zanu PF led by Mujuru, amid much acrimony and bloodletting, meant that the prospects of reconciling the two factions any time soon were “slim to non-existent”.

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This, they said, meant that Mugabe was in all likelihood set to face Mujuru and indefatigable opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the crunch 2018 presidential poll if the nonagenarian sought re-election then as the country’s leader.

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“The die is cast my brother and it’s too late to stop the Rumble in the Jungle that will be the election in 2018 between President Mugabe or his proxy Ngwena (Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa) and Mai Mujuru,” said a top Zanu PF official who requested anonymity.

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“The third leg of this titanic battle will, of course, be Tsvangirai who as everyone knows beat Gushungo cleanly in the 2008 elections and will once again be running,” the official added.

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Senior researcher for Southern Africa for Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga, said Mujuru had been a minister for 24 years and a vice president for 10 years, which meant that she had a significant following within Zanu PF and across Zimbabwe generally.

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“Most of those fighting and opposing her in Zanu PF are mafikizolos (johnny-come-latelies) who have no support base in Zanu PF and who rely on smear campaigns, violence and the use of sections of the security forces to bulldoze and impose their will upon Zanu PF structures.

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“If Amai Joice Mujuru is given a fair chance in the absence of persecution and harassment, then it can be said with fair certainty that she is a front runner in an open, democratic process.

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“But opposition forces are better off coming together to form a grand coalition to push for democratic reforms ahead of 2018,” Mavhinga said.

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Stephen Chan, professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said he was unsure at the moment that Tsvangirai would recover sufficiently to make a big impact in the 2018 elections.

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“His own party has split and he has made no real dent as an opposition leader since the last elections. Any viable opposition will come from Mutasa and Mujuru, but there is a long road until 2018 and many deals and accommodations could be made.

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“Even if not, Mugabe’s Zanu PF will command state machinery and the Double M Zanu PF (Mujuru and Mutasa) almost none. So the advantages of incumbency will remain. Also, what choice wil electors have between two nationalist parties of exactly the same origins and with very similar policies?” he said.

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Piers Pigou, project director at the International Crisis Group, said: “If I was a betting man I would not put money on either (Mugabe and Mujuru). My sense is that Zanu PF might be in real trouble if a successor was not firmly in place. It (Mugabe extending his rule) is simply not feasible, apart from seeming to be a cruel imposition on a very old man!

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“As for whether Mujuru would provide a real contest, much would depend on her resource base and ability to mobilise and maintain support between now and 2018, and what capacity Zanu PF has to leverage off its continued incumbency, its ability to manipulate electoral processes to its advantage as we witnessed in 2013, and I suppose whether there would be a willingness to employ violence or intimidation tactics as it has done when faced with serious political competition in the past.”

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Pigou said Mujuru’s entry into the race was likely to split the traditional Zanu PF vote, which would certainly be of assistance to the MDC formations. But the latter could “trip itself up again” if various formations, along with other opposition parties, didn’t find a common platform that would inspire the electorate to support them.

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“So, I don’t think the die is cast at all, although it is evident from ongoing purges that the current leadership of Zanu PF is keen to continue the process of neutering real and perceived opponents from the Mujuru camp.

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“At the end of the day, whilst this may consolidate the incumbents, it is unclear what this means in terms of the overall health and support for the party. By-elections will provide some indication, I suppose,” Pigou said.

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He added that another critical determining factor for any election outcome would be the role that would be played by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, and whether the electoral body had a credible leadership.

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Joy Mabenge, regional co-ordinator for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said there was an assumption that Mugabe would be available in 2018 and that he would still be within “the requisite capacities to contest and head the country at 94”.

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“That assumption may be a fallacy given the fact that all forces of nature relating to him are now clearly pulling in the opposite direction. There is a real possibility that Mujuru may actually bounce back into Zanu Patriotic Front as its leader before 2018.

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“However, if we go by the assumption that Mugabe will still be there and fit for purpose in 2018, then a Mujuru presidential candidacy as a head of a faction of Zanu will most likely be more of a gift to the MDC than it would be to Mugabe, assuming that die-hard MDC supporters and die-hard Zanu PF supporters remain (by numbers) constant and do not swing.

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“History has taught us that splinter factions cannot and will not be able to easily create their own social base, but will instead want to tap, first and foremost, from the pond they are splitting from, before they try, with difficulty, to tap from other ponds.

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“The reality is that the pool of voters is neither elastic nor expansive and therefore a split of votes is more likely,” Mabenge said.

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Gladys Hlatywayo, a civil rights activist and political analyst, said it was difficult to give a prognosis because electoral outcomes in Zimbabwe had less to do with real support on the ground.

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“Allegations of rigging and absence of a level playing field make it difficult to point with precision to the outcome of these processes.

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“What is clear though is that Zanu PF is now in a serious quandary. The once homogeneous liberation movement is now reduced to a shadow of itself with news of expulsions and suspensions making headlines each day.

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“This, coupled with an ageing leader, will be the Achilles heel of Zanu PF. The former vice president is a contender in the race although there is still no empirical evidence to prove her chances.

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“Based on lived experiences of previous elections, it might be strategic for all voices against Zanu PF to coalesce and collaborate towards 2018.

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“There is a real opportunity for change in 2018 but it depends on what opposition political parties choose to do between now and 2018 and I would argue that working together will be the game changer,” she said,

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But George Shire, a UK-based Zimbabwean scholar, said Mujuru did not have “any hope in heaven, earth or hell to dislodge the Zanu PF machine within or outside of it”.

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“Dwelling on their (Mujuru camp) fate and lost fortunes is a waste of time. As for Morgan Tsvangirai, he failed to build on 2008 and has failed to build a coalition to provide an effective opposition,” he said. – Daily News