By Faith Zaba
HARARE- Vice President Joice Mujuru this week appeared to be losing political ground in her Mashonaland Central home turf after candidates aligned to her faction lost in District Coordinating Committee (DCC) elections, triggering fears she could be stumbling in the Zanu PF succession race after the death of her influential husband.
This comes amid clear indications that Zanu PF — already reeling from crippling internal power struggles — is struggling to resolve its succession issue ahead of elections and reports of plans by President Robert Mugabe to indicate after the polls who he wants to take over from him.
Due to the succession problem, Zanu PF risks plunging further into turmoil and suffering the fate of other regional liberation movements like Kanu and Unip after the death of army commander General Solomon Mujuru, a stabilising force, and the inevitable departure of Mugabe from the political scene.
Since General Mujuru died in a mysterious fire last August, there have been questions whether Vice-President Mujuru, who is well-placed to succeed Mugabe, would be able to take advantage of her position to claim the throne.
However, the vice-president, who is bitter over the death of her husband, seemed this week to be losing ground in her own backyard after losing four out of the seven DCC elections.
In particular the defeat of the vice-president’s faction in her own district, Mt Darwin, has sent alarm bells ringing within the party since Thursday last week when elections started.
Candidates aligned to her faction also lost in Mazowe, Shamva and Mbire districts. The entire old executive aligned to her faction lost in Mbire, in a massive vote of no-confidence. Elections in the last DCC, Guruve, were held Thursday. However, the results were not yet out at the time of going to press.
Vice-President Mujuru’s losses are being interpreted in Zanu PF as signs of her losing her grip on the power base, consolidated by her husband over the years. Only during the 2009 congress, the Mujuru faction, then still led by the general, crushed the rival camp led by Emmerson Mnangagwa as it did in 2004 and 1999. However, things appear to be changing after the general’s death.
Following his death, the faction now seems struggling and even faces disintegration without its “commander” to outflank the Mnangagwa camp now widely seen as the frontrunner, despite doubts about his leadership qualities and democratic credentials.
However, there seems to be some consolation for Mujuru as one of her allies, Zanu PF’s Mashonaland East provincial chairman Ray Kaukonde is reportedly rising in his bid to fill the vacuum left by General Mujuru.
Sources said this week Kaukonde has become so influential in the province that he is beginning to overshadow one of the heavyweights in the region, State Security minister and politburo member Sydney Sekeramayi.
“Although Kaukonde may be junior to Sekeramayi who hails from the same province, he is the one wielding power because he controls the cells, branches, districts and district coordinating committees,” a source said. “In fact, he is increasingly regarded as the province’s next Godfather like the General was.”
Another source said Vice-President Mujuru’s losses did not necessarily mean gain for Mnangagwa, particularly because she was a victim of a protest vote against the imposition of candidates and vote-buying.
“The problem is that Mai Mujuru’s people were trying to impose candidates and people said no. They also tried to use money to buy votes. So what we are saying here is that those tactics no longer work,” a senior Zanu PF leader in the province said.
Sources said in fact the main beneficiaries of the vice-president’s defeat could her provincial allies, politburo member Nicholas Goche and Saviour Kasukuwere whose support for her in on and off.
The province is now gearing up for a bruising fight between current chairman Dickson Mafios and former Guruve North MP David Butau, a close Mujuru ally. A Zanu PF youth leader in the province warned Vice-President Mujuru against this.
“Instead of working with Mafios, her faction is pushing for Butau to take over. She is making another mistake,” the leader said. Zimbabwe Independent
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