Tensions are high in Zanu PF as rumors swept the Zimbabwean capital of Harare that First Vice President Joseph Msipa, 85, died following a stroke earlier this year, and senior government officials struggled to confirm his death, leaving it to the rumour mills to feed the information starved nation.
A source within the the government spy agency revealed to our reporter that Vice President Joseph Msika died on Saturday night, not Tuesday as widely reported.
Robert Mugabe is now battling to hold the centre as warring parties in the Zanu PF tension-gripped leadership become openly hostile to each other, our sources revealed last night.
It is believed that the Emmerson Mnangagwa’s faction is already pushing for Obert Mpofu, the Minister of Mines as the next Vice President in line with the ZAPU-ZANU PF Unity Accord and last night extra security was beefed around him as threats were openly made against his life.
Foisting Obert Mpofu has infuriated the party Chairman John Nkomo, the likely candidate and a politburo meeting called on Sunday to discuss funeral arrangements failed to bring the warring parties together with some members walking out.
A prominent analyst has also told Newsreel that National Healing Minister John Nkomo, the front runner, is battling a serious form of cancer and has been undergoing intensive chemotherapy.
Mugabe would be risking appointing someone whose health is on the decline he said. Another dark horse in the race to succeed Msika is Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo. Commentators say Moyo is far more senior than Mpofu in the ZAPU hierarchy, and Mugabe would be risking the fury of his ZAPU allies if he went for the junior official.
In terms of the succession dynamics, both the Mnangagwa and Mujuru factions would like to have a stake in the Vice Presidency with a view to having one of their candidates eventually replacing Mugabe. ZANU PF is due to have its 5-yearly congress in December to choose a new leadership that will also run in the next elections.
Last December the ZANU PF Midlands and Masvingo provinces were virtually ‘falling over each other’ in their rush to endorse Mugabe as life president, effectively blocking any challenge to his leadership. The 85-year old dictator used in-fighting within his party to justify his continued stay as the only unifying force.
A state broadcasting source said official notification of the death had been received – but with instructions to embargo or withhold the news until certain conditions were met, leaving Zimbabwe in a state resembling the North Korean scenario were Communist leader Kim ll Sung is believed to have died a few moths ago, but the nation has not been informed.
Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said Msika was "in a bad state but he is not dead.” Kasukuwere is now Robert Mugabe’s favoured runner spying on Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions.
Asked for comment ZANU-PF Deputy Spokesman Ephraim Masawi instead said Harare is known for rumor-mongering and that talk of Msika’s death was misinformed though he had not been well for some months.
High-level sources including those in Robert Mugabe’s office confirmed Msika had died.
Government sources said Msika, who had served as vice president since December 1999 after the death of liberation leader Joshua Nkomo, head of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union which was merged with Mr. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union in 1987.
Msika, who suffered a stroke in June and underwent an operation in South Africa, had been in and out of the hospital in recent months, sources said. He was reported to have asked to step down, but acceded to Mr. Mugabe’s request that he stay on to promote stability.
Several Zanu-PF stalwarts including Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa popularly known as Ngwena – Crocodile- and Vice-President Joice Mujuru, have been jostling to get the country’s top office after President Mugabe’s departure.
Mnangagwa has always been touted as a potential successor to Mugabe, described as shrewd and ruthless.
Ahead of the Zanu PF congress in December 2004, Mnangagwa had the backing of six provinces, which all wanted him to become the next First Secretary of Zanu PF and eventually President of the Republic of Zimbabwe if he could win against the MDC.
The botched Tsholotsho saga was masterminded by ex-Information and Publicity Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo and then Moyo has remained active as chief strategist for Mnangagwa.
The Joyce Mujuru-led faction wants to assume the leadership of Zanu PF, backed by her husband, General Solomon Mujuru and recently it has been trailing the battle to control party structures.
Sometime this year Zanu PF Politburo announced that it was setting up committees to address the issue of succession within the party.
The party also announced that a committee to deal with ideological issues had also been set up, but in a dramatic announcement Mnangagwa, one of the party’s high ranking official re-ignited the party’s succession debate by declaring that his province Midlands had endorsed Robert Mugabe as the supreme leader ahead of the party’ youth, women and national congress.
A political analyst in Harare said, the announcement was pointer of simmering tensions in the embattled Zanu PF party and the death of Vice President Joseph Msika, has thrown the political dynamics into a jungle, pausing a challenge, not only to Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, but to the coalition government and the country’s stability.