PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is under growing pressure from his allies to remove embattled Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa before or at the December Zanu PF annual conference which could be turned into an elective extraordinary congress, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
By Elias Mambo
Mnangagwa, a long-serving Mugabe loyalist, is under siege from a rival faction fronted by First Lady Grace Mugabe. The group is pushing to oust him before or by December for manoeuvring to succeed his boss, although Mnangagwa has been resisting the pressure.
However, Mugabe’s direct involvement has shifted the balances of power, leaving Mnangagwa vulnerable.
Sources close to the situation this week said Mugabe is under growing pressure from his wife and her G40 allies to boot out his deputy.
“The plan is to remove Mnangagwa and clear the path for (Defence minister Sydney) Sekeramayi to succeed Mugabe,” a senior Zanu PF official said.
“The approach has been to dismantle Mnangagwa’s pillars of support first while silencing his vocal supporters, mainly a faction of war veterans, some military commanders and rogue youths and activists.
“After that he has to be confronted directly over factionalism and his succession ambitions – which is what is currently happening – and then be politically decapitated through systematic attacks and coercion at various platforms, including youth rallies, the politburo and central committee meetings.
“Even in cabinet and other government fora, he will be targeted. It’s Machiavellian strategy; a ruthless approach which says when you decide to crush your enemy, crush them totally so that they can’t recover. There is also the issue of timing; it is coming just before conference or congress.”
There are four scenarios currently being considered: To drop Mnangagwa and replace him with Sekeramayi, or drop him and bring in Grace, or have three deputies, Phelekezela Mphoko, Mnangagwa and Grace, or Mphoko, Sekeramayi and Grace.
However, Mugabe is said to be also weighing options given the potential significant impact Mnangagwa’s removal might have ahead of the general elections next year. Mnangagwa has been a pillar of support for Mugabe’s regime since 1980 and its electoral mastermind.
“Mugabe now wants to remove Mnangagwa to sort out his succession issue by bringing in Sekeramayi, but he is in a dilemma given the impact of firing his deputy could have on the outcome of elections,” said the source.
“Last week Mugabe stepped up pressure on Mnangagwa at the Bindura rally, saying the Midlands and Masvingo problems are not a result of factionalism, but tribalism, and that Mnangagwa will not be what he is today where it not for him. Masvingo and Midlands are strong Mnangagwa-aligned provinces, but also Zanu PF strongholds.”
“So firing Mnangagwa before the crucial 2018 elections may affect Zanu PF’s performance in those provinces, although on their own they cannot change the outcome of Zanu PF wins in other regions. Mugabe fears that Mnangagwa may also cause yet another split of the party as former vice-president Joice Mujuru did even though the breakaway may similarly fail.”
As the “one centre of power” with the right to appoint or remove his deputies, Mugabe could simply fire Mnangagwa without consultation. G40 members want him to use his powers to kick out Mnangagwa and replace him with Sekeramayi or Grace. Zanu PF is likely to hold an extraordinary congress in December which will either confirm Mugabe as the party’s candidate in next year’s presidential election or elect a new leader, while also potentially propelling Grace and Sekeramayi into the presidium.
Mugabe has also indicated there might soon be some decisive interventions in Zanu PF’s to change the structure of its presidium, saying the party could not afford to ignore the Women’s League’s 2015 recommendation to have a woman vice-president. He made the disclosure after Grace challenged him to name his successor, while also ensuring that a woman is appointed to the presidium.
Zanu PF insiders say G40 is also pushing Mugabe to reintroduce the national chairmanship to install Sekeramayi if he is not appointed vice-president in December.
“That’s another option. If Sekeramayi is in the Zanu PF presidium he will be within striking distance to lead both the party and the country.
If you look at our old constitution, the national chairmanship was very powerful, so it will be strategic for him to get the post, if he is not appointed vice-president” said a senior Zanu PF official.
Last week in Bindura, Grace launched a scathing attack on Mnangagwa, accusing him of associating with expelled Zanu PF rogue youths and suggesting the First Family poisoned him. The attacks seem set to intensify untilDecember. Only time will tell if Mnangagwa will survive.