HomeOpinion & AnalysisUnbundling the Zanu PF succession matrix

Unbundling the Zanu PF succession matrix

The realisation that the end of Robert Mugabe’s rule is now but certain has created a stakes rush within Zanu Pf while the opposition remains in record levels of paralysis. The rush has seen the so-called front runners committing unbelievable and reckless strategic miscalculations in the mistaken belief that they are the annointed.
The side effects have resulted in Zanu PF resembling an Irish pub brawl with even its state media being used to attack opponents, from government ministers to the Zanu PF national political commissar.


The opposition still yearns for Morgan Tsvangirai’s political ghost. His political capital has surely run its course. However, due to opposition political bankruptcy, we continue to witness small political party leaders scurrying to take refuge in Tsvangirai’s leaking political tent; Joice Mujuru being the latest. In the last half of 2016, Tsvangirai committed political suicide by appointing two additional vice-presidents from the same province in addition to the elected Thokozani Khupe. In that one stroke he confined himself to the political dustbin of this country by confirming himself as a tribal and autocratic leader who wasted crisis after crisis to rescue this country.

For a very long time after Mujuru was fired from Zanu PF her political participation was formed by and managed by the independent media. It was only last year that she came out and staked her claim as an opposition politician prepared to take on a party that she belonged to for over 39 years. She announced the formation of ZimPF. This project suffered either a stillbirth or was a failure-to-thrive soon after its christening as it was afflicted by so-called infiltration and fighting for positions, including that of the leader. Her naivety revealed itself when she expected to build a new organisation with a bunch of former Zanu PF members who are past their “best before political dates” in the frame of Didymus Mutasa, Rugare Gumbo, Margaret Dongo, to name but a few. Without learning anything from her earlier experiment, she announced that she had formed National People’s Party.

After Mujuru had been a member of the wicked Zanu PF party for so long, she learnt nothing about being set up. She couldn’t even recall that even Mugabe was given an old speech to read out in Parliament. She was set up by her inner circle to avail herself for two interviews on SABC and BBC HARD Talk. Let me not go into details on how the two interviews turned out, suffice to say that those two interviews neatly sealed her career as a leader of any organisation. She came out as shallow, naïve, unreliable, ill-prepared, lost, lacking integrity and ethics. Her lack of discernment has seen her dabble with Gukurahundi booby traps and she has burnt her fingers in the process.
The imminent departure of Mugabe from the Zimbabwe political scene has allowed Zanu PF to go back to its Maputo ethos of dog-eat-dog. The most interesting development is that its politics has gone back to acerbic tribalism and regionalism. The sharp frictions between Karangas and Zezurus are glaring. The once semi-normal parliament has been a theatre of tribal drama.

The so-called analysts and academics have not been spared as they lace their analyses with tribal leanings.
As Mugabe’s political opera moves to sing its last stanza, a lot of observers are at pains to envisage how it is going to end. I am persuaded to look to the demise of Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi. The congruencies reveal themselves in Mugabe and Grace, Emmerson Mnangagwa and another; on the other hand Banda, mama Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira, John Tembo and Gwanda Chakuamba. Both leaders came back to take up leadership in their countries from Ghana. Towards the end of Banda’s era, Kadzamira became very influential in matters of state and in Zimbabwe we find Grace wielding greater influence in the running of state affairs. I wish time allowed bound variations to the finale.

I find the following quote [Jesuit extreme oath] aptly framing the soul of Zanu PF under Mugabe’s leadership: “I do further promise and declare that I will, when the opportunity presents, make and wage relentless war, secretly or openly, against all heretics, Protestants and Liberals, as I am directed to do, to extirpate and exterminate them from the face of the whole earth, and that I will spare neither sex, age nor condition, and that I will hang, waste, boil, flay, strangle and bury alive these infamous heretics; rip up their stomachs and wombs of their women and crush their infants heads against the wall, in order to annihilate forever their execrable race..!” Mugabe’s rise and how he consolidated power for over 42 years persuades a leadership analyst to hazard powerful global force behind him.

Zimbabweans seem to rule out the possibility of Grace taking over the reins post Mugabe. We need to understand that she is already directing most state shows behind the scenes. We must, in analysing Grace, forget the image of Grace that we had 25 years ago. Grace has grown in confidence and has been observing state craft in action for a long time to arm her for the twists and turns that come with running a political project. Her lack of formal education has been sighted as her weakness, but on observation, she seems to have more depth than Mujuru who nearly succeeded in taking over from Mugabe.

One needs to objectively listen to Grace during her rallies to appreciate her usefulness in the succession matrix.
I will not be surprised if Grace is responsible for bringing back Gideon Gono to the fold. Gono’s reintroduction has all the trappings of “throwing a cat amongst pigeons” in view of Gono’s relationship with members of both G40 and Lacoste factions. Grace could have seen a gap in G40 of a hard-hitter, a guy that will openly fight back Lacoste. With Grace’s backing, surely other candidates have no chance against Gono, especially knowing how Gono uses a mandate with unbridled enthusiasm. In this regard, Grace will have two options; to stand on the shoulders of Gono and become leader or propel Gono to be president and become the power behind the throne.

Alex Magaisa — former advisor to Tsvangirai, wrote a very useful blog about the constitutional implications, both from Zanu PF and national constitutions, on succession. With that explanation, I am compelled to bring Phelekezela Mphoko, who has a 50/50 chance of being the last acting president. Mphoko runs the risk of being an Arap Moi, who came through after both Luwo and Kikuyu gave way to an alternative candidate. Given the mechanics of operationalising such succession, one needs to bring on board Ignatius Chombo. He is the secretary for administration and shall be responsible for writing to the Speaker advising him of the chosen candidate to succeed Mugabe. Chombo operates quietly with no one noticing that he is the de facto secretary-general of the party and is the minister responsible for police, who might come into the picture during transition.

There has been a lot said about Mnangagwa as heir apparent and part of his strength is that he is a savvy strategist who has been close to Mugabe for over 52 years, has the backing of the army, is a reformer, controls half the CIO and controls the judiciary. In the last few weeks, we have witnessed him trying to influence the choice of chief justice. What happens if Mugabe, as a last stroke, appoints a new commander of the defence forces?
What happens when Mugabe departs while Luke Malaba, whom he didn’t want, is still chief justice? How does he measure his influence when he controls about two Zanu PF political provinces out of 10? How quickly can he salvage the other eight, including the two Zanu PF wings? How quickly can he shake off the Gukurahundi monkey on his back? What if his crimes during the war in DRC are revived in international courts? How strategic savvy is he if he can’t win the confidence of a man after being close to him for over 52 years? If it is true that Mugabe has used him for some of his not-so-clean missions, the Chinese say one never allows their hatchet man to succeed them.

The Gukurahundi genocide remains a dangerous political minefield for most Zanu PF politicians. Mnangagwa’s achilles’ heel is that his faction is packed with Gukurahundists who become lame ducks as they begin their march to take control of government. Sydney Sekeramai is not brave enough to receive the “mugoti” because of his residence in the Mujuru faction for years and his taking part in the genocide. Mnangagwa has been quoted as saying that he was not responsible for Gukurahundi, implying that Mugabe was responsible. That there instructed Mugabe not to anoint him successor.

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