By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIPerhaps the most sensitive matter to being thinking about within the ZANU(PF) ranks is that of the matter of succession. That is, the succession of the octogenarian president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe when he either steps down, or dies. Love him, or hate him, the president is not ready to move on and clearly his succession is an issue which, to him, is best left on the shelf for the time being. Media speculation concerning this very divisive issue, within the party, is rife and there is much conjecture surrounding the recent death of a former Army general, Solomon Mujuru, having been a messy by-product of this succession issue.

The contenders in any future battle for power have been the subject of much supposition for years. Mugabe has never named a prince or princess, although many have hypothecated about his apparent choices from time to time, some of whom have now fallen from grace. Clearly though, this is not on Mugabe’s agenda today, and judging by the heat generated in the local media by recent events, it is distinctly on the agenda of tomorrow’s aspirant politicians.

Vice President Joice Mujuru, widow of the recently deceased former Army general (in what some consider mysterious circumstances), is a prime contender, apparently, for the presidential throne. Mujuru, aged 56, a Zezuru originating from the Mt Darwin area, has significant liberation war credentials, evidently an important issue within the party.

After two years of secondary schooling Mujuru left to join the liberation struggle and was one of the first female commanders in the ranks of the Zimbabwe African Nationalist Liberation Army (ZANLA), then commonly known by her chimurenga name Teurai Ropa (spill blood). She was one of the youngest members of Mugabe’s 1980 cabinet and became Vice President in 2004. One might suppose her only obstacle in the race ahead is that of being a women. Her most significant contender is long standing nationalist and party stalwart, Emmerson Mnangagwa, if we are to believe the gossip and local media.

Mnangagwa, aged 65, was raised in the Zvishavane area of Zimbabwe, apparently of Karanga origins. His power base is the Midlands. Mnangagwa left the country in his youth and was educated in Zambia where his early political activism landed him a short spell in a Zambian prison. He has early liberation war credentials, having been trained as a saboteur in Egypt, after joining the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) in Zambia and later set up training camps in Mbeya, Tanzania.

Mnangagwa was one of the first cadres to receive training in China. After re-entering then Rhodesia, he was arrested and prosecuted for his involvement in the sabotage of a locomotive on the line of rail between then Fort Victoria and Gwelo. Doubts about his age may well have save him from the noose, when convicted for the offence, for which Mnangagwa served a 10 year sentence before being deported to Zambia, where he studied law.

Mnangagwa was appointed a Special Assistant to Mugabe in Mozambique during 1977 and played a more political, rather than offensive role during the latter part of the liberation struggle. He served in various ministerial positions, post 1980. Both Mujuru and Mnangagwa are staunch party loyalists who came up through the ranks of the party and participated in the liberation war, but the plot thickens.

Some now suggest there is a third contender, a 55 year old, serving army general, Constantine Chiwenga, who originates from the Hwedza area, and who shares those liberation war credentials too. At one time he was a Provincial Commissar, using the pseudonym Dominic Chinenge, in Manica Province (a designated war zone in then Rhodesia), before moving to Tanzania in a training capacity, where he was eventually incarcerated for a few months by Tanzanian Police, following clashes with Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) cadres at Morogoro camp.

Chiwenga had been nominated in a senior command role to forcefully oust ZIPA combatants from Chimoio camp, as instructed by Rex Nhongo (the late General Mujuru), in Mozambque in early 1977. Fortunately that scuffle never took place. He ended up in the ZANLA High Command in 1978 as Deputy Political Commissar, a true political soldier and son of the soil, under Josiah Tungamirai. Chiwenga joined the Zimbabwe National Army after 1980 and was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1994 and commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in 2004.

There are of course, other contenders including, Sydney Sekeremayi, John Nkomo (recently taken ill and probably out of the race if ever he was in it) and, the doubtful, Simon Kaya Moyo (the national party chairman). All of these politicians deny that a succession battle is going on, but the local media is having none of that. Given the huge speculation concerning this issue it does raise a few questions, principally why should there be such a manifestly fierce succession battle even before ‘the old man’ has a foot in the grave?

What prize is up for grabs and lays at the foot of the presidential throne? Zimbabweans seem to be obsessed by this mystique and of the political charades currently being played out. One wonders why the preoccupation. Surely, if the president of the nation steps down or passes on, there is a mechanism for electing a new president, which, eventually, the people will determine.

In fact the two Houses of Parliament will come together as an electoral college to elect a new president, until the next election, but the constitution is fraught with ambiguity on this and associated issues. People also seem to be forgetting too that ZANU(PF) is no longer the sole receptacle for presidential candidates, there is now a substantial political opposition, if it is allowed its way into the contest.

Have we seen the first blooding in the battle? Perhaps not, but it seems folly to be stabbing your brothers and sisters in the back, when, eventually and indeed hopefully, it will be the people who elect their president. We are, after all, meant to be a democracy.

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Southern Africa’s SADC Under the Spotlight

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), comprising 15 member states, convenes an extraordinary summit in Sandton, South Africa on 11 June, principally to discuss the extension of free trade
between itself and larger counterparts, the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA). On the sidelines of this conference, two of SADC’s reprobate siblings, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, will draw the greater media focus in the face new criticisms of SADC for its manifest apathy in dealing with regional crisis.

There are few parallels between Madagascar and Zimbabwe, and these are tenuous. The single common denominator bringing them to SADC’s tending are issues of governance and the right of their peoples to choose political leaders in free and fair elections, being devoid of violence and intimidation. Madagascar suffered a transfer of power to opposition leader, Andy Rajoelina, who headed up an imposed High Transitional Authority in what was tantamount to a military coup. Following lengthy negotiations, SADC recently bungled by approving a ‘road-map’ intended to return the nation to democracy, which the entire Madagascan opposition had instantly rejected. The people are not liberated.

Zimbabwe is the bigger headache for SADC. Surprisingly, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa demonstrated his increasing impatience with Zimbabwe’s failure to implement resolutions to save a shaky Global Political Agreement (GPA). Politically, Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity (GNU) is decaying. The problem is, nobody knows how genuine, or indeed impartial, Zuma is, especially behind closed doors. An apparent increase in levels of political violence and intimidation, ahead of elections, for which no date has even been set, the seeming militarization of politics by one contender party, and the polarization of the parties to the GPA are cause for concern. Yet SADC’s professed disquiet with Zimbabwe is not being matched with commensurate action or pressure. There is certainly no urgency and the people are not liberated.

This is, perhaps, not surprising. SADC has long been regarded as a toothless bulldog. It has unresolved issues concerning its ineffective secretariat, which lacks both political and administrative infusion from the club’s regional powerhouse, South Africa. Its objectives were once that of a political liberator in southern Africa. Added to this, the very concept that this old nationalist liberators’ club, might ever confront one of its own, indeed face up to Africa’s most upheld liberation revolutionary, showers water on fuming discontent in some parts of the region. Zuma’s ANC government, charged with structuring the election ‘road-map’ in Zimbabwe, is hardly likely tip the scales and topple a crony liberation party, thus exacerbating a rather disturbing trend.

Astonishingly, the Community has already suspended its SADC Tribunal, a regional law court, in the wake of its judgements made against the Zimbabwean government on land issues brought before it. The Tribunal had ruled that land reform in Zimbabwe was racist and illegal. Zimbabwe ignored the judgement and facilitated the suspension. Many are now crying foul. Their loss of recourse to regional law establishments, such as the SADC Tribunal, for protection against human rights abuses, leaves the victims of bad governance vulnerable to no justice or seeking refuge off-shore in foreign courts. This is a huge blow for democracy.

Now, opposition parties in Zimbabwe, which may well agree on an election road-map at the summit, still have serious contending issues. In particular, the essential need for security sector reform. Zimbabwe’s military and police service are considered to be fiercely loyal to Robert Mugabe and his former ruling party, which are clambering to retain power as Zimbabwe’s one and only liberator. Many believe the security forces are simply a party political militia, which cannot respect a constitution for all people. Clearly, without such reform, any election road-map will be critically damaged, before the first steps are taken.

SADC needs to take stock of its obligations to the people of southern Africa when faced with crisis in one nation or another. It needs to understand the requirement for impartiality and get over the liberation culture that appears to have ingratiated itself within. Southern Africa has golden opportunities at its doorstep, yet, like the rest of Africa, it seems destined for the slippery slope of internecine squabbles, economic demise and destruction in the deep waters of just too much politics. Without active and assertive regional leadership, empathy and simple common sense within SADC, North African styled revolutions may easily fester in the south.

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