Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was probably the biggest beneficiary of the brutal and sometimes comic purging of his nemesis Joice Mujuru and her loyalists two years ago.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Mnangagwa finally landed the post he had coveted since the ill-fated Tsholotsho campaign in 2004 that resulted in his temporary demotion to a backwater ministry, benefitting Mujuru in the process as she became Zimbabwe’s first female vice-president.
Mujuru was hounded out of the party and government after serving for 10 years as vice-president on accusations that she wanted to topple President Robert Mugabe.
Zanu PF hastily amended its constitution ahead of the 2014 congress to sidestep a clause that stipulated that one of Mugabe’s deputies must be a woman. Mnangagwa was the biggest beneficiary of the concentration of power in Mugabe’s office in what the party referred to as the “one centre of power” principle.
After his appointment, the Justice minister appeared assured of taking over from the 92-year-old leader when he finally decides to step down, until he stepped on some people’s toes in Zanu PF.
There is a rising chorus ahead of the Zanu PF conference this week for the one centre of power provision to be done away with, as other members accuse Mnangagwa of using his new post to drive a “successionist agenda”.
Mashonaland Central — Mujuru’s home province – where the plot to oust the former VP was mooted recently passed a resolution challenging the one centre of power, insisting that the VPs “popularity within the party must be put to test”.
It was in Mazowe (Mashonaland Central), where first lady Grace Mugabe told Mujuru to quit. It was from the same base that the president’s wife announced Mnangagwa’s candidature, but it was now the same province masterminding his downfall.
In the run-up to the controversial 2014 congress, 12 rallies were held in the province, as Grace pushed for Mujuru’s ouster and campaigned for Mnangagwa.
Today, the same province which laboured to see the VP’s rise, wants to see his downfall — albeit through voting — a process which was scrapped to ensure that Mugabe could appoint Mnangagwa without being questioned.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said the manner in which Mnangagwa ascended to power would always have a bearing on his political future.
“He seems to have failed to get a firm grip on the levers of power in Zanu PF,” he said.
“This is largely due to the factional manner in which he ascended to the post. His rise was not subjected to the wishes of the people but [he was] a beneficiary of Mugabe’s fear of competition.
“Now he is being haunted by that. He could overcome, although it would be a tough way.
“The G40 group will not allow him easy access to state power because they know him and how he got to that throne.”
G40 is a Zanu PF faction aligned to Grace and has Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Indigenisation and Youth minister Patrick Zhuwao.
However, Moyo says they are not a faction but a group of Mugabe loyalists trying to stop Mnangagwa from grabbing power.
Harare-based political analyst Melvin Kwaramba said Mnangagwa’s failure to rise above Zanu PF’s factional politics could be his biggest downfall.
“He should have dismantled the Ngwena [Mnangagwa’s political nickname] faction and sought to benefit from the fall of Mujuru. But he failed to do so,” he said.
“He had an opportunity to serve both the party and government without competition, but without the Mujuru factor, he has failed to show his leadership credentials.
“In my view, he must be beyond petty factional fights, which unfortunately increased after he took over. He must disassociate himself from divisive leadership and characters. If he doesn’t do that, he could have a short reign.”
Kwaramba added: “But generally, he has fared well in terms of representing government when it mattered most and articulating both policy and law when faced with a Zanu PF crisis or state issue. That should transcend into his political grooming and posturing both in government and party.”
“I would say, those who live by the sword die by the same and that could be the case with the VP, he is haunted by the manner in which his predecessor was removed from office.”
But Alexander Rusero, another Harare-based analyst believes Mnangagwa is untouchable.
“The issue is ED [Emmerson Dambudzo] is always presenting himself as a statesmanlike protagonist in Zanu PF, who is more or less pre-occupied with bigger government issues than petty factional fights,” he said.
“That is why there are people fighting in his corner and not him directly. Contrary to what people say or think, Mnangagwa does not have any challenges; he is actually at the climax of his political career.”
Rusero, however, said Mugabe’s failure to deal with his own succession would affect Mnangagwa’s career .
“As long as the succession issue is not resolved because it is the source of infighting in Zanu PF and there is intolerance in the party, the party will remain fragile,” he said. “But all this is happening to the benefit of Mugabe and his continued rule.
“Mnangagwa was always in the succession matrix of Zanu PF long before ascending to the VP post. Do you think he can be out of the equation now when Mugabe’s political career is slowly coming to an end and is out of touch with reality?”
Mugabe’s succession could be discussed at the conference to be held in Masvingo if the constitutional issues around the selection of vice-presidents is raised.