Dumisani Muleya/Augustine Mukaro
RULING Zanu PF heavyweights defeated in the landmark 2000 parliamentary election are making frantic efforts to bounce back into mainstream politics ahead of their party’s key
congress in December.
Informed sources said the Zanu PF bigwigs, who were consigned to the political wilderness after dramatic reversals by candidates of the newly-formed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), are manoeuvring to make a comeback before what ruling party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira described as a “watershed” congress.
The Zanu PF luminaries were said to be eyeing top posts in the party’s hierarchy that could undergo a major shake-up if President Robert Mugabe accepts recommendations to revamp it.
Those mentioned as plotting comebacks include Zanu PF chair John Nkomo, parliament speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa, and politburo members Dumiso Dabengwa, Joshua Malinga, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu and Tony Gara, among others.
The Zanu PF leaders were said to be lining up to contest the party’s primary elections in October to ensure they attend congress as official party candidates in next year’s general election.
Nkomo, now widely regarded as a frontrunner together with Mnangagwa in the race to succeed Mugabe, could contest the primaries in his Tsholotsho home area against Zanu PF deputy information secretary Jonathan Moyo. Nkomo and Moyo have of late been at each other’s throats in the media in the ongoing tussle over land that is linked to the internal Zanu PF power struggle.
Sources said Mnangagwa was planning to recover Kwekwe Central from the MDC’s Blessing Chebundo.
“Mnangagwa has of late been addressing meetings in the party’s district structures and schools and giving promises of assistance to the elderly in Kwekwe,” Chebundo said. “He wants to come back.”
Mnangagwa is widely expected to be appointed vice-president at the congress to replace the late Simon Muzenda. Zanu PF external affairs secretary Didymus Mutasa has also expressed an interest in the job.
Sources said Mugabe wanted to appoint Mnangagwa co-vice-president with Nkomo in December if his current deputy, Joseph Msika, agrees to retire. However, it is understood Msika has refused to go. This has left Mugabe facing the invidious task of having to destabilise his party’s carefully contrived pecking order by parachuting either Mnangagwa or Mutasa in above Nkomo who is effectively the third most powerful official in the ruling party.
Nkomo cannot be appointed vice-president while Msika is still there because they both come from the now defunct PF Zapu. In terms of the 1987 Unity Accord between Zanu and Zapu, the two vice-presidents have to come from both parties. Mugabe said two weeks ago he still wanted the two posts to remain.
Dabengwa, who lost Nkulumane in Bulawayo to MDC vice-president Gibson Sibanda, confirmed he was planning a return.
“I have made indications to my constituency, so they will be making a decision in the primaries,” Dabengwa said.
The former PF Zapu intelligence supremo has said he will consider taking over from Mugabe if people choose him.
Malinga, who was defeated by MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube in Bulawayo North-East, said he was also prepared to return.
Ndlovu said people in his former Mpopoma constituency had approached him to stand. Ndlovu lost to the MDC’s Milford Gwetu.
“I cannot say no to the people’s will because they are not happy with the incumbent,” Ndlovu said. “The people of Mpopoma have openly disapproved of the sitting MP calling him ‘Missing Person’ instead of Member of Parliament. I won’t impose myself.”