Zanu PF’s notorious succession demons have resurfaced, with the party’s senior officials locking horns over who should take over from President Emmerson Mnangagwa — a few months after the 76-year-old strongman won a hotly-disputed five-year mandate to lead the country.
The fresh fissures in the former liberation movement come as Mnangagwa has recently called his restless lieutenants to order, insisting that they focus on unity and rebuilding the country’s wobbly economy — rather than be fixated on politics, as they tend to be.
The new party cracks also come as Zanu PF has experienced a number of ugly factional, tribal and succession wars over the past few years — including a mini-split following its acrimonious 2014 congress, as well as the chilling poisoning of Mnangagwa by his internal rivals during a youth interface rally in Gwanda last year.
During this difficult period, ousted former president Robert Mugabe had, until last November’s military intervention ended his ruinous rule, studiously refused to name his successor — amid claims that he was preparing his erratic wife Grace to succeed him.
Mugabe eventually fell from power when the country’s increasingly disaffected military launched Operation Restore Legacy, which saw him being put under house arrest — before the nonagenarian resigned dramatically moments before Parliament started damaging impeachment proceedings against him.
Party insiders told the Daily News yesterday that things were again looking “ominous” in Zanu PF, with a group that included some of Mnangagwa’s long-time loyalists “already heavily involved in the search for ED’s successor” — to the chagrin of other party leaders.
“This group at one time put forward the name of this well-loved general … (name given but withheld — because the top military officer could not be reached yesterday), but has since changed its mind after he fell sick.
“It now wants one of its own instead, among those who have been with Mnangagwa from his time as a minister until he became president.
“This group is also using some of the war veterans to push out Obert Mpofu in particular, because it also wants one of its own to replace him as the party’s secretary for administration.
“Once their preferred choice steps into Mpofu’s shoes, they think it will be easier for them to revamp the party’s structures and to align them with their wishes,” one of the well-placed sources said.
“Mpofu has now even indicated to those close to him that he is prepared to step down, rather than continue being embarrassed and being accused of things that he has not done.
“Among their reasons, this group is worried that Mnangagwa might not finish his current term due to the poisoning that he suffered last year and they are thus looking at having a successor in case that happens.
“This partly explains the current determined attacks on Mpofu and other senior party officials at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare,” the source added.
The old Zanu PF guard — which includes other former Cabinet ministers who were shunted to the party’s HQ after the July 30 elections —are under severe pressure to leave their positions.
Mnangagwa re-assigned these “chefs” to the party’s headquarters — commonly referred to as Shake Shake Building in Harare street lingo — in a desperate bid to breathe new life in government and to strengthen the former liberation movement’s administration.
The Zanu PF leader’s idea was apparently to emulate the Chinese Communist Party’s model, which has also been adopted by South Africa’s African National Congress in South Africa.
Yesterday, war veterans and senior Zanu PF officials told the Daily News that they were aware of the plot to limit Mnangagwa to one term in office only.
“We are saying let the president serve his two terms. There are some people who are moving in their own direction, who are not supporting our president within the party.
“We also know that there are some people within the party who are causing price hikes in order to sabotage our president and we are not happy with this.
“Some of them rush to be party members, trying to cover up their ill-gotten wealth — and all these issues are going to be dealt with soon,” Mashonaland West provincial chairperson Ziyambi Ziyambi said.
War veterans’ secretary-general Victor Matemadanda also confirmed to the Daily News that some people within the party were aiming to dislodge Mnangagwa before the end of his current term.
“The country is not led by opinions of certain individuals but by the Constitution. We have a Constitution which says the president must serve two terms and … there is no need to talk about succession now because the president is still serving his first term.
“It is not about the opinion of certain drunken individuals, but the Constitution,” Matemadanda said without naming these supposed drunkards.
In September, Mnangagwa told foreign media that he would only serve the two terms permitted by the country’s Constitution, if Zimbabweans re-elect him into power in five years’ time.
Speaking to the American cable television network CNN, when he was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting, Mnangagwa said he would not cling on to power like Mugabe had done, but would still want to serve his permitted two terms if re-elected in 2023.
“We have now limited the terms of the president just to two terms … I will abide by that without any iota of resistance at all. Even if the people love me to be there, I will go because I believe in constitutionalism.
“You must give your people a chance to have other leaders. In my view, 10 years is not a short period,” he asserted.
Zimbabwe replaced its old Lancaster House constitution in 2013 — which had been in use since the country gained its independence from Britain in 1980, and which did not prescribe presidential terms.
The country’s Constitution limits the president’s tenure in office to two five-year terms — with the old constitution partly blamed for having helped to entrench Mugabe’s ruinous rule which saw him lead Zimbabwe for nearly four decades.
The 94-year-old did not only rule with an iron fist, he also resolutely refused to facilitate his succession, with ruling Zanu PF insiders saying he wanted to die in office as a life president.
All this ultimately led to his dramatic exit from power late last year, when he was replaced by Mnangagwa on the back of a military intervention.