Battle over Mnangagwa ascendancy intensifies

ABOUT five months into the aftermath of the controversial Zanu PF congress held last December which led to the dramatic rise of Emmerson Mnangagwa to the vice-presidency with the brutal removal and eventual expulsion of his rival Joice Mujuru, internal resistance within Zanu PF to his ascendancy is intensifying amid clear indications two realigned rival factions are now at each other’s throats over President Robert Mugabe’s divisive succession problem.

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Owen Gagare

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Mnangagwa

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The situation is now fast deteriorating due to fears and swirling speculation Mugabe (91) will for health or old age reasons fail to complete his term or resign before his tenure expires, a remote possibility.

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Adding fuel to the fire are fresh Zanu PF constitutional amendments which would potentially trigger a free-for-all situation if Mugabe goes whichever way and an extraordinary congress is called to endorse a new candidate for the 2018 general elections chosen through a national vote and secret ballot.

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This election would be supervised by the newly-established Zanu PF Election Commission “responsible for conducting elections to all organs of the party”,taking over a role formerly played by administration and commissariat. The nine-member electoral commission is to be appointed by the party president.

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According to the new amended clauses, Article 7, Section 35 1(a) the central committee shall consist of a “President and First Secretary, nominated buy at least two provinces and elected nationally by party members for his or her probity, integrity and commitment to the party, its ideology, values, principles and policies”.

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This arrangement creates new dynamics and volatile circumstances of choosing a new party leader as hundreds of thousands will now vote in internal primaries. In the past, the Zanu PF constitution stipulated that any candidate receiving nomination by six or more of the 10 provinces would be deemed directly elected to become party leader. Congress endorsed the nomination.

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The introduction of a national secret ballot to elect a party leader creates new conditions. The new process is as follows: a party presidential candidate first needs now secure the nomination of only two provinces to be eligible to contest internal elections nationwide through a secret ballot. The PCCs sit as electoral colleges for this purpose.

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The two rival Zanu PF factions – one led by Mnangagwa and the other initially by First Lady Grace Mugabe – which ganged up to remove Mujuru are now at each other’s throats as the battle to succeed Mugabe takes a new twist.

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Even though five months ago it appeared Mnangagwa was assured of being Mugabe’s successor and although he may clearly still be the front-runner, plots to throw spanners at the works to thwart his ascendancy are thickening by the day.

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The rival group, which had gathered around Grace although she is now understood to be distancing herself gradually from it, is bitter that it worked hard to ensure his rise, but was not rewarded for its efforts. Its members also say Mnangagwa has now become inaccessible and isolated.

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Sources in the group are also complaining Mnangagwa remains a regional leader mainly focusing on the Midlands and Masvingo provinces instead of becoming a national figure and mobilising the party around Mugabe to create a national social base for himself. They also say the vice-president is also failing to fully capitalise on his powerful posts – vice-president, minister of justice and rotating party chair – to position himself to succeed Mugabe.

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“He is basically failing to ride on the crest of Mugabe’s perceived wave of support which was demonstrated during the 2013 elections and December congress,” said a politburo member in the group.

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The group also further claims Mnangagwa is doing little to address his main weakness – lack of grassroots support. They say he should be speaking more on business and economic issues which are the most pressing matters at the moment.

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“Unfortunately, he is not coming out as a leader representing the future because he is neither showing that he has new ideas nor looking ahead by continuing to cling to an old mindset, policies and even legislation representing the past,” said another politburo member.

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“For instance, his position on criminal defamation shows that he is someone who is determined to cling to the past by even defending laws incompatible with the new constitution.”

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Mnangagwa’s rivals further say he remains firmly rooted in his traditional support base and circles which revolve around the likes of Josiah Hungwe, Oppah Muchinguri, July Moyo, Larry Mavima and Owen Ncube, among others.

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However, the Mnangagwa faction has shot back, saying the clique that worked with Grace is too ambitious and does not have structures to demand a lion’s share of the spoils. “The problem is that they want Mnangagwa in their pocket. He is a veteran and cannot be anyone’s puppet,” said a close Mnangagwa ally. “He has been in the party for over 51 years, much longer than (Saviour) Kasukuwere (party’s national commissar)’s age.

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“If you look at that clique of Jonathan Moyo, Patrick Zhuwao, Kasukuwere and their so-called G40, none of them have a national support or power base; they are constituency-based up-and-coming politicians who are just power-hungry.

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“The difference between Mnangagwa and his new rivals is that he has the state machinery, state institutions and party structures which he has worked with for more than 35 years.”

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Senior Zanu PF officials and state actors seen as harbouring presidential ambitious include Mnangagwa, Kasukuwere, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga, who recently obtained a PhD at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and co-Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko currently going around the country appearing as he is a man of the people, while trying to build a national support base. Grace is also seen as an ambition greenhorn. – The Independent