Karangas vie for presidency

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    Senior officials in the party are fearful that the powerful Zezuru tribe was moving to avoid a Karanga from assuming the position of first secretary in the event of the President’s demise.

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    Officials in the Karanga clique fear there was a high likelihood that another member of President Mugabe’s Zezuru ethnic group, Joice Mujuru, could take over as the first secretary.

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    The president’s inner circle has repeatedly put off calls by the Karanga clique to make clear plans to fill the looming vacuum, knowing that a change at the top could threaten their privileged positions. Investors and businessmen have grown querulous over the issue.

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    The Mail has learnt that there were growing calls for a resolution that transfers full power to a Karanga in the party to alternate the leadership of the party among tribes in line with a declaration made by the Dare ReChimurenga on the sidelines of the liberation struggle.

    The infighting is increasingly weakening the party as the battle over who will succeed Mugabe when he eventually steps down either through succession or natural wastage eventually happens.

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    The Karanga clique seems to be struggling to come up with a candidate strong enough to fill the shoes of President Mugabe. Its strongest candidate, the powerful Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, is ranked 12th in the hierarchy to succeed Mugabe.

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    A former chief of the intelligence services, he is often accused of being the secret power behind Mugabe’s throne.

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    Sources say the succession issue was fragmenting the party along ethnic lines, with the group led by Mnangagwa – who has of late described himself as “jinda guru” (big guy) – accusing the Mujuru faction of moving to preserve the party presidency for another Zezuru.

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    In terms of party hierarchy, Joice Mujuru has the upper hand and is a front-runner to succeed the ageing Zanu PF leader.

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    Mugabe has personally admitted that ethnic cleavages were widening and factional fighting was “eating up” Zanu-PF and emboldening opponents in the MDC.

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    According to Didymus Mutasa, Zanu PF is torn into two distinct political factions, one led by retired army general Solomon Mujuru, husband to vice president Joice Mujuru and another by Mnangagwa aka Ngwena, the most powerful member of the Karanga clique. Mutasa recently openly asked the two factions to cease the war and join hands.

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    As Zanu PF contemplates the future without Mugabe, ethnic politics in southern Africa’s tribally- diverse country could play a major role in determining Zanu PF’s next first secretary.

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    It is not the most-alluring news for many party heavyweights, especially for those who strongly believed that too much focus on ethnic differences have done the country more harm than good. For others, ethnic politics cannot be wished away and will continue to play a major role in Zanu PF politics.

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    The President’s waning health has thrown Zanu PF into a multi-dimensional crisis that is deeply rooted in the notion of what section of the country should produce the next president.

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    There are systematic efforts to ensure the post of president should be retained by a Zezuru.

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    The idea of rotational presidency in principle was agreed upon by the ruling party’s leaders way back during the liberation struggle in the so-called Dare Rechimurenga.

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    It has never been implemented but was a good idea meant to address the inevitable imbalances in political office distribution between geo-political regions of the country.

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    The two dominant ethnic groups – Karanga and Zezuru – constitute influential power blocks in most areas of national issues, to the disadvantages of other minority groups, such as the Ndebele.

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    Although Mnangagwa has tried to distance himself from his kinsmen rhetoric of a president of Karanga extraction, however, the two Zanu PF factions have intensified efforts to strategically position themselves for a final assault on power.

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    While it was not immediately possible to obtain comment from Mnangagwa yesterday, he incredibly claimed in a rare interview with a British newspaper last week that he did not harbour any presidential ambitions.

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    “I have no ambitions to be president,” Mnangagwa told the UK Telegraph. “People speculate left, right and centre but we have a structure in our party with a president and two vice-presidents. The leadership has to come out of that group, and I am not part of it. I just wish a legacy of peace, prosperity and growth for the younger generation.”

    Mnangagwa’s backers – mainly from the Karanga clique – claim that as the de facto faction leader, he has been largely passive. Some attribute this silence to spinelessness, others to tactical guile.

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    “If he overdoes it now while mukuru is still alive, people will say he is power-grabbing. He has been clever,” says a businessman in Masvingo and a staunch Mnangagwa faction member.

    The hunger for resources among the Karanga clique is emerging from a clique of Zanu PF politicians from his province called the Masvingo Initiative, who have become impatient and are repossessing conservancies in the Lowveld from whites. They want a greater share of the national cake and more investment in Masvingo.

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    This clique includes Francis Nhema, the minister of Environment and Tourism, who has been toyed around as a possible candidate although far-fetched, former Cabinet minister and Zanu PF Gutu South legislator Shuvai Mahofa, Minister of Higher Education Stan Mudenge, Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Douglas Mombeshora, Tongai Muzenda, last son of the late vice President Simon Muzenda, Thompson Zvinavashe, son of the late former commander of Zimbabwe’s Defence Forces, General Vitalis Zvinavashe and Zanu PF MP for Chiredzi North, Ronald Ndava.

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    It is hard to predict how much Mnangagwa, believed to be Mugabe’s preferred successor, will assert himself in the coming months.

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    But his backers are frustrated.

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    One member of his faction told The Mail that Ngwena is not regularly holding meetings as he should, and his faction backers were getting disgruntled. They said he was consulting the generals more than he should his faction’s power brokers.

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    “If the coach is not calling players to training, and the players are not being paid their allowances.

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    It’s difficult to win a game when the coach is consulting the technical director only,” he said in apparent reference to the Joint Operations Command, which Mnangagwa denies he heads.

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    In many ways a force to reckon with despite being lower down the Zanu PF hierarchy, Mnangagwa has a history of assuming big roles by being in the right place at the right time. When the President suffered a devastating electoral defeat in 2008, it was Mnangagwa who, as Mugabe’s chief election agent, clawed back victory.

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    From an obscure backwater ministry of Rural Housing and Social Amenities, he was shunted into after the disastrous Tsholotsho debacle; he has risen from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix, landing himself the powerful Defence minister position in the GNU.

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    Moreover, his accession is still dogged by controversy and uncertainty. But his Karanga hopefuls are already laying claim to the next first secretary title.

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    When asked about who is more trusted to address nagging issues that continued to haunt the Masvingo province’s growth and development, a majority of Karangas identified Mnangagwa as an exceptional leader with character but lacks national appeal due to his history.

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    He is widely seen by many to possess unequal degree of integrity, discipline and honesty that many politicians or public administrators lack. A lawyer by profession, his distinguished service to Zanu PF is not in dispute.

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    These qualities, however, failed to impress his critics who picked on him as a ruthless man and tribalist who cannot be trusted with the most powerful office in an ethno-politically sensitive country like Zimbabwe.

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    But his candidacy is boosted by ethnic sentiment in the south, where he has witnessed overwhelming grassroots support.

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    Political analysts say President Mugabe is the kingpin in Zanu PF’s wheel, and that ethnic fault lines are widening and “his departure from the political scene will see the party totally disintegrate”, according to John Makumbe, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe. – The Mail