Dogfight to replace Mugabe in full swing as fears for Zanu PF split mount

HARARE – As it becomes clear that ailing President Robert Mugabe will not stand in the next election due to ill health and advanced age, a major internal dogfight to replace the octogenarian leader has begun between Zanu-PF factions.

There are fears that Zanu-PF is headed for a split between a faction led by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and one led by Vice-President Joyce Mujuru.

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Mugabe is under pressure to immediately intervene to stop his party from disintegrating but the veteran Zimbabwe leader seems powerless to deal with the factions as he battles for his own political survival.

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One of the factions, believed to be aligned to the Mujuru camp, has become so desperate that it is reported to be planning to meet Mugabe’s fiercest rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, to discuss working together in the post-Mugabe era.

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Mugabe loyalists have always viewed Mujuru as being close to Tsvangirai.

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Mugabe’s health is said to be fast deteriorating, and since the start of the year he has visited Singapore five times, blowing nearly $15-million of taxpayers’ money amid concerns that he might be incapacitated before the end of the year, according to intelligence insiders.

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While officially Mugabe’s aides say he has problems with his eyes, there are reports that he actually has prostate cancer.

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Alarmed by the infighting, Zanu-PF hawks are said to be ready to employ dirty tactics to make sure that they take over from Mugabe.

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The Sunday Times has learnt that last week both the Mnangagwa and Mujuru camps were engaged in lobbying and strategic meetings on how they could take over power in the event of Mugabe being incapacitated.

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Zanu-PF, which has been pushing the line of Zimbabwe holding elections this year, has suddenly made an about-turn, and on Thursday Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said elections could only be held in 2013.

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This is an admission that Mugabe cannot be the Zanu-PF candidate.

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Tsvangirai announced at his party’s congress that elections would be held next April, completely ruling out polls this year. The Sunday Times has also been told that a delegation of advisers is planning to meet Mugabe soon to explain to him that he should sort out his succession or the party would disintegrate.

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A top Zanu-PF insider said the party was is in disarray over how to deal with Mugabe’s health and the succession battle. “The main issue here is that Mugabe’s health has become increasingly worrying for everyone in the party, but the problem is how to tell him to quit because he is a man who clearly wants to die in office.

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“However, he is no longer in control of his faculties and really people can’t take us seriously if we present him as a candidate. He is looking frail and I tell you, if he participates in an election with Tsvangirai, he will be severely thumped.

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“This brings us to the idea of factionalism. Yes, the Mnangagwa camp and the Mujuru camp are battling to replace the old man, but at the expense of the party, because the divisions have now worsened.”

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Last week, strategists from both camps were holed up in Harare hotels, plotting against each other.

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“They are behaving like a group of baboons who engage in a fight on top of a mountain, fighting for control of the area, but in the ensuring pandemonium, they all fall to their death and all of them lose the battle.

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“Right now, Tsvangirai has the initiative, he is popular in Zimbabwe and the SADC has now warmed up to him. To be honest Mugabe cannot beat Tsvangirai or anyone in any election for that matter. It is a reality we have to live with. Zanu-PF is finished and the more the fights continue, the worse for the party,” said the highly placed Zanu-PF official.

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To add an intriguing twist to the whole turmoil, Zimbabwe’s securocrats are still pushing for elections this year and hope to use violence to force Mugabe through. After that they will impose a candidate of their own.

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According to Zanu-PF insiders, they are hoping that in the chaos that will ensue from the violent elections, they will temporarily take over, like the situation in Egypt when Hosni Mubarak was toppled.

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Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo could neither deny nor confirm the infighting. “There is nothing like that, our candidate is President Mugabe and nobody else,” said Gumbo.

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But another Zanu-PF insider said: “There is a no plan at all on what happens in the event that Mugabe dies or fails to do his job.

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“People are just waiting for Mugabe’s next move but how do they expect a move from a man who is also fighting for political survival?”

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Mugabe was recently presented with an advisory in which he was politely told that he had to make drastic changes if he was to survive politically.

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Advisers have told him that all odds were now against him, including the SADC, which is convinced that Mugabe’s time is up, while his sanctions mantra has now run out of steam.

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Mugabe has also been reportedly told that he is extremely unpopular, even in the rural areas where he used to enjoy support.