VICE-PRESIDENT Joseph Msika is reportedly on the verge of quitting due to deteriorating health and resurfacing power struggles in Zanu PF involving two rival factions and his restive former Zapu colleagues. This came as Zanu PF finally set in motion a formal process to manage President Robert Mugabe’s controversial succession.
Zanu PF spokesman Ephraim Masawi last night confirmed his party’s extraordinaryÂ politburo meeting yesterday set up a committee chaired by party chairman John Nkomo (pictured) to deal with the succession problem.
The committee also includes rival faction leaders and stalwarts Solomon Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa, Didymus Mutasa, Nicholas Goche, Oppah Muchinguri and Sydney Sekeremayi.
As revealed in the Independent last week, there is a fierce debate going on in Zanu PF overÂ Mugabe’s succession.
In 2003 a Zanu PF succession committee headed by Nkomo was disbanded after it fuelled infighting over who was to take over from Mugabe. Masawi also said the party had set up four other committees to deal with party issues. Mutasa will head a research and ideology committee, Mnangagwa constitutional reform, David Karimanzira finance and economic development and Angeline Masuku mobilisation and media strategy.Â Â
Â The move by Msika to retire, coupled with problems buffeting co-vice-president Joice Mujuru in the party, might leave Mugabe exposed in his party’s intensifying battle over his succession. Msika particularly has been a stabilising factor in Zanu PF which is riddled with divisions, factionalism and infighting.
Sources said Msika who is not attending cabinet and Zanu PF meetings, including politburo onesÂ has told close family and senior party officials that he wants to step down. Msika is battling with health problems and has been in and out of the country for treatment.
However, Mugabe is said to be reluctant to let Msika retire, preferring to keep him in office for life as happened with Joshua Nkomo and Simon Muzenda.
Nkomo and Muzenda died in office due to ill-heath.
“Msika wants to quit because he is not feeling well and the situation has of late been further deteriorating,” a source said. “Close family and party members are aware of this and there are moves to manage his departure well to avoid the usual infighting over his position.”
After’s Nkomo death in 1999 ahead of the party’s congress in December that year there was a battle between Msika and former Zanu PF Women’s League chairperson Thenjiwe Lesabe to succeed him.
Four years later when Muzenda died in 2003, a scramble for his position erupted between Mnangagwa and Mujuru ahead of the party’s congress in December 2004. Mujuru beat Mnangagwa, but the issue continues to fuel power struggles in the party.
Sources said Msika’s decision to leave has triggered a new fight to succeed him. The race is between Zanu PF chair John Nkomo, politburo member Obert Mpofu and Bulawayo governor Cain Mathema. Nkomo is seen as the frontrunner as Mpofu and Mathema are relative lightweights.
Sources said Nkomo, Mpofu and Mathema have been hectically lobbying party stalwarts and ex-combatants to support them in their succession bids.
“There is serious campaigning going on because it is now well known in the party that Msika wants to quit,” a senior Zanu PF official said. “A number of people are interested in his position.”
Sources said one of the reasons Msika wants to leave, apart from ill-health, is the attempt by former Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa and colleagues to revive Zapu. Msika is said to be in sympathy with Dabengwa and has refused to castigate him in public while many other former Zapu leaders have been doing so to distance themselves from the initiative that has angered Mugabe.
“Msika supports Dabengwa in principle because he believes he has legitimate grievances, but he does not agree with the approach,” a source close to Zanu PF said. “Even when the issue came up last year he did not confirm or deny he was part of it.”
Former Zapu leaders, a number of them who are still in the politburo and government, feel Mugabe has only used the merger of the parties to entrench himself and his regional clique, not push a national agenda.
Mugabe has accused Dabengwa of being a tribalist because he wants to resuscitate Zapu, but Dabengwa’s supporters have rejected this, saying it is Mugabe himself who is a “notorious tribalist”. Dabengwa last year said he left because “I was never Zanu anyway”, prompting Mugabe’s angry attacks.
Dabengwa’s Zapu held a congress in Bulawayo on May 17. The event was attended by about 3 000 party members from around Zimbabwe and South Africa, as well as ex-combatants from the region. Dabengwa was elected party leader and his deputy is his former Zapu colleague Canciwell Nziramasanga.
Dabengwa, a close friend and ally of South African President Jacob Zuma, is reportedly being funded by liberation struggle comrades in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.
BY DUMISANI MULEYAÂ
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