By Itai Mushekwe
HARARE – Outgoing Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who as State Security Minister led the notorious Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) during the Gukurahundi Massacres, is now favourite to become the second President of Zimbabwe.
High level intelligence and army sources have told Nehanda Radio that it is now just a matter of time before the ailing 89 year old Mugabe hands over power to the Midlands Province godfather.
Mnangagwa has been seen “very frequently” at State House since Zanu PF’s controversial poll victory, where he is said to have been conducting a series of “closed door meetings with Mugabe”.
The country’s security chiefs, namely Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander, Constantine Chiwenga and Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) boss, Augustine Chihuri are allegedly backing Mnangagwa, and have made their position known to Mugabe.
Nehanda Radio has also received intelligence, about “security meetings” taking place between Mnangagwa, Chiwenga, Chihuri and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), presumably to plot the trained lawyer’s entrance into executive power.
Mnangagwa is also the only out-going minister, who has continued working despite there being no new cabinet announced to run the affairs of the country.
Officials close to the President’s office, which is an extension of the secret service say the shrewd politician is reporting to work at Defence House, prompting speculation that Mugabe is likely to keep him as defence minister.
There are also indications that Mugabe might appoint him into an equally powerful ministerial portfolio, but Mnangagwa appears to have settled well in defence, where he has been reportedly scheming his pathway to Munhumutapa Building for the past four years.
It is also coming to light for the first time in the public sphere from our informants, that Mnangagwa played a pivotal role in the appointment of Chiwenga to the post of ZDF commander, in December 2003, using his muscles of the legislature, as Speaker of Parliament that time, to put forward Chiwenga’s name as successor to his predecessor the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe.
Mnangagwa was Speaker of Parliament, from July 2000 until April 2005. Chiwenga in a way, would like to return back the favour to the long-time serving minister, by backing his ambitions for higher office, sources said.
Zvinavashe had retired from the powerful post, deciding to venture into business, farming and politics with his eyes set on replacing the late Vice President, Simon Muzenda as VP.
However, it later turned out that Zvinavashe had been “tricked” into retirement by Mugabe to neutralise him, with a promise to take up the vice presidency, which never materialised.
Current VP Joice Mujuru, then a minister for water development, sprung from her minor ministry to become the country’s first female VP in 2004, on the ticket of lobbying for fair representation of women in the Zanu PF presidium.
Again Mugabe played a smart puzzle at the time, to keep Mnangagwa in check and deny him early ascendancy to the top, in what became popularly known as the Tsholotsho saga, where many Zanu PF provincial chairmen sympathetic to Mnangagwa were suspended and former information minister, Jonathan Moyo booted out of cabinet and Zanu PF over his involvement.
It would appear Mnangagwa was looking into his future political fortunes, when a decade ago he allegedly touted Chiwenga then the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Commander to fill the ZDF shoes, and his political fortitude might just bear fruit, our sources say.
Further reinforcing, news on Mnangagwa’s looming ascendancy are revelations that, the late Zanu PF founder member Enos Nkala, who died last week told Mugabe that Mnangagwa is the only party cadre who can “fit his shoes well”.
Nkala dismissed vice president Joice Mujuru as “very weak and susceptible to manipulation”, according to an operative who overhead Mugabe and Nkala’s conversation when the Zanu PF leader visited Nkala in Hospital recently.
“The media keeps getting it wrong, Amai (Mujuru) has no chance,” said the operative. “We know that the president is tipping Mnangagwa, but does not want to make it obvious, as a way of keeping Zanu PF united in this post-election period.
Nkala told him that ED (Mnanganga’s nickname among intelligence officials) is the only cadre who can fit his shoes well.
Mugabe was made to understand that Zimbabwe requires, a combative and strong leader, and that Mnangagwa was likely to continue with his political doctrine, compared to his main rival for the top job.”
With a litany of crimes against humanity to his name, including the Gukurahundi Massacres and the June 2008 murders, Mugabe is also keen on a strong leader who will be able to grant him immunity from prosecution.
Nkala, a former defence minister himself gave a local newspaper an interview in May, in which he effectively endorsed Mnangagwa for his choice of successor to Mugabe.
“I think Mnangagwa. Well he knew what he was doing, he had a programme for his own leadership and I think if he were given the opportunity to put that programme into operation, he would have done very well,” said Nkala.
Mnangagwa’s chief rival, VP Mujuru, who hitherto was in a fairly comfortable lead and favourite to take over from Mugabe, has all but recently shot her own political foot by reportedly making remarks a fortnight ago, in a private weekly newspaper that “God might decide to call him”, in apparent reference to Mugabe.
The Mnangagwa camp seized on her remarks to insinuate, that she was impatient for power and was wishing the passing away of Mugabe, something the veteran leader is said to be “very angry” about, although he has kept his emotions hidden to himself.
“We know that the President will soon be 90 and God might decide to call him, he has taught us a lot and how to lead the party. Zanu PF will never die because President Mugabe is no longer there; there are people who now can lead the party,” Mujuru said at the family’s Beatrice farm.
The remarks were made during a memorial service for her late husband Retired General Solomon Mujuru, who perished in a mysterious fire thought to have been orchestrated by his political enemies.
Government, has however ruled out any foul play, despite efforts by the family to make an independent inquiry into the death.
There are many other factors and merits, pointing to a Mnangagwa presidency in the waiting, such as the fact that the outgoing defence minister was heavily involved with Nikuv International Projects.
We understand it was through Mnangagwa’s alleged contacts with Israeli Intelligence, that through him Zanu PF roped in the firm to help it manipulate the outcome of the July 31 elections, by inflating and stuffing the voters roll with non-existent voters to give Mugabe a 61 percent electoral pass mark.
According to its official website, Nikuv International Projects (NIP) was established in 1994, as one of the subsidiaries of the Formula Group, the largest software group in Israel.
“NIP acts as an integrator of large Information Technology projects in international markets, focusing on projects for governmental sectors,” says the company’s site.
“NIP initiated activities in the African continent in 1994 in Nigeria, and has since expanded its activities to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Botswana and Angola in IT and additional areas like agriculture and security.”
“Mnangagwa has used an intelligence strategy to make sure that we stay in power,” said a Zanu PF politburo member.
“We did not experience bloodshed, nor violence like in the 2008 election. This one was smart, and we have Ngwena to thank for this achievement. Zvana Mujuru kurota uko, she did nothing at all for this victory.”