IN HUMOROUS remarks that may contain some truth for ambitious Zanu PF bigwigs, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, joked on Thursday about the sure-fire credentials of the person who would likely succeed him when he leaves office.
Speaking in Harare after touring cement manufacturer PPC Zimbabwe’s US$82 million milling plant, the 78-year old Zanu PF leader wise-cracked that his successor would need to experience the rough times that he went through in the last few months in power of the late former president Robert Mugabe to become the country’s next chief executive.
The comments came as some ruling party bigwigs are said to be positioning themselves for his job — although Zanu PF insists that he must be given more time to fulfil the electoral promises that he made when he succeeded Mugabe via a stunning and widely-supported military coup in November 2017.
The jovial Mnangagwa said Vice President Kembo Mohadi, who introduced him as the guest of honour at the function, had spoken a lot about him — and so, he too wanted to say “things” about his other second-in-command. “When I became president and made him my deputy, he said to me, ‘my brother, do you have somebody who will become president when you go’. I said to him, ‘I have spent just six months in the office and you are already talking about me going? So what do you have in mind?’
“He said, ‘I have done most of the things you have done’. I asked him to count them and he said ‘I am a war veteran. I am an MP. I have served as minister in several ministries. In particular, my brother I have been minister of State Security like yourself and I have been, though for a short period, Defence minister like yourself. Now I am vice president like you were’.
“Then I said there are a few things you have forgotten. You need to be poisoned,” Mnangagwa said to much laughter among the gathered crowd.
This comes after Mnangagwa asserted that he was poisoned by his political foes at a Zanu PF youth inter-face rally at Pelandaba Stadium in Gwanda, in August 2017 — which saw him falling seriously ill and subsequently being airlifted to Johannesburg for emergency treatment.
Later, he also revealed how he had spent two days lying unconscious in a South African hospital, as doctors battled to save his life. Speaking to American cable television network CNN in September 2018, Mnangagwa said he was a whisker away from death then, had it not been for the timely intervention of his other deputy, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga — who organised a helicopter to rush him to Gweru Military Hospital, where doctors recommended his immediate airlifting to South Africa.
“How did they save you? What was the process?” Mnangagwa was asked by his probing CNN host, Christiane Amanpour. “After two days of being unconscious … they said the level of poisoning was very high, something like 31 percent. It was reduced in six days to 11 percent.
“And I had something like three to four hours of life (had I not been immediately rushed to South Africa). I would have died of cardiac failure.
“The research which was done by various doctors in South Africa, in Australia and other places … where tests were done, called it metal poisoning — arsenic metal poisoning. And they narrowed it as to where it could have come from,” Mnangagwa also said then.
“My last review says the level of poisoning in my system is now under three percent,” he added. In December 2018, while addressing worshippers who packed the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) Hall in Bulawayo for a church gathering organised for the president, Mohadi also joked along the same lines — remarking that he had travelled the same road as Mnangagwa, a feat that made him think that he was destined to lead the country in future.
Mnangagwa was the guest of honour at the ceremony which was organised by the Faith for the Nation Campaign — a grouping of inter-denominational churches — to thank God for the peaceful transition from Mugabe’s administration to his. “I have been minister of National State Security, minister of Defence … I think I am following in your footsteps.
“If that’s the criteria to be where you are, I think I am on track,” Mohadi told Mnangagwa then — who before he became vice president, served as State Security, Justice and Defence minister.
But, just as he did on Thursday, Mnangagwa said at the time that Mohadi needed to also withstand rallies where jibes targeted at him were thrown around during Mugabe’s last few months in high office.
“My VP said he has been the minister of State Security, minister of Defence and is following my footsteps. “He needs nine interface rallies. He also needs to be a border jumper,” he said then to similarly huge applause and much laughter.
This comes as Zanu PF has reiterated that Mnangagwa will complete two terms in office — seemingly bolting the door against ambitious party bigwigs said to be interested in his job.
It also comes as the demons of factionalism that gutted Zanu PF during Mugabe’s last few years in power have returned to the party with a vengeance.
Speaking to the media last month, acting Zanu PF spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa said Mnangagwa needed to be given more time to fulfil the promises he made when he replaced Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s new leader in November 2017.
Chinamasa also said emphatically that Zanu PF wanted Mnangagwa to continue serving in office beyond his current term, which ends in 2023.
“We say this because we do not want politics where things are started and are not finished. You cannot start on a serious development path or project and expect it to be completed in one year or one term.
“We want the president to fulfil what he set out to do when he first won the elections in 2018. In Zanu PF, we are very clear at all levels of the party. We need uninterrupted development in Zimbabwe.
“We need peace and tranquillity so that we can have political stability and chart our own development path,” Chinamasa said then.
Meanwhile, a power struggle that has been simmering for months between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ambitious deputy, retired General Constantino Chiwenga, has intensified over the past two weeks, with factions said to belong to them fighting bitterly over control of re-introduced District Coordinating Committees (DCCs).
Mnangagwa and the former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander are fighting for the heart and soul of Zanu PF and control of the levers of state power.
The differences between the two emerged after the November 2017 coup over several issues, such as type of transitional arrangement, key appointments, including cabinet posts and Mnangagwa’s tenure.
Insiders say initially the coup deal was that Mnangagwa would come in as a civilian face and serve one term and go, leaving power to Chiwenga.
However, Mnangagwa’s repeated talk of two terms is said to have widened the rift between the two. There have also been differences on critical appointments, dismissals, especially in the security sector, business deals and the direction of the administration, sources say.
Mnangagwa was recently endorsed by party provinces and organs as Zanu PF’s sole 2023 presidential candidate. However, insiders say Chiwenga is not prepared to wait for ten years of Mnangagwa’s rule to come in, setting the stage for a bruising power struggle ahead.
The party resolved to re-introduce the DCCs in its structures last year, claiming they were the missing link in the coordination of its programmes.
DCCs were disbanded in 2012 after they became the centre of terminal factional fights among bigwigs. The party felt DCCs were, during that time, being used to foment divisions and fan factionalism between camps led by Mnangagwa and then vice-president Joice Mujuru. Mujuru and Mnangagwa were angling to succeed the late former president Mugabe. According to the Zanu PF constitution, there are 60 rural DCCs and 29 in urban areas that must be constituted.
When fully constituted, the DCCs form part of Zanu PF’s congress — the supreme decision-making body mandated to elect the party president. Accordingly, whoever controls DCCs has greater potential of sustaining power in Zanu PF.