By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Perhaps 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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