Mnangagwa gets upper hand

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Zanu (PF) Secretary for Legal affairs, who was also Robert Mugabe’s Chief Election Agent for the July 31 presidential poll, is gunning to take over from him, The Zimbabwean has learnt.

Emmerson Mnangagwa
Emmerson Mnangagwa

Sources said Mnangagwa had used his closeness to Mugabe in the run-up to the election to place himself in a powerful position. Most of the candidates that have “won” as MPs belong to his camp.

“The Mnangagwa camp has once again gained a lot of ground. Most of the Zanu (PF) primaries were manipulated to ensure that his sympathisers won, and now that they are headed for parliament, Mnangagwa is smiling all the way to the bank,” said a former senior military officer and war veteran.

Mnangagwa, who also headed Mugabe’s election team in 2008 and is credited for his controversial stay in power after being beaten by Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round, has long been eyeing the top job. He has been locked in a power struggle with vice president Joice Mujuru for many years now.

The source said Mnangagwa now enjoys loyalty from the bulk of MPs from Manicaland, Midlands, Matabeleland, Masvingo and pockets of Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West. He is believed to have used a significant number of top military officers as strategists during preparations for the poll.

In Manicaland, Mnangagwa reportedly enlisted support from party provincial heavies like Oppah Muchinguri.

“Muchinguri has been de-campaigning Mai Mujuru. During the elections, she queried why Mujuru’s posters were being pasted in areas outside her constituency in Mount Darwin West and some in places like Harare were brought down. She said Mujuru should limit herself to her own constituency as she was not running for the presidency,” added the source. When reached for comment, Muchinguri said she was too busy to talk.

The source said the major threat to the Mnangagwa faction in the province was Didymus Mutasa, who has in the past openly backed Mujuru – insisting that she was the most senior in the party and should therefore take over from Mugabe.

Munyaradzi Kereke, former advisor to Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono who ran and won as independent after Zanu (PF) disqualified him, is also said to belong to the Mnangagwa camp.

Neither he nor Mnangagwa could be reached for comments as their phones barred incoming calls.

Mujuru assumed her current position in the party in 2004 at the Zanu (PF) congress in Harare when Mugabe and the deputy’s sympathisers managed to persuade the politburo and Central Committee that the late Simon Muzenda, who had held the post, must be succeeded by a woman.

The development took place at a time when reports of a palace coup reportedly engineered by Mnangagwa were gathering prominence.

The reported coup attempt culminated in the abortive Tsholotsho meeting the same year, after which six Zanu (PF) provincial chairpersons linked to Mnangagwa were suspended.

Another source who declined being named said, in the meantime, Mnangagwa was eyeing the position of Second Secretary left vacant in February this year when John Nkomo died.

“Landing that post will put him (Mnangagwa) in a strong position. He is planning to use his numbers in Parliament to push for constitutional changes that would favour him. At the same time, he seems to be looking at how best to ensure that the majority of the provincial chairpersons are his people,” said the source.

He said Mnangagwa was likely to push to retain his cabinet post in the defence ministry, with the possibility of switching over to national security, where he has also worked before.

The party last year dissolved the influential District Coordinating Committees when it became clear that Mnangagwa had managed to position his own followers in the structures. This was seen as a counter strategy by the Mujuru faction.

Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist with the University of Zimbabwe, said it was highly likely that Mugabe would play a role in choosing his successor, but not in a direct way.

“My own view is that he will not formally hand over power to anyone. He may be less visible and active and confine himself to dealing with strategic issues while delegating basic duties to Joice Mujuru or any other second Vice President. Mujuru is one of the most experienced and has a good chance,” said Masunungure.

He said Mugabe was likely to hand over power to one of his deputies in the first year of his next term, saying “that would be ideal given the fact that his health is reported to be fragile and it’s unusual for a Head of State to continue up to the age of 94”.

However, Rugare Gumbo, the Zanu (PF) Secretary for Information and Publicity, told The Zimbabwean: “It’s his (Mugabe’s) prerogative to decide when he will leave office because he has been given a fresh mandate by the people and it is also his prerogative to decide who will take over when he leaves office. But of course, it’s an issue that we will discuss when the time comes,” said Gumbo.

He added that replacing John Nkomo was not high on the party’s list of priorities.

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