Race to succeed Mugabe hots up

HARARE – Zanu PF’s main factions, one led by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and another by Vice-President Joice Mujuru have intensified their fierce battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe as the party leader and possibly president.

Vice President John Nkomo, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa (who led the CIO during the Gukurahundi Massacres) and President Robert Mugabe
Vice President John Nkomo, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa (who led the CIO during the Gukurahundi Massacres) and President Robert Mugabe

This comes as age and ill-health seem to be catching up with the 88-year-old leader. Mugabe is currently in Singapore where diplomats say he is receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness but his aides say he travelled to oversee post graduate arrangements for his daughter, Bona.

High-level briefings to the Daily News during the Easter Holidays reveal that Mnangagwa in particular has in the past few weeks been rallying his lieutenants and foot soldiers going around the country soliciting for support from people at the grassroots.

Mnangagwa, for long touted as Mugabe’s natural successor, as he is considered to be ruthless, has been allegedly using the ongoing constitutional process to push for his ascendancy to power and campaigning at birthday and graduation parties.

These have revived memories of the ill-fated “Tsholotsho coup” of 2004. Reports indicate that most Zanu PF members of Copac are said to be aligned to the Defence minister. Copac is said to be controlled by Mnangagwa’s people who are trying to use it to delay elections to knock out Mugabe on age and health grounds.

Reports say Mugabe was very angry with the issue at the last politburo meeting where he said he would not tolerate “sabotage” by his people.

“Ngwena”, as he is affectionately known in political circles, has also been using private functions organised by members of his faction to turn them into political rallies for his faction and shore up support for him.

He has been accused of blowing tax payers’ money flying with a military helicopter to officiate at dubious programmes like birthdays and graduation parties especially in Masvingo Province.

Recently, Mnangangwa used state resources to attend the birthday and donation functions of Munyaradzi Kereke, former advisor to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono and a graduation ceremony of the granddaughter of his ally, Josiah Hungwe in Chivi.

This has angered the Mujuru faction, whose members are believed to be preparing to approach Mugabe to complain about “Mnangagwa’s abuse of state resources” to campaign for his faction.

A senior member of the Mujuru faction said: “Mnangagwa is taking advantage of the fact that he can use a military helicopter anytime and now he is using it for his personal campaign.

“We do not have access to a helicopter so either he stops using the chopper and state resources or we get the same privileges. If Amai Mujuru wants to travel to Chivi or Bikita, she must also be given a chopper.”

“How does one get a helicopter to attend a graduation ceremony of granddaughter of a former governor and member of his faction? On the two occasions, he abused a military helicopter, Mnangagwa was preaching factional politics.”

As part of his birthday celebrations, Kereke donated medical utensils to the Bikita community and launched a mobile clinic where Mnangangwa used the military helicopter to travel all the way from Harare.

But he is said to have suffered a major setback as the function was attended by mainly schoolchildren after most people snubbed the event as they were said to be unhappy with the organisers.

The poor attendance forced Mnangagwa to ask the organisers including Kereke, why they were no adults at the function. Among those who attended the Bikita function is top army official Engelbert Rugeje. Others who reportedly attended are Larry Mavhima and Colonel Makova, among others.

In Chivi, Mnangagwa made a dramatic appearance at the graduation party of Hungwe’s granddaughter, Ndaizivei Hungwe where he was quoted in The Mirror of Masvingo as saying:

“When I was invited here, I didn’t know what the event was all about. All I was told by Cde Hungwe is that there would be a function here and I will be the guest of honour. In the last few minutes, I had to ask a few delegates who then told me that the function is actually a graduation party.”

“So I then wondered to myself and said this girl must be very important. A helicopter has flown all the way from Harare to bring delegates to her graduation.” Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph of UK claims that Mugabe has reached a secret deal to appoint Mnangagwa as his successor. Daily News