WHILE Zanu PF is caught in a cauldron of conflict and chaos between the two main factions led by arch-rivals Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, the latter is now projecting himself as the voice of reason at a time when most other senior party officials are going berserk over the succession battle ahead of the watershed congress next month.
Faith Zaba/Owen Gagare
Zanu PF insiders say Mnangagwa is packaging and projecting himself as a potential unifier to hold the fractious party together and boost his prospects of ascendancy to the vice-presidency at congress, putting one foot in the highest office in the land.
“While everybody, including Mugabe, is obsessed and fixated by the succession issue, Mnangagwa has been careful not to enter the fray as a divisive element like what the First Lady Grace Mugabe has done,” a senior Zanu PF official said.
“Although it is known he is in competition with Mujuru to succeed Mugabe, he has kept a healthy and dignified distance from the First Lady’s venomous campaign, thus creating an opportunity to project himself as a potential unifier and successor.”
Even though Mnangagwa and Grace’s allies are in a marriage of convenience to fight Mujuru, Mnangagwa himself seems to be taking a calculated and nuanced position on the fluid succession alignments.
This comes at a time when it emerged this week that China, which is regarded by Mugabe as “an all-weather friend”, is said to be anxious about the Zanu PF succession issue and Zimbabwe’s future political direction because of the huge investments it has in the country, and the capital it From Page 1
wants to inject.
As previously reported in the Zimbabwe Independent, Beijing has urged Zanu PF to resolve the succession issue and embrace change to survive, while it also wanted to know Mugabe’s future plans.
Insiders say the Chinese prefer Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe instead of Mujuru because he is their protégé and is seen as a stronger leader and efficient administrator compared to his rival who is viewed as weak and inept even if her past is not as tainted by the regime’s excesses, particularly human rights abuses.
Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba, who accompanied Mugabe on a trip to China in August where he met the Asian giant’s leader Xi Jinping — who reportedly raised Zimbabwe’s future issues with him — on Wednesday declined to comment.
“I’m not involved in such issues. Rely on your sources,” he said.
In a public move which clearly showed his intentions yet, Mnangagwa said this week he has a good relationship with Mujuru, suggesting he does not support Grace’s campaign of vituperation against her.
“The slogans must be national, they must be in sync with the revolution … they must be in sync to promote unity in the party among the people and among Zanu PF,” he said on Monday.
“The slogans ‘Pasi neGamatox (Down with Gamatox) and Pasi neZvipfukuto (Down with weevils)’ are the types of slogans that are individualistic, they tend to be directed to individuals, they tend to promote divisions; those are not allowed. We don’t want people to wake up one morning and come up with any slogan. Just because they have differed with somebody…”
While Mugabe failed to discourage the divisive slogans when he addressed hired demonstrators at the party headquarters last week on Thursday and seemed to encourage his wife’s calls for Mujuru’s resignation, the politburo banned the two slogans and resolved to set up a committee to investigate factionalism.
“The disagreements must only be constructive and intended to bring out the best in the party, not contradictions that are intended to bring disunity,” Mnangagwa said.
Prior to that, Mnangagwa had last week sat close to Mujuru during the opening of parliament addressed by Mugabe in a move which left Zanu PF officials and observers curious.
His behaviour is contrary to that of Grace who recently refused to even shake Mujuru’s hand at Harare airport — twice — after her abusive campaign and illegitimate demands she must resign.
Insiders say Mnangagwa seems to be playing a Machiavellian role and manoeuvring to emerge as party unifier and leader.
“There is no way that she (Mujuru) has ever criticised me. There is nowhere she has ever denounced me … She is my comrade and I am her comrade,” Mnangagwa said in remarks which went against the grain.
In yet another unexpected move, Mnangagwa also defended party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, a close Mujuru ally, at a closed Zanu PF provincial co-ordinating committee (PCC) meeting in Gweru last weekend.
Gumbo has lately been involved in fierce public spats with Grace’s allies abusing the public media, ZBC and Zimpapers, as they fight for influence and control ahead of congress.
The engagement, now rough and undignified, is mainly fought on media platforms. Gumbo confirmed this week Mnangagwa at the PCC meeting defended him on several issues raised, saying he was also “pleasantly surprised”.
“The issue (infighting) was raised in the context of the Tsholotsho episode and what happened at the time.
“Mnangagwa was friendly and constructive. He said people should not attack me because I raised the Tsholotsho issue because Tsholotsho was there and it resulted in the suspension of six provincial chairpersons,” Gumbo told the Independent.
“I was pleasantly surprised. Mnangagwa said I and him differ on a lot of things in the politburo, but when the politburo ends, we are friends again.”
Insiders said Mnangagwa was trying to send a message to the party that there should be a civilised contest, not a barbaric stampede for office characterised by name-calling, character assassination and hatred.
Mnangagwa also called for unity and peace in Gweru last week. In remarks which seemed to be directed at the military, he said: “The politics must lead the gun, not the other way round.”
This comes against a background in which Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga’s name has been raised in the succession race and linked to Grace’s operation.
The politburo and Mnangagwa’s position on hate slogans and abuse seem to have brought sanity even though a campaign of denunciation, demonstrations and violence directed against Mujuru is on as both factions use similarly dirty methods to out-manoeuvre each other.
Grace and outgoing Zanu PF Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri, who seems to be the inciting agent, popularised the slogan Pasi neGamatox during the First Lady’s nationwide whirlwind “Meet-the-People” rallies where she hysterically denounced Mujuru.
In retaliation, Mujuru supporters coined the slogan Pasi neZvipfukuto, a term used by Mugabe in August castigating Information minister Jonathan Moyo whom he accused of trying to destroy the party from within.
While Grace has come out as a hardliner, Mnangagwa seems to be occupying the middle ground to position himself as unifier and the better candidate to ultimately succeed Mugabe.