Zanu-PF Politburo member Chief Air Marshal Perrance Shiri (Retired) believes that the party could have erred in giving former President Robert Mugabe carte blanche to stay in office for as long as he pleased, as this seems to have made him vulnerable, especially when he became old, to the political designs of a faction led by ex-First Lady Grace Mugabe, which wanted to take over the levers of power in the party and Government.
The Politburo member, who is also the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, said this while introducing President Mnangagwa during a meeting with Zimbabweans based in Tanzania at Hyatt Hotel in Dar es Salaam.
Minister Shiri said the G40 faction, whose political ambitions were blunted by the military’s operation in November last year — Operation Restore Legacy — was angling to first elevate the former First Lady first as Vice President of both the party and State, before catapulting her to the Presidency.
This, he said, was at variance with the practice of other liberation movements in the region such as the ANC in South Africa, Swapo in Namibia and Frelimo in Mozambique.
“In November last year, after a lot of jockeying in the party for what appeared to be a vacuum there, I think we all know the former president (Cde Robert Mugabe) of the party was 94 years old, and we all know the challenges associated with old age,” said Minister Shiri.
“We had a cabal which worked with the wife of the former president for the purposes of capturing both State power as well as the party’s leadership. And in order to achieve that, they had to sideline and discredit credible leaders within the party.
“That led to the dismissal of our Guest of Honour (President Mnangagwa) from the post of Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Vice President of the party. And it appeared that the party, through the influence of the cabal, were set to appoint Dr Grace Mugabe to take over the Deputy Presidency of the party and possibly of Government. The objective being ultimately for her to become the party leader.”
Min Shiri said other liberation movements seemed to have a “predictable” succession pattern.
He said: “We might want to take a leaf from other liberation movements in our region. We had Swapo. At independence, their founding father was Sam Nujoma. He led for 15 years, then left his deputy to take over; that was Mr (Hifikepunye) Pohamba, who ran the country for 10 years and also handed over the party to his deputy, current president (Hage Geingob) —all veterans of the liberation struggle.
“In Mozambique, it started with the late President Samora Machel after his unfortunate demise. His immediate deputy, Cde Joaquim Chissano, took over leadership of both the party and the country. After 10 years, he handed over to the next most senior individual, Cde (Armando) Guebuza, who also did the same.
“Same story for South Africa, from Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma; it was so predictable, the succession pattern.”
But in Zimbabwe’s case, he said, this was quite different.
“But in our case, it was quite different: Wrongly or correctly, we had allowed our founding father to remain in office for as long as he wanted, but due to old age, then we had this cabal coming into place and trying to wrestle power through unorthodox means, and one sure way to make it was to discredit and sideline credible leaders of the party.
“That’s how we ended up with the Guest of Honour (President Mnangagwa) being dismissed from the leadership of this party.”
This act, he said, led to an inexorable process, through Operation Restore Legacy, which culminated in the resignation of ex-president Robert Mugabe on November 21 and reinstatement and elevation of Cde Mnangagwa as President of both the party and State.
Minister Shiri said the Head of State and Government, who he described as an “immensely experienced” individual, was currently correcting the shortcomings of the previous administration, and was largely expected to deliver Zimbabwe to the Promised Land.
“He is very much aware of the points of the previous dispensation and he has proved his determination to uphold those while correcting the shortcomings of the previous dispensation,” he said.
President Mnangagwa was in Tanzania for a two-day State visit at the invitation of Tanzanian President Dr John Magufuli, which ended yesterday.
The President is no stranger to the East African country as he pioneered one of the military camps in Bagamoyo.
Minister Shiri also trained in Tanzania — which, as chair of the OAU (now AU) Liberation Committee, played midwife to most of the liberation movements in Africa as well.