EXCLUSIVE: Zanu PF’s future hangs in the balance – Who will succeed Mnangagwa?


Zanu PF will be forced to deal with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s potentially divisive succession after Wednesday’s harmonised elections at a time when the ruling party is battling factionalism, a top researcher says.

Mnangagwa, who took over from the late Robert Mugabe after a military coup six years ago, will be running for his second and final full term in office.

The 80-year-old ruler has relied heavily on a shadowy ‘non-governmental organisation’ known as Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ) for his re-election campaign because of divisions in Zanu PF, which nearly cost him the 2018 elections.

FAZ, which is said to have links with the Central Intelligence Organisation, ran Zanu PF’s primary elections where the majority of the sitting MPs fell by the wayside amid widespread reports of vote rigging.

Clionadh Raleigh, executive director of the Armed Conflict location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and a senior professor of political violence and geography in the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, said Mnangagwa’s succession was a potential powder keg.

In a paper titled: Political succession and intra-party divisions: Examining the potential of violence in Zimbabwe’s 2023 elections published on Friday, Raleigh said Mnangagwa’s age and the presidential term limits were an albatross on Zanu PF.

“As aforementioned, in Zimbabwe’s current political climate, there is a high level of economic and social malaise,” she wrote.

“These issues are mirrored in Zanu PF where many factions exist and fewer resources are being shared around and the churn of opportunities and positions is non-existent.

“But crucially: this is likely to be Mnangagwa’s last election, as he has reached 80 years.

Who will come next?

“There are no more ‘original’ war veterans, and waiting in the wings are those whom Mnangagwa purged from the party and state (for example, Saviour Kasukuwere, a former Zanu PF heavyweight and leader of the late Mugabe-era faction ‘Generation 40’ who attempted to shoehorn Grace Mugabe into power).”

Kasukuwere was banned from running as an independent in Wednesday’s election because he has been out of the country for more than 18 months.

Raleigh predicted that jostling for the top post in Zanu PF would be intense.

“The end of this reign is important because the jostling in Zanu-PF elite circles will be fierce and directed towards building loyalty for the presumed successor (whomever that may be),” she added.

“With any change in government, the Zanu PF political machine will be recalibrated. If that is happening too early (as in, during this election), then the outcome for the top of the Zanu PF hierarchy is in question.

“This is a present concern because if Zanu PF cannot depend on local party apparatchiks and local administrators to return the ‘right results’ and for the ‘right candidate’, then they risk losing this election.

“In a repeat of 2008, those at the Zanu PF centre will go to extreme lengths to hold onto power, and this leads to inflated risks to local administrators and voters living in ‘defecting’ areas.”

There have been reports that Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is angling for Mnangagwa’s post, but the former army commander has said he does not habour such ambitions.

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa yesterday told Zanu PF supporters at his last campaign rally before the elections in Shurugwi that he was confident of victory and had invited international observers because he has nothing to hide.

“We have nothing to hide,” he said.

“We have invited 45 countries, 17 regional and international bodies and all consulates to observe our elections.

“We also invited Southern African Development Community countries.”

A number of election observers arrived in the country last week.

The Commonwealth is also observing the elections for the second time since 2018.

Mnangagwa, however, told observers from foreign countries not to have a biased mind.

“Please do not come to become observers with foregone conclusions from your countries,” he said.

“We have open minds and we are a peaceful country.

“It is us and not any other organisation, which can come to teach us how to run peaceful elections.

“We are not doing this to please anybody. It is us who can run free and fair elections.”

The European Union Elections Observer Mission (EU EOM) yesterday castigated what it said were attempts to discredit its work after state-controlled media claimed it had bribed local journalists with whisky and groceries.

EU EOM chief observer Fabio Massimo Castaldo said the reports were “defamatory” and “unfounded”.

“The EU EOM has taken note of previous unacceptable attempts to discredit the mission. The EU EOM sees these articles as blatant disinformation of the Zimbabwean public,” Castaldo said.

“They reflect a continued effort to undermine the EU EOM and credible election observation.”

— The Standard

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