Malvern Mkudu, Opinion
The introduction of Sydney Sekeremayi as Mugabe’s possible successor by Professor Jonathan Moyo was not necessarily a surprise move. G-40 has been throwing around his name as a possible contender for a long time. However last week we saw it being made official under what the Mugabe faction in the ruling party is calling the ‘look east’ policy. His official entry into the fray does not necessarily dent Mnangagwa’s chances but gives G-40 a fighting chance. It’s just a confusion maneuver by Mugabe and G-40 to buy time hoping to regroup. Mugabe has since lost his right to anoint a successor. It is not up to him anymore after openly siding with a faction.
It is important to note that the leadership race in the ruling party is a hollow affair which has nothing to do with who has the best ideas to improve the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans but motivated by greed and avarice. It is about who becomes the new ‘Don” who will perpetuate the status quo. Regardless of who takes over, the welfare of ordinary Zimbabweans is unlikely to improve as the party continues with its neo-liberal agenda.
The fights within ZANU PF are neither ideological nor about big ideas. They are at most about personalities. One group feels it is entitled to continue where Mugabe stops by virtue of their liberation credentials while the other represented by G-40 which Mugabe leads is worried about losing their place at the feeding trough when Mugabe leaves. This group is also fueled by Mugabe’s quest to rule for life.
Mugabe’s young family in particular, whose only claim to access to the patronage offered by the party is Mugabe, would like to see a candidate who will be ‘indebted’ to them in order to perpetuate this undeserved privilege. They prefer a weak leader after Mugabe’s wife’s efforts to directly capture power were resisted and rejected by the party. Their plan B is to rope in someone who has the requisite liberation struggle credentials to be accepted by the ‘securocrats’ but too weak and pliable enough to serve the interests of the first family without questioning. This is where Sekeramayi becomes relevant.
Mugabe’s ideal successor will be a person who he picks from the ashes and installs to greatness. This has been Mugabe’s ‘modus operandi’ for a long time. He plucks nobodies out of nowhere and give them borrowed robes (kusimudza marombe kubva muhuruva). Such characters include Gideon Gono as RBZ governor, and Border Gezi as political Commissar of the party and so on. These have tended to serve him overzealously. He even elevated Mai Mujuru ahead of other senior and more deserving candidates in the hope of getting maximum loyalty.
We see that now through the power he has given to people like Saviour Kasukuwere and Kudzai Chipanga, junior members of the party who are tormenting their seniors with the blessings and protection of Mugabe.
Sekeramayi fits this bill of political ‘nobodies’ who Mugabe wants to use for his power games. Here I use the word ‘nobodies’ sparingly considering the Minister of Defense is not exactly a ‘mafikizolo’ given his impeccable liberation credentials but he has no real political clout within the party. He is at best an appointee after he was rejected by the party two times in the provincial elections for the Central Committee in 2014 in his province. It took the intervention of Mugabe for him to be elected in the Central Committee. Sekeramayi therefore owes his political existence in the party now to Mugabe. If he takes over the leadership of the party, Mugabe and his family hopes that they will be able to manipulate him to serve their own interests.
Mnangagwa is a tricky customer who is more likely to be difficult to manipulate especially when Mugabe is no longer in the picture. Mnangagwa’s allegiances will be to his military comrades and business interests. This is particularly worrying to Grace Mugabe and others like Patrick Zhuwao who may find opportunities restricted under Mnangagwa’s leadership. Mnangagwa has amassed enough political clout and wealth over the years to be his own person which is why Mugabe has found it difficult to demolish his political base particularly in Masvingo and Midlands. He also has the war veterans and military establishment openly batting in his corner.
Under pressure from his wife and G-40 to leave power to a candidate who is likely to protect them and advance their economic interests and spurred on by his own desire to rule for life, Mugabe is likely to continue frustrating the Mnangagwa faction with relative success. Mugabe is likely going to continue undermining Mnangngwa’s power ambition but taking care to keep the party together to guarantee victory in 2018.
Despite this in Mnangagwa’s favour , the Vice president is likley to support Mugabe in the 2018 elections. The consequences of Mugabe’s defeat are to ghastly to contemplate particularly for the military block of the party who have vast economic interests and are in danger of being prosecuted for past human rights violations by the new government. This places them in a vulnerable political position and puts Mugabe firmly in the driving seat. Mugabe has done the calculations and is comfortable that there won’t be any major threats such as ‘bhora musango’ of 2008 when he almost lost to Morgan Tsvangirai. ZANU PF will vote as one big family and continue with their internal strife.
Mugabe is like a crazy pilot who has locked everyone else outside the cockpit and threatening to take the whole plane down with him. To save their own lives and keep the hope of taking control of the plane the co – pilots have to cooperate with his demands.
It is clear from recent events in the party that Mugabe is no longer the undisputed leader of the party. He has been defied several times and where he has taken sides, opposing factions have defied him with relative success. The insurrection in the party particularly the popular vote of no confidence against political commissar Savior Kasukuwere, the walloping of G40 in Masvingo and the chaos in Manicaland suggest that Mugabe does not have full control of the party grassroots. However this won’t matter much as those opposed to his leadership will have to cooperate or risk the entire team being knocked out in 2018.
The loss of a Zanu Pf candidate in Norton last year against a Temba Mliswa who was backed by the opposition and war veterans shows that there is a fault line within Mugabe’s camp but not enough to threaten his grip on power. War veterans’ threats that they will sabotage Mugabe are only a cry for attention. The war veterans will not follow through with them
Given this state of affairs in the party, ZANU PF is likely to line up with Mugabe as its candidate in order to defend power in the short term. However both factions will continue to have their eyes fixed beyond Mugabe and will continue to position themselves to take over. If Mugabe is going to be removed, that will happen in the 2019 congress or if his opponents conjure up the guts for an extra-ordinary congress before the 2018 election.
Meanwhile Mugabe will continue to sleep on the wheel allowing his hangers on particularly those closest to him to continue to loot the national purse and mismanagement of national resources. The nation must brace itself for another Mugabe term.