Mujuru has the numbers behind her

Last week, I started my exploration of the Zanu (PF) heavies whose names appear whenever there is talk of who will succeed President Robert Mugabe in the party and as Head of State. I dealt with Emmerson Mnangagwa first. I hope he does not think I belong to the Mujuru faction, as I judged him quite harshly.


I was pleased to see that most of the feedback received did not factionalise what I said. But I was a bit unsettled when a respected senior businessman, whose intelligence and wisdom always humble me, called me and, instead of focusing on my reservations about Mnangagwa, seemed to want to tribalise the succession debate.

Being a profusely loyal Mukaranga (sub-group of Shona), he admitted that he belonged to the Mnangagwa camp and said he would rather have me arguing for rotation of the Zanu (PF) presidency and bringing it to Masvingo this time around. That debate will be for another day, but, honestly speaking, I would not mind if Mugabe was succeeded by an ass, as long as it would bring food to the table and give me peaceful dreams. In any case, his position was fatally flawed because it assumed that I should lobby for certain things in Zanu (PF). I consider my role purely as that of an observer and commentator – not to walk with that party or any other.

Joice Mujuru is Mnangagwa’s nemesis and has been so since 2004 when she was made Zanu (PF) second vice president, courtesy of that party’s intricate manipulation of democracy. After Mnangagwa was exposed—clearly by her camp—for planning to wrest the presidium ahead of that year’s elective congress, Mujuru took her place in the political sun when her supporters successfully lobbied for a woman to succeed the late Simon Muzenda as vice president.

Her husband, a shrewd military and political strategist in his own right, is credited for Joice’s elevation.

Mugabe virtually anointed her his heir in 2004 when he said she must rise to a higher position, meaning his. However, now that he has publicly announced that she is no longer guaranteed the baton, what chances does she have? I believe Joice stands in good stead to snatch the stick from her rivals. She is well-perceived and the numbers are on her side.

Come to think about it, when she and Grace Mugabe were awarded doctoral degrees recently, critics reserved all the flak for the First Lady and hardly queried Joice’s merit. In fact, almost all of them regarded her as deserving of the academic award. It never occurred to them that there is a possibility that three UZ lecturers from the Commerce department could, in fact, be the ones who wrote her thesis. Nobody has asked how Joice obtained her first and post-graduate degrees, whether she was ever seen in an examination room in the first place. That means she is well-perceived, both in Zanu (PF) and beyond.

This positions her well against Mnangagwa, who lacks the grassroots touch. It is clear that many people in the ruling party regard Joice as a unifying force – in direct contrast to Grace, seen as a willing and biased pawn feathering the Mnangagwa nest for her own benefit. Even though she has been scheming intensely against her rival, Mujuru’s strategies are not seen as divisive, but purely designed to bolster her power base.

She has the motherly touch and many are convinced that once she takes over, the acrimony and strife that they have seen in the party all along could end. She hardly passes as someone who could kill to remain in power.

If her chances are stretched to the national level, Mujuru, again, could be what Zimbabwe is waiting for. She has demonstrated a capacity to embrace the opposition as well as foreign governments hitherto considered hostile to Zanu (PF) and Mugabe. This means that if she succeeds Mugabe in the party and runs for national office, she is likely to get support and votes from a wide range of people and institutions. In fact, I would not be surprised if the MDC women’s wing rallied behind her, instead of their own leader!

Despite their stupendous loyalty to Mugabe and their tendency to be swayed by empty rhetoric, hard core Zanu (PF) loyalists know that the party and the country need a leader who is acceptable across the board at Shake Shake House and State House.

Considering the gains she has already made, I don’t see any reason why Mujuru cannot emerge the victor at the end of the day. She has rallied the provincial and district structures successfully, and her camp landed influential positions at recent women’s and youth league conferences. She has also managed to counter Mnangagwa with much astuteness, even though it remains to be seen how much she is capable of in the absence of her late husband – who died in a mysterious fire three years ago.

This is where the worry lies. On her own, Joice would not get a doctorate for scheming and is sometimes seen as weak and undecided. She might have received a PhD—even a cat can do that in Zimbabwe now if it can just phone university management—but she is hardly an intellectual giant. Again, it is still unclear if the largely patriarchal and chauvinistic Zanu (PF) is ready to embrace a woman leader, but her chances are still good.

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Post published in: Opinions & Analysis
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