In his statement during a radio interview this past Friday (14 June) President Emmerson Mnangagwa effectively ruled out the possibility of being succeeded by current Vice President Constantino Chiwenga.
Mnangagwa said that after him, ‘Zimbabwe needs a young president to take over.’ Mnangagwa said he should be the last person of his generation to lead Zimbabwe.
“I enjoyed another one (member of the opposition) who said (Mr) president you are too democratic; you must be firing some of the ministers. Although I enjoyed it, I do not think some of the ministers enjoyed that one. But as it were, it is important because it shows free speech, people exercising their views,” he said before landing a sucker punch on the old guard in Zanu-PF who could be eyeing his position.
“And one colleague, one leader of a political party, said: ‘I think it is necessary that we change the age of presidents, we must make sure presidents don’t go beyond 80′. I said I disagree with you. Then I said to him after me I would wish that this country finds a president who is young. We mustn’t repeat having people of my age; I think we need younger people to lead this country,” added Mnangagwa.
Chiwenga has long been considered in line to succeed Mnangagwa following his successful execution of one of Africa’s softest coups that deposed former president Robert Mugabe.
The remark is being seen as a huge blow for the old guard in the ruling party, especially for Chiwenga who has previously been tipped to take over from Mnangagwa.
A former army commander, Chiwenga was instrumental in Mnangagwa’s ascendency to power in November 2017 after he led the soft coup that pushed former president Robert Mugabe out of office, ending his 37-year rule.
Despite the show of unity by the Zanu PF leadership during public gatherings, cracks are widening in the party between the Team Lacoste faction which dominates Mnangagwa’s inner circle and former army chefs who are largely loyal to Chiwenga.
In December last year, while at a rally, Chiwenga maintained that Mnangagwa is the ruling Zanu-PF party’s sole presidential candidate for the 2023 polls, saying there is no vacancy for the post.
Despite the declaration, those privy to the goings-on in Zanu-PF highlight simmering tensions between Mnangagwa and his deputy.
For instance, there are several decisions made by Mnangagwa in the past few months that seemed to spite Chiwenga.
In September last year, Chiwenga lost the Defence ministry, which he had occupied after the soft coup, to Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, a top ally of the president.
Last week, one of Chiwenga’s allies – Engelbert Rugeje – lost the position of national political commissar to Mnangagwa’s trusted lieutenant, Victor Matemadanda.
Rugeje joined the list of top Chiwenga allies whose influence has been diluted.
In February this year, Mnangagwa retired four senior army commanders to new portfolios completely detached from military operations to diplomatic service, diluting Chiwenga’s influence in the army in the process.
To paper over the cracks, Zanu PF provinces have been declaring their undying support for Mnangagwa by campaigning for his candidacy in 2023.