For embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the adage that a week is a long time in politics rings true.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
The Justice minister and long-time confidant of President Robert Mugabe is fighting allegations by a Zanu PF faction that he is plotting to unseat the soon to be 93-year-old ruler and in the ruling party, any challenge to Zimbabwe’s only leader since independence is a punishable offence that has abruptly ended many a politician’s careers.
Two years ago, Mnangagwa was considered an obvious successor to Mugabe after the then front runner, Joice Mujuru was ejected from the party for allegedly eyeing the president’s position, but a vicious attack by the G40 faction in Zanu PF has once again clouded the succession debate.
Strategic blunders by the VP that included hosting a party in his rural Zvishavane home attended by Zanu PF renegades and a public fight with Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo have led to speculation that Mugabe could dump his long-time lieutenant.
Moyo last week gave The Standard a revealing interview which laid bare his beef with Mnangagwa and why he believed the VP’s presidential ambitions must be curtailed.
He accused the VP of waging a personal war against him and various other crimes that in a normal country would render the Midlands politician unfit for the presidency.
However, analysts last week warned against reading too much into Moyo’s onslaught, saying Mugabe may not have the appetite to deal with Mnangagwa the same way he ruthlessly slayed Mujuru.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said although the charge sheet being waived by Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF opponents had a striking resemblance to that handed to Mujuru, Mugabe could be dealing with a more complex problem.
“We have already witnessed the repeat of the Mujuru ejection unfold,” he said.
“Those attempts from a section of the party members have not been successful.”
Mujuru’s ejectment was well choreographed, with first lady Grace Mugabe holding a series of rallies across the country which were aired live by the state broadcaster ZBC on radio and television as she prepared the country for the fall of one of the most powerful politicians at the time.
However, Masunungure said the escalating fights between G40 and Lacoste — a faction associated with Mnangagwa — were different compared to the infighting during the Mujuru era as they have erupted close to an election.
“The president is at the centre of the drama in the party and he has to take action,” he said.
“I doubt he is going to act robustly against any faction as the only game in town is the 2018 election.”
Masunungure said the war of words between G40 and Lacoste would soon die down as the party starts preparing for next year’s elections.
“The fights would be muted going into the future,” he said. “They will not be as vicious as they have been in the past few months.”
Harare-based Tamuka Chirimambowa said the Zanu PF infighting was nothing new and there were no indications that there would be causalities.
He said Mugabe’s return from a long holiday was not likely to result in a ceasefire between the warring factions.
“To be honest, I don’t read anything into his coming back,” he said.
“It is just business as usual. There are not any new circumstances.”
Political commentator Blessing Vava suggested Mugabe was enjoying the fights from a distance.
“I don’t think [he will intervene], this has been happening in his presence and he obviously enjoys the fighting,” he said.
“He knows that the more they fight, the lesser they concentrate on his post.”
In 2005, Mnangagwa suffered a temporary setback after he was demoted by Mugabe from the powerful secretary of administration post to that of legal affairs after six chairpersons met in Tsholotsho to plot his elevation to the presidium against the veteran ruler’s wishes.
He was also handed the Rural Housing and Social Amenities ministry, which was considered a junior post.
Last year Mugabe’s wife, Grace, held a rally in Chiweshe where she publicly rebuked Mnangagwa for allegedly plotting against her husband, leading to speculation that things were destined to go the Mujuru way.
The Chiweshe onslaught was followed by a rally at the Zanu PF headquarters where Mnangagwa was humiliated by Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandiitawepi Chimene and legislator Sarah Mahoka.
But the first lady retreated after war veterans sprang to the VP’s defence and threatened chaos in the party.