HARARE – Former Finance minister Tendai Biti may have unwittingly poured fuel into the raging fires of the ruling Zanu PF’s deadly tribal, factional and succession wars — after he observed that Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is close to succeeding President Robert Mugabe.
This comes after Biti, who now leads the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), wrote in a contribution to an online magazine — The Gravitas — that Mnangagwa was well-positioned to succeed Mugabe, after successfully projecting himself both as a tough and capable politician.
“The one-self evident conclusion is that in the short-term, Zanu PF cannot be dislodged. That its control of the patronage economy and the new social base is absolute.
“That despite its fractures, the opposition, even in a grand coalition, cannot dislodge Zanu PF. That a post-Mugabe candidate must be found who is, first of all, strong — but with an acceptable veneer of reform capacity.
“Inevitably, this self-serving proselytising leads to destination (Emmerson) Mnangagwa,” Biti said in his contribution.
“With the bulk of those who have controlled it (Zim) for the last four decades being in their mid 70s, it is a State in transition. That transition is ideological, demographic, technological and sociological. It is that transition that needs to be captured.
“The real challenge of democrats is not in the event of 2018, but the capture of the ongoing transition … the transition must be captured to ensure it is not derailed by shareholders of the status quo. It must be captured to buy peace.
“It must be captured to create a soft landing for our country and in the process, deny the merchants of violence who want a civil war or a coup d’état in this lovely country we are privileged to call home,” Biti added, while urging the opposition to coalesce and work to stop Mnangagwa from becoming the country’s next leader.
By saying this, Biti becomes the latest high profile figure to suggest that Mnangagwa is getting closer to winning Zanu PF’s ugly succession war.
In January, United Kingdom-based politics expert, Stephen Chan, said Mnangagwa was steaming ahead in the nasty Zanu PF race to succeed Mugabe.
The professor of international relations at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies told the Daily News then that Mnangagwa was charging ahead because the Zanu PF camp which is rabidly opposed to him succeeding Mugabe, the Generation 40 (G40) faction, had no candidate within its ranks to rival him.
The G40s, and Mnangagwa’s allies, Team Lacoste, have been fighting hammer and tongs over the past two years, over who will succeed Mugabe, who turned a mature 93 years old last February.
Chan said because Mnangagwa was currently in pole position in the ruling party’s succession war, he was naturally attracting significant international attention.
“As long as those who oppose Mnangagwa cannot identify and rally around a candidate, he will be the one who attracts international attention.
“All major players, from the Europeans to the Chinese, have dossiers on Mnangagwa, and outline strategies on how to approach dealing with him.
“This is impossible when it comes to the opposing faction (G40). In international terms, therefore, Mnangagwa is ahead by default,” Chan told the Daily News then.
In December, a respected British magazine, New Statesman, also portrayed Mnangagwa as a firm favourite to succeed Mugabe.
It also argued that a Mnangagwa presidency could extricate the country from its current economic rot — going on to highlight his profile rather glowingly.
“He (Mnangagwa) is sharp, organised and business-savvy, more pragmatic and less ideological than Mugabe. And, unlike the president (Mugabe), he understands the urgent need for reform, if only so that he can pay the security forces and fill the trough at which his Zanu PF comrades guzzle,” the New Statesman said.
Former Cabinet minister David Coltart also told the same magazine that Mnangagwa had a better understanding of the economy than most of his Zanu PF colleagues, including Mugabe.
“For all his historical problems he (Mnangagwa) understands the running of the economy better than Mugabe, better than most Zanu PF politicians,” he was quoted saying.
Mnangagwa and Team Lacoste, are involved in a fierce tussle for supremacy in the warring ruling Zanu PF with the G40 — which is strongly opposed to the his mooted presidential ambitions.
Zanu PF insiders also say the Midlands godfather appears to have weathered the G40’s relentless assaults on him and his backers — claiming further that the party’s ever-fluid factional and succession politics are changing gear again, and that there is now an ongoing realignment of alliances within the deeply divided party — as Team Lacoste cranks up its own attacks on the G40.
The G40 has has also for some time now been described as being “at sixes and sevens”, following the pressure that has been brought to bear on its leading national figures.
Observers have also consistently said Mugabe’s failure to resolve Zanu PF’s thorny succession riddle is fuelling the ruling party’s deadly infighting, which is worsening by the day.
The 93-year-old has studiously refused to name a successor, insisting that the party’s congress has that mandate: to choose a person of their own choice.