Zanu PF succession race reaches fever pitch

As the Sunday deadline looms, Zanu PF insiders say three possible lists for the presidium have emerged, making it one of the most overcrowded contests in the party’s history.

Sources say the groups led by long-time rivals — legal secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa and politburo heavyweight retired General Solomon Mujuru — are locked in an intensifying power struggle to secure nomination of their candidates into the party’s top leadership positions.

However, there is a third group of former PF-Zapu members who are fighting for the co-vice-presidency and retention of the chairman’s post which is under threat from original Zanu PF members who now want to seize the powerful position.

The grabbing of the chairmanship from Zapu by Zanu PF could rekindle internal political tensions between the two groups which have always been uneasy bedfellows and which could completely decimate Zanu PF as a force in the Matabeleland region.

The nomination of the top four elected positions comes against a background of vicious wrangling among the two main factions, characterised by behind-the-scenes lobbying and formation of alliances to gain control of the presidium.

The insiders say the Mujuru faction is pushing for President Robert Mugabe at the helm with Joice Mujuru and Naison Ndlovu as his deputies and Obert Mpofu in the chairman’s position. Despite not being nominated by the Zapu caucus Ndlovu yesterday said he was in the running for vice-president.

As a result Zanu PF acting national political commissar Richard Ndlovu is today expected to come out in the open lambasting Naison Ndlovu for unprocedurally continuing to present himself as a candidate.

Mpofu is also expected to fire a salvo at party chairman John Nkomo in a statement over  the fight   for  the  vice-presidency. Nkomo is struggling to pin down the vice-president’s  post which is vulnerable due to internal divisions. The  Mujuru faction is still trying to persuade Mpofu to drop out in favour of  Didymus Mutasa for chairman.

The Mnangagwa camp, which fought and lost the battle for top positions in the run up to the 2004 congress, in reality wants Mugabe as president, Mujuru and John Nkomo as his deputies and Didymus Mutasa as the chairman.

Some say the Mnangagwa group could alternatively come up with Mugabe, Nkomo and Oppah Muchinguri to challenge Mujuru for vice-president and Mutasa for chairman. However, the group could also field Mnangagwa for chairmanship if an opportunity arises. While some in the Mnangagwa faction prefer Muchinguri to Mujuru, they fear Muchinguri would easily lose.

If Mutasa eventually becomes chairman, Mnangagwa is expected to move up to the number five position as secretary for administration.

The list from the former Zapu members has Mugabe, Mujuru, Nkomo and Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo as chairman. The Zapu caucus met recently and came up with this list.

However, in practical lobbying Moyo’s name has been dropped due to fears that he would weaken the ticket for lack of political muscle and influence. As a result Moyo is nobody’s ticket. Naison Ndlovu was not nominated but has bounced back as a candidate.

Zanu PF provinces are scheduled to meet at the weekend to select their candidates and members of the central committee. Senior provincial members interviewed by the Zimbabwe Independent said lobbying by the different camps was escalating but indications were that Mutasa might succeed in his manoeuvre unless Matabeleland provinces blocked him.

The Mnangagwa camp is claiming that it has Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Harare, Midlands, Masvingo, Manicaland and Mashonaland East supporting Mutasa for chairman.

However, this has fuelled tensions within the party as former PF-Zapu members insist the chairmanship belongs to them in terms of the parties’ understanding under the Unity Accord.

“There is an unwritten understanding or agreement that came from the 1987 unity accord talks,” said one Zapu official. “It is important to maintain that balance for the sake of protecting unity in the party. There are some ambitious people in the old Zanu PF who want to ignore that unwritten understanding.”

Another angry Zapu official said those who want to undermine the Unity Accord must come out in the open and say whether they still want the agreement or not.

“They should just say that they are no longer interested in maintaining the Unity Accord so that we know where we stand,” he said. Former Zapu members are threatening to resign en masse from Zanu PF and oppose their party from outside if positions are seized from them.

Matabeleland provinces are divided with some aligned to the Mujuru and the Mnangagwa factions.

Sources say the former top Zipra members have warned Ndlovu against aligning himself with Mpofu, whom they say will leave him hanging high and dry. Former Zipra cadres in Zanu PF and within state institutions including the army, police and intelligence are said to be increasingly restless as politicians undermine the Unity Accord, something they fear could become a major source of instability and conflict.

While Zapu members demand the positions of vice-president and chairman, a senior Zanu PF official aligned to Mnangagwa’s faction said it was not agreed during the unity talks that there should always be a balance of two each from the parties at the presidium.

“As far as I know, there is no unwritten understanding or unwritten agreement that such a balance should be maintained. What was agreed on at the unity talks is that the vice-presidency should be shared between the two former patriotic fronts,” he said.

“The chairman’s position is open to anyone wanting to contest. If you look at the party structure, the two most deserving people are Mutasa, followed by Mnangagwa. So if we want to do it in terms of seniority, these two should be the contenders for the post.”

These contestations and manoeuvres are guaranteed to leave a trail of divisions and heightened tensions within Zanu PF in their wake.