HARARE – Factions in the ruling Zanu PF party are burning the midnight oil in a bid to influence President Robert Mugabe’s choice of successor to Shuvai Mahofa, who was the Provincial Affairs minister for Masvingo before her death on August 14.
The Team Lacoste faction, which is calling the shots in the fractious Masvingo province, is backing two horses to land the position, which makes its holder the most important civil servant in the region.
The faction, which is currently on the back-foot after a number of its functionaries were purged for campaigning for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe, is backing the ruling party’s chief whip, Lovemore Matuke, and Senator Clemence Mkwarimba to replace Mahofa.
A rival faction, known as Generation 40 (G40), is also leaving no stone unturned, plotting to influence Mugabe to pick from their pot.
Four names top the G40 list of possible successors for the fallen “Iron Lady of Masvingo”, who died before being admitted at Makurira Memorial Clinic at the age of 75, and was buried at the National Heroes Acre.
These are former deputy minister of Labour Tongai Muzenda; Masvingo urban legislator Daniel Shumba; Bikita South legislator Jappy Jaboon and Killer Zivhu — chairperson of the Association of Rural District Councils.
According to Zanu PF insiders, the real battle could be between Muzenda and Mkwarimba —considered the frontrunners in the respective factions.
Muzenda is the son of the late vice president Simon Muzenda who died in September 2003, having deputised Mugabe for about 16 years.
“As you know, Mugabe sometimes rewards children of his former colleagues. He may therefore settle for Muzenda because he is not too involved in these factional fights unlike other cadres being tipped for the post,” a Zanu PF insider said.
Mugabe may also try to neutralise the warring factions which are causing confusion in Masvingo and other provinces by appointing a neutral Provincial Affairs minister who may work towards uniting the two sides.
“I think the president will appoint someone who is totally different in his or her approach from the late Mahofa. As you know, during Mahofa’s time there was an outcry in Masvingo because she was not recognising G40 MPs. She was causing unnecessary fights in the province hence the president may try to avoid the same situation by not appointing Team Lacoste hardliners,” remarked another Zanu PF insider.
Psychomotor minister Josiah Hungwe, who is the most senior politician from Masvingo, told the Daily News yesterday that there was no jostling for the position.
“I don’t know about that issue. There is no one fighting for that position,” Hungwe, who is linked to the Team Lacoste faction, said.
Efforts to get a comment from Muzenda and Mkwarimba were fruitless as their mobile phones were unreachable.
Mahofa was widely revered as the Zanu PF political godmother in the volatile Masvingo province.
At the time of her death, she was involved in nasty battles with the G40 faction which is fiercely opposed to Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to the top job.
Mahofa is one of the Team Lacoste functionaries who campaigned vigorously for Ezra Chadzamira to win the Zanu PF Masvingo provincial election against a G40-linked Mutero Masanganise.
Chadzamira was later endorsed by Mugabe despite a spirited fight from G40 to have the results nullified.
The late Mahofa was in recent months the target of First Lady Grace Mugabe’s wrath.
Grace sledged Mahofa for failing to acknowledge her while chanting a Zanu PF slogan and failing to display party regalia during a recent Zanu PF women’s league national assembly meeting.
This did not go down well with Grace, who went for Mahofa hammer and tongs, claiming there were women who were working with rival party bigwigs to stampede Mugabe out of power.
She also cited an unnamed South Africa-based woman she claimed was splashing money among women’s league members, urging them to dump Mugabe.