Although plagued by ill-health and advanced age, Mugabe insists elections will be held by March next year, with himself as the Zanu PF presidential candidate.
He has urged the Constitution Select Committee (Copac) to fast-track the constitution-making process. A new constitution is one of the outstanding issues agreed by Zanu PF and the MDC formations in a roadmap to free and fair elections.
But his fierce political rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T has demanded real reforms before any vote. MDC president Welshman Ncube on the other hand dismissed Mugabe’s call for elections as a ploy to divert attention from the debate on his succession.
Analysts said Mugabe, shocked by the revelations, will be forced to go back to the drawing board before the polls, as he cannot trust anyone to lead his re-election campaign.
What makes Mugabe’s election dilemma more intricate is that those who plotted his downfall are from his inner circle. These include his two Vice-Presidents, Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo, his cabinet ministers as well as military and security agency bosses.
“What makes it complicated for Mugabe is that the people implicated in the WikiLeaks like John Nkomo, Joice Mujuru, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere are some of his most trusted indunas,” said political analyst Phillip Pasirayi.
Charles Mangongera, another analyst, does not see Mugabe pushing for early elections or reshuffling his lieutenants anytime soon. Doing so, he said, would widen the already gaping fissures in Zanu PF.
At least four distinct factions have emerged in Zanu PF. These are said to be led by Mnangagwa, Mujuru, Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) chief, Constantine Chiwenga and one loyal to Mugabe.
The leaks say Mujuru was allegedly working with Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn while Mnangagwa and Moyo were linked to the United People’s Movement (UPM) in their bid to secretly remove Mugabe from power.
Against such a background of political back-stabbing, Mugabe cannot risk going into an early election, realising that his deeply divided party has abandoned him.
Regional coordinator for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Dewa Mavhinga said: “It is most likely that Mugabe will seek to revamp the party before thinking of elections.”
That would definitely mean delaying his ambitious March deadline. Mavhinga advised Mugabe to focus on a graceful exit plan that would spare him the certain humiliation at the polls, by passing on the baton to a younger and more energetic leader.
But Alex Magaisa, another analyst, believes the leaks gave Mugabe more resolve to cling to power as he can no longer trust his cronies, suspecting they can even sacrifice him to the international tribunals.
“Mugabe has real fears of life after the presidency. Given the many forces against him and now that he knows his fellow comrades have been talking to his enemies behind his back, he can’t rely on them to protect him should he leave power,” Magaisa said.
Although Mugabe did not raise the issue at last week’s Zanu PF politburo meeting, analysts said he will act at some point. Magaisa said Mugabe may grab this opportunity to strengthen his hand by using the “divide and rule approach” against the betrayers.
He may cull the weaker ones and spare those he cannot do without because they either know too much or have power bases of their own — critical to his re-election, Magaisa said.
Paranoid as he is, said Magaisa, Mugabe is likely to lean more towards the military, assuming they are not also implicated in future leaks. Pasirayi also could not rule out the purging of prominent figures in the Zanu PF politburo and in the security sector in the future.
If he fails to purge them before the annual conference in December, said Pasirayi, he will simply drop them as Zanu PF candidates in the next elections.
The leaks are likely to be a “significant game-changer” for the country’s electoral politics
Already, ambitious Zanu PF officials, seeing an opportunity to climb up the political ladder, are clamouring for disciplinary action against those accused of selling out national and party secrets to the Americans.
Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo have said stern action against the “spies” would be taken.