Mugabe: Mujuru has blown it

Robert Mugabe thinks his deputy and once-likely successor, vice-president Joyce Mujuru, has blown her chances to take over from him after she was caught working with Finance Minister Tendai Biti to usurp his powers on currency and exchange rate issues.

A briefing to the Sunday Times this week by senior Mugabe aides shows the president was fuming over Mujuru’s role in Biti’s bid to grab powers in the Exchange Control Act which regulates gold, currency, securities, exchange transactions, payments and debts, and import, export, transfer and the settlement of property.

The situation was worsened by the failed bid by the Mujuru faction to push for an extraordinary congress instead of the annual conference to discuss Mugabe’s future as leader of the party, his successor and the candidate in the next elections. This was resisted by the Zanu-PF politburo and central committee.

In 2007 the Mujuru camp succeeded in forcing Mugabe to call for an extraordinary congress where efforts were made to oust him. Mugabe survived and this forced two senior politburo members, Dumiso Dabengwa and Simba Makoni, to quit Zanu-PF in frustration.

"This issue of the Exchange Control Act and board members of state entities … on the surface of it seems to be merely administrative and technical, but the president is taking it seriously. While he is angry with Biti and Mujuru, the real issue is he thinks Mujuru has fluffed her succession chances," a close presidential aide said.

"Mugabe is convinced now Mujuru is not reliable and should not be allowed to take over from him because of this issue and her other controversial actions before."

Some years ago Mugabe angrily berated Mujuru on national television for allegedly plotting to oust him. This followed the publication by media and book publisher Ibbo Mandaza of a controversial biography by veteran nationalist Edgar Tekere, which questioned Mugabe’s claims of being a towering liberation struggle hero.

Tekere effectively painted a picture of Mugabe as a vocal coward who did not even wear military uniform during visits to the battlefront or learn how to fire a gun. He also shed light on the dark corners of Mugabe’s personal life history which was not previously known.

This angered Mugabe – who always seems anxious to keep his private life and background secret – as he suspected Mandaza, a former senior civil servant, was working in collaboration with the Mujuru camp to undermine him.

Mandaza was aligned to the Mujuru faction in Zanu-PF and was part of the team which supported the presidential bid of Makoni, the former finance minister, in the 2008 election. Makoni was also a Mujuru ally before he left Zanu-PF in 2008.

While Mugabe and Mujuru maintained a façade of unity in public during this week’s annual Zanu-PF conference in Mutare, simmering political tensions between them were bubbling under the surface. Insiders said Mugabe was also annoyed by Mujuru’s recent remarks, which appeared to suggest she was opposed to elections next year.

While Mujuru’s prospects now appear damaged, her rival, Emmerson Mnangagwa, seems to be on the up. Mujuru is fighting with Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.

Mnangagwa was said to have recovered lost political ground after he was outmanoeuvred by the Mujuru faction in Zanu-PF’s elective congress last year.

Mujuru has been working with Biti and the MDC-T to position herself to succeed Mugabe. The constitution says in the event the president cannot continue in office either through incapacitation, illness, retirement or death, parliament will elect a successor to continue for the rest of term. If Mujuru had the support of the MDC-T, she would be assured of beating Mnangagwa.

"The Biti saga has left Mujuru in a weaker position compared to Mnangagwa, who, as defence minister, is also now close to the army commanders who are the real movers and shakers in politics," a senior Zanu-PF official said. "Mugabe would now want to prop up Mnangagwa to checkmate Mujuru."

In 2004 Mugabe was upset after Mnangagwa tried to become deputy president .- Times Live