Bid to replace Msika escalates into full scale war

HARARE – THE competition to replace Zimbabwe’s vice-president, the late Joseph Msika, has intensified in Robert Mugabe’s deeply divided Zanu (PF) which faces an uncertain future if the problem remains unresolved.\r\n

The urgent need to find a suitable candidate to replace Msika has caused another wave of political infighting in Zanu (PF), guaranteeing a fresh power struggle likely to weaken further the already unstable former liberation movement, sources said.

Msika’s death had fuelled a succession battle between party chairman John Nkomo, politburo member Obert Mpofu and Bulawayo governor Cain Mathema, sources said. Zimbabwe’s ambassador to SA Simon Khaya Moyo is also in the running.

There are also behind-the-scenes efforts in Zanu (PF) to bring back former senior politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa, who quit the party last year, in protest against Mugabe’s overstaying his time in power and his failed 29-year rule.

Mugabe, 85, has been at the helm of his party for 32 years and is poised to extend his leadership by another five years at the party’s elective congress in December. Calls for Mugabe to quit have resurfaced.

But Zanu (PF) is unlikely to survive Mugabe’s departure.

Sources said Nkomo, a key member of the Zanu (PF) praesidium, was the frontrunner to replace Msika. Mpofu and Mathema were relative lightweights and Moyo is seen as a long shot. Dabengwa would have been the frontrunner had he not left the party, but he could bounce back if continuing talks succeed.

Campaigns for Msika’s position and the chairmanship, which could become vacant if Nkomo moves up, were evident at the weekend.

Nkomo and Mpofu featured in media interviews where they clearly advertised their credentials, while Mathema and Moyo wrote newspaper articles in self-praise.

Dabengwa, now interim opposition (PF) Zapu leader, has been characteristically quiet, but senior Zanu (PF) officials have approached him to return as vice-president.

The sources said while there was fierce competition for the posts, Nkomo was likely to eventually become vice-president, while Moyo would be the chairman.

The vacancies are supposed to be open to former (PF) Zapu members who are now part of Zanu (PF). (PF) Zapu and Zanu (PF) merged in 1987.

However, Dabengwa has been agitating for the dissolution of the pact, accusing Mugabe of clinging to power and failing to fulfil development needs in Dabengwa’s Matabeleland home province.

Most former (PF) Zapu members are opposed to Dabengwa’s bid to revive the party but want him to return to Zanu (PF) as vice-president.

Sources said Nkomo, Mpofu, Mathema and Moyo had been lobbying party stalwarts and war veterans to boost their bids. Dabengwa has taken a wait-and-see stance.