By Fungi Kwaramba
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and ailing Vice President Constantino Chiwenga appeared together to announce that Australia’s Invictus Energy had found oil and gas deposits in the northern Muzarabani area, showing a united front in the face of widening divisions in the presidium.
Mnangagwa and Chiwenga attempted to paper over their divisions as they addressed the press on Thursday afternoon about the oil find, a discovery which has since been refuted by Australian-listed Invictus Energy which has now said it had not found any oil and gas deposits but there were indications of a “working petroleum system” which could only be confirmed by a planned exploration well.
Despite attempts to present a united front, the two top government figures remained at loggerheads, top officials said.
Chiwenga’s health had improved considerably. He has been receiving medical treatment in neighbouring South Africa for wounds reportedly sustained during the White City bombing.
It also seems Mnangagwa was keen to present a united front when he hosts Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, who was expected in Harare yesterday, the first such high level visit in more than two decades.
The deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet responsible for communications George Charamba confirmed that Chiwenga will be part of the team hosting the VP, despite his continuing health challenges.
Asked if Chiwenga is now back on his feet, Charamba said the vice president was fit enough to be part of the team hosting his Indian counterpart.
“He has a long way to go, he is slowly creeping back to work.
“I will tell you what, remember his counterpart from India is coming back and remember this is a counter visit, so we are only trying to bring him up to speed and he is also to be part of the programme,” Charamba said.
Chiwenga’s public appearance is the first since news of divisions in the presidium emerged late last month amid reports that a powerful businessman with links to the VP was formenting divisions in the corridors of power.
In an earlier interview with the Daily News, Charamba dismissed suggestions that the two former allies were fighting, saying “not a single day passes without a conversation between Chiwenga and Mnangagwa.”
Political analysts said the move to wheel out Chiwenga at a time of widening divisions in the presidium was for optics and also meant to quieten speculation over divisions “real or perceived.”
“I think it’s trying to dress the fiasco with a veneer of unity, solidarity and cohesion while we know there are huge rifts between the two and difficult to reconcile approaches to national issues.
“The other prefers civilian approaches while the other prefers military approaches,” political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said.
United Kingdom-based scholar Alex Magaisa said after Mnangagwa and the Zanu PF youth league boss Pupurai Togarepi attacked some senior party leaders in a thinly disguised veil, it was now clear that all is not well in the ruling party.
“It is clear that there are ructions and Mnangagwa has adopted a Grace Mugabe-like approach of attacking party members without naming them,” Magaisa said.
“Like Mugabe, he’s now demanding party members to toe the party line or to leave.
“The youth leader Togarepi also joined in, just like Chipanga before him. It is a sign that things are not well in the camp.
“Chiwenga is trying to manage the situation by presenting himself when he should be recuperating at home.
“It is about keeping and watching the space.
“Note also that Mnangagwa has taken away defence and war veterans and dumped him in procurement and research as areas of supervision.
“That’s a demotion given his previous role, although it will give him a role in tenders since he oversees public procurement,” Magaisa said.
Professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, Stephen Chan, said Zanu PF cannot do with infighting never mind the perilous state of the economy.
“There have been moves and countermoves involving Mnangagwa and Chiwenga.
“It’s in fact far too early for any serious succession talk, but the two most likely candidates are manoeuvring just to ensure they remain in the frame.
“It’s part of a Zimbabwean political disease I’m afraid. People talk of who is in power and no one knows how to use that power to redevelop the economy and the country,” said Chan. Daily News