*VP Mnangagwa remains coy about ambitions to succeed President Robert Mugabe, but impatient followers are now speaking out
*Expelled Zanu PF youth leader says they will not stop attacking Mugabe and propping up Mnangagwa
*Energy Mutodi, Christopher Mutsvangwa etal clear about their choice for Zim’s next president
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa is between a rock and a hard place.
BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
Touted as ailing President Robert Mugabe’s successor following his elevation to the vice-presidency after one of the greatest purges in Zanu PF’s history two years ago, the Justice minister has been navigating a minefield.
Less than a year after his appointment as a replacement for former vice-president Joice Mujuru — a long-time understudy of the soon to be 93-year-old ruler — Mnangagwa had to contend with first lady Grace Mugabe who wanted his career cut short allegedly for showing too much ambition.
He survived the onslaught by dumping his stormtroopers — a motley crew of war veterans and vocal members of his so-called Lacoste faction — the same way he did with the likes of Jonathan Moyo in the aftermath of the infamous Tsholotsho Declaration in 2005.
Zanu PF at the time accused six provincial chairpersons of plotting against Mugabe by seeking to elevate Mnangagwa ahead of Mujuru.
Last year after war veterans’ demand that Mnangagwa should immediately take over from Mugabe, the vice-president pledged his loyalty to Zanu PF’s life president.
For a while things seemed to have returned to normal but as details of a controversial New Year ’s Eve party Mnangagwa held at his Zvishavane homestead unfold, it is now becoming clear that his backers are becoming increasingly impatient to see him take the baton from Zimbabwe’s only ruler since independence nearly 37 years ago.
As an experienced politician, the vice-president would naturally keep his cards close to his chest, but a growing number of unofficial spokespersons are taking advantage of social media to lay out the “crocodile’s” game plan.
Facebook and Twitter profiles of Gokwe Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena and controversial businessman Energy Mutodi are now the go-to platforms to gauge the mood in the Lacoste camp as much as Moyo’s Twitter timeline reflects the thinking among his critics in Zanu PF.
“The year 2017 may see Mnangagwa being elevated to president and he is most likely to pick Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga [army commander] as his deputy and Kembo Mohadi [State Security minister] as second vice-president while other security chiefs will be assigned to powerful ministries,” Mutodi wrote on Facebook on New Year’s Eve just hours before he was snapped meeting the then acting president at his homestead in Mapanzure, Zvishavane.
Mnangagwa, who was pictured knocking back what appears to be whisky from a mug written, “I am the boss”, also met with at least two dozen activists who were either suspended or expelled by Zanu PF, among them former Zanu PF Matabeleland South youth chairman Washington Nkomo, his Mashonaland Central counterpart, Godfrey Tsenengamu, Edmore Samambwa from Midlands, Tawanda Mukodza (Manicaland) and Vengayi Musengi from Mashonaland West.
The mug fiasco has given ammunition to the VP’s G40 rivals who say it is enough proof that he is plotting against Mugabe.
Again, Mnangagwa reacted by distancing himself from Mutodi and the Chris Mutsvangwa-led war veterans who have openly called on Mugabe to pave way for his junior.
However, analysts say this time around, the Midlands Zanu PF political godfather would find it difficult to wriggle out of the web he has been entangled in by his vocal backers.
Harare-based political commentator Vivid Gwede said it was clear Mnangagwa was the puppeteer behind the sometimes comical advocates for his presidency. These include youth leaders who were expelled for allegedly pushing Lacoste interests in Zanu PF.
“They [expelled members attacking Mugabe] are speaking on his [Mnangagwa] behalf,” he said.
“He only dismisses them when he is under pressure to show his loyalty to Mugabe.
“It is Mnangagwa’s political strategy to use the expelled members to advance his factional agenda.
“He is the biggest beneficiary in it and he could obviously be sponsoring the members behind the scene. That could be the reason why he invited them to the party at his home during the festive season.”
Gwede said Mnangagwa blundered by wining and dining with Mugabe’s sworn enemies in the bitter succession battle that has been intensified by the president’s advanced age.
“Children are known for protecting and fighting for their fathers and as a result, Mnangagwa should not have dined with those members, attacking the person who appointed him to the VP post,” he said.
But political analyst Eldred Masunungure said Mnangagwa could not be naïve enough to send people to attack Mugabe, insisting the likes of Mutodi and Mutsvangwa were only expressing what they truly believed in.
“It is all about dynamics of the factional gladiation,” he said.
“The starting point is, G40 has control of the party while Lacoste controls the state machinery.
“Lacoste members feel aggrieved that they are being expelled from the party at the machinations of G40.
“They see Mugabe as authorising the purging and thus [they are] venting their anger on him.
“The reality is Team Lacoste members expelled from the party remain loyal to Mnangagwa and they continue to support him. They think Mugabe allowed their ejection from the party.
“Even the communiqué by provincial chairpersons censuring Mnangagwa over the boss mug, it shows G40 is in control of structures and are now harnessing the opportunity to deal with Mnangagwa.
“It is a continuation of the factional battles until the succession issue is resolved.”
Godfrey Tsenengamu, a former Zanu PF youth leader in Mashonaland Central who was one of the first casualties of the purge against the Lacoste faction, claimed that no one gives them instructions to attack Mugabe.
He said the disgruntled party members were used by Mugabe until “we discovered that he is taking us for a ride and playing games with our future. We had no option, but to confront him in the way we have been doing.”
“His divide and rule antics, gross insincerity and selfishness has caused us to take him head on,” Tsenengamu added.
“No one is sending us, we feel that we are our own liberators and we have to do it ourselves.
“We have long ceased to be hired ‘mercenaries’ after the Mujuru debacle.
“Mnangagwa is too loyal to Mugabe that he can’t even plan against him as he regards him as his father and Mugabe knows that, thus taking advantage of his subordinate’s loyalty.
“This overdose of loyalty is Mnangagwa’s biggest undoing and he risks going down together with Mugabe.”
He added: “I don’t see any reason why people must not support Mnangagwa if that is what they want for Mugabe was supported against Ndabaningi Sithole.
“Those who were for Mugabe against Sithole criticised Sithole and pointed out his weaknesses and there is nothing new about us doing the same. It is there in history.”
He said he personally didn’t care what people thought as long as he secured his future.
“Mugabe himself knows who Mnangagwa is for they have been together for more than half a century and if he is to believe that Mnangagwa is sending anyone, then that’s for him to do, but he knows the truth,” Tsenengamu continued.
“So is Mnangagwa the one also sending those from opposition parties to criticise President Mugabe?
And if the answer is positive, then he has a massive following and is electable 100%.
“This is our struggle and not ED’s [Mnangagwa] struggle. He may at our discretion lead us at the appropriate time, but it is our struggle.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be a cult again in the same way the party has been turned into a cult and against that background, we don’t need Mnangagwa to think for us in this struggle. We will do it by ourselves.”
He said they were attacking Mugabe because despite being an undeniable hero, he was presiding over the demise of a once great nation.
In reference to G40, Tsenengamu said: “If they all genuinely love him [Mugabe] as they claim, let them advise him to call it quits for his own sake, his family, the party, the nation and the whole region.
“If the truth is to be told, he has passed his [best-before date] and all those in Zanu PF know that, but they continue to pretend.”
Mnangagwa has also found support in the state media, with Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba yesterday insinuating in his Nathaniel Manheru column that the VP’s ascendancy was now unstoppable.