By Mugove Tafirenyika
Despite frantic attempts by President Robert Mugabe’s publicists to convince the public that the incumbent was as fit as a fiddle, calls by his wife that he must handpick a successor could be out of the realisation that the Zanu PF leader has entered his political sunset.
Addressing members of the Zanu PF women’s league in the capital on Thursday, Grace Mugabe broke with the party’s tradition by publicly imploring her 93-year-old husband to anoint a successor so as to narrow the widening crevices in his party over who should be the next president.
She reasoned that there was nothing amiss about choosing a successor as it was the trend in other countries, including South Africa where Nelson Mandela stood aside to make way for a successor, Thabo Mbeki.
“There is no succession without Mugabe and I have told him that you have a role to play even if I know that he has said that the people will decide; but his word will be final, mark my word,” Grace said as the league’s administration secretary, Letina Undenge broke into song, “uri musoja usatye, (don’t be afraid, you are a soldier).
Afghanistan-based political analyst Maxwell Saungweme, said Grace’s call was an acknowledgement of Mugabe’s advancing age and its impact on his health.
It also exposes the panic and trepidation of the after-Mugabe reality, he said.
“It also shows that Mugabe and Grace are disagreeing on succession. Mugabe prefers Zanu PF to decide its next leader through existing processes while Grace wants Mugabe to anoint a leader. The speech shows schisms within State House, Zanu PF and government,” said Saungweme.
He also reasoned that Grace’s call could be a desperate endeavour to pour cold water on Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa (ED)’s chances of succeeding Mugabe as well as the support that the Midlands godfather is said to enjoy from the security forces.
Mugabe also railed the military for dabbling in politics in violation of the country’s Constitution, which demands that they should be apolitical.
Saungweme warned that with the succession politics now so “dynamic, toxic and perplexing”, the country will likely see political disturbances if Mugabe were to appoint an heir.
Another analyst Gladys Hlatshwayo said the First Lady was basically trying to “make hay while the sun shines” when she called for Mugabe to prepare for a future post his rule.
“Simba rehove riri mumvura zvino dziva zvoropwa hove dzichaita sei? (It’s a fish out of water situation) . . . They (Generation 40) are better off influencing him to appoint a successor while he is still alive . . . someone who will protect the interest of the First Family and G40,” Hlatshwayo said, adding “it is therefore most likely that she is being deployed to signal what Mugabe is about to do”.
Zanu PF is split between G40 and the Team Lacoste faction. The latter is linked to Mnangagwa while the former is a conglomeration of cadres who claim to support a Mugabe life presidency.
Hlatshwayo said the development could also mean that there are disagreements between the G40 faction and Mugabe over how to deal with this issue of a successor.
“If what Grace said is anything to go by, Mugabe is suggesting that the people will decide when the time comes. This might be consistent with the Machiavellian politics that he has used for the past 37 years and his insatiable desire to rule until he joins his ancestors. Grace and G40 might be resorting to public gatherings as a way to push Mugabe to act.
“What can no longer be disputed is the fact that this is the end of an era. A critical discourse analysis of the first lady’s ranting confirms this. From ‘I will push him in a wheelchair’ to ‘he will rule from the grave’ now it’s ‘ anoint a successor’. . . it’s slowly sinking in, he is human after all!”.
Shakespeare Hamauswa, an analyst, weighed in saying Grace is realising that Mugabe, at the ripe age of 93, is no longer able to continue.
“She is the one who stays with the president and is privy to the challenges that old age is posing to the president.
“By demanding a VP post to be reserved for women, she is simply trying to create a position for herself and that depends on how ED and Sekeramayi strategically are going to position themselves”.
However, professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Steven Chan, said with the ever-fluid factions in Zanu PF, “it is almost impossible to speculate about the succession battles”.
“Grace’s latest call simply adds to the complicated picture. She is right in that the country needs to have some certainty about its future.
“Many will suggest she is looking to a transitional period with herself as vice president, poised for the election after the one in 2018,” said Chan.
Grace also claimed that some in the ruling party were being influenced by an unnamed woman based in South Africa into dumping Mugabe.
She also took a swipe at party bigwigs who refuse to acknowledge her when they chant party slogans saying that also would not change the fact that she was in charge. Daily News