Reports of Mugabe’s ill health sparks debate over successor

As it becomes increasingly inevitable that Robert Mugabe’s time as President of Zimbabwe is coming to an end, it’s also becoming clear that a leadership race to succeed him will be a bitter battle between Emmerson Mnangagwa and Joice Mujuru.

Emmerson Mnangagwa
Emmerson Mnangagwa

Mnangagwa is the Minister of Defence while Mujuru is the co-Vice President. Mnangagwa who, reportedly, has the support of Mugabe is the current favourite, but Mujuru is seen by many as ZANU PF’s best hope.

In recent days a number of media outlets have reported that Mugabe had agreed on his successor. The Tehran Times of Iran said the 88 year-old leader entered into a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to hand over power to 65-year old Mnangagwa, who had been in Iran recently drumming up support for ZANU PF in the next elections.

Many people would be concerned to hear this news as Mnangagwa helped orchestrate the Gukurahundi massacres in the early 1980’s. As the country’s first Minister of Security, in charge of the notorious CIO, Mnanagagwa was also widely blamed for the brutality following the 2008 presidential election after Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round poll.

Mugabe has of late made several pronouncements that elections in Zimbabwe will be held this year, with or without a new constitution. The MDC formations have however said they will not go into an election without reforms, including a new constitution. The plan might be for Mugabe to ‘win’ the election and then hand over power to Mnangagwa.

Analysts have long viewed Mnangagwa as a divisive figure in ZANU PF circles, but he would have heavyweight support from the military top brass.

In February Mugabe, who has been at the helm of ZANU PF since 1975, declared that it was not yet time for him to groom a successor. However, with elections pending and, allegedly, an ongoing battle with prostrate cancer, he may be having a change of heart.

Although Mugabe insists he’s ‘fit as a fiddle’ and ‘has the energy and vitality to lead the country’ the facts tell a different tale. For one, treatment for his ailment has seen him travel to Singapore on more than 10 occasions in the last 16 months, at a cost of many millions per trip.

A UK based academic and health expert told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that under a functioning democracy, Mugabe would have been forced to take sick leave because of the number of weeks he’s been away seeking treatment.

‘If they follow the constitution properly, they should look at the number of occasions he has been away from duty, and add that with the number of important cabinet meetings he’s missed, a normal civil servant will be forced to take sick leave,’ said the academic, who asked not to be identified.

SW Radio Africa News

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