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Mugabe's succession race far from over
Patrice Makova, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
December 01, 2013

Zanu-PF’s fiercely contested provincial elections reached a denouement yesterday with a faction linked to Vice-President Joice Mujuru poised to sweep most of the polls.

The elections marred by allegations of vote buying and rigging, have left the party heavily divided as different factions openly fought to position their members for powerful positions ahead of next year’s elective congress.

Analysts said Mujuru’s victory in the provincial polls has given her an unassailable edge in the race to succeed 89-year-old President Robert Mugabe. But others are of the view that it is not automatic that she will take over the party leadership. Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, are the leading contenders in the race to succeed Mugabe. Both deny harbouring any ambitions.

Political scientist, Shakespear Hamauswa said while winning provincial elections was crucial in the succession matrix, it was just but one step among several others. He said there were some important constituencies within Zanu-PF, as well as outside the party whose support was indispensable, such as the youth wing and the women’s assembly.

“Without the support of these, winning the succession battle only with provincial chairpersons is not guaranteed,” he said. He said the security sector; especially the army and the intelligence, were also among the kingmakers in Zimbabwean politics.

Hamauswa said a win on the political front without the support of such important constituencies was like building without a foundation.

“In fact, it will be a giant with clay feet,” he said. “Above all, if the hand over takeover is to take place within Mugabe’s lifetime, then the old man remains the master key who can untie all the golden knots standing in the way of his preferred successor. This old man is good at surprises. He can hand-pick someone whom we never thought of.”

The political scientist said Mujuru and Mnangagwa have in the past been assigned to various tasks by Mugabe. He said in so doing, their aptitude, reaction to crises and complex situations and their treatment of issues of national cause have been tested.

“He has the reports in his file and he knows who is a graduate between the two,” he said. “It really seems Mnangagwa had passed some of the tests with flying colours for it is believed he played an important role toward the establishment of the GNU, the end of civil war in Mozambique, among many other achievements.”

Hamauswa said it was best that Mujuru and Mnangagwa concealed their intentions not only by denying media allegations but by acting as if they did not know of the “animal” called succession.

“Again the two need to take control of their supporters. They should also have their views on national interests straight,” he said.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure said people should not rush to conclude that Mujuru was now certain to take over as the party congress was still a year away.

He said politics by its very nature was highly dynamic.

“It’s changeable as the weather,” said Masunungure. “A year in politics is a very long time. Lots of interventions can happen to upset one’s ambition.”

He said Mugabe thrived on infights and conflicts in the Zanu-PF party and had now developed an art of delicately balancing the interests of the different factions in the party.

Masunungure said Mugabe did not want someone too close to helm, hence Mujuru’s success in the provincial elections could prove to be her undoing. “She is more strategically positioned courtesy of elections but this may point to a downward trend in her fortunes. With Mugabe, when one appears to be reaching the summit, all of a sudden you can be a target for demotion.”

‘Mujuru looks poised to grab the Zanu-PF throne’

Political analyst, Gift Mambipiri said Mujuru looks poised to grab the Zanu-PF throne ahead of Mnangagwa and any other factional leader who may emerge within the next 12 months.

“Mai Mujuru has outfoxed and outrun her challengers, and she also has a better appeal to the electorate than other factional leaders that are rumoured to have an interest,” he said. “It must be clear to everyone that Mugabe will only be succeeded by his anointed successor. If you carefully look at the developments and characters that have run the party since the Zanu-PF primary elections, the cabinet appointments, recent politburo pronouncements and the results that came so far from provincial elections, then you can’t miss the open truth that Mujuru seems to be the annointed one.”

Another political analyst, Alois Masepe, was also of the opinion that the battle to succeed Mugabe was being fought in provinces. “The provinces are the kingmakers as they are the electorate at the next congress. Whoever wins at provincial level is almost guaranteed to get the top post,” he said.

Masepe said using Zanu-PF’s hierarchical system; Mujuru had all but sealed her ascendancy.

“Anyone who leapfrogs Mujuru will have to use other means. All she has to do is protect her territory, entrench her position and maintain her popularity,” he said.

Masepe said there were two movements in Zanu-PF, one which is pro-hierarchy and the other that is anti-hierarchy. He said the anti-hierarchy movement was trying to disturb the status quo and cause the emergence of a new leadership.

“If those on the hierarchy sit on their laurels and say we are there, they will be shocked,” he said, adding it was only through manipulation and machination that Mujuru can be upstaged.

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