HARARE – Vice president Joice Mujuru seems to have taken a lead in the battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe ahead of next year’s Zanu PF’s elective congress.
Mujuru is said to be battling Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa in a desperate bid to replace the 89-year-old Mugabe if he is incapacitated or retires.
There has been widespread speculation that despite winning the disputed July 31 polls, Mugabe plans to retire before the end of his term due to old age.
Although Zanu PF suspended provincial elections for eight provinces after reports of vote-rigging and intimidation, elections held in the Midlands and Manicaland provinces saw perceived Mujuru sympathisers winning.
Jason Machaya, who is believed to be aligned to the Mujuru faction, won the chairmanship for Midlands, a province considered to be Mnangagwa’s stronghold.
Mnangagwa comes from the Midlands.
Party insiders also say the Mujuru camp won the elections in Manicaland although results are yet to be announced because of in-fighting.
The insider who preferred anonymity told the Daily News that the Manicaland provincial committee had already decided to retain John Mvundura, a decision said to be supported by secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa.
Mutasa, who is also believed to be sympathetic to the Mujuru faction, is Mugabe’s close confidante.
In an interview with our sister publication the Daily News on Sunday, party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said members challenging party leadership were rebels who would fall by the wayside.
“We have some ambitious people who want to challenge party leadership but what is important is what is coming out of the elections. We only have one leader — Mugabe followed by vice president Mujuru and Simon Kaya Moyo, the party chairperson."
“As far as we are concerned anyone outside that line-up is a rebel trying to create chaos,” Gumbo said.
His utterances come as politicians are now working overtime to win the battle of the provinces which play a pivotal role in the election of members of the presidium.
According to Zanu PF’s constitution, an endorsement for any of the presidium positions which includes the president, first and second vice president and national chairperson requires six out of 10 provinces.
Mujuru is also tipped to dominate elections in Matabeleland North, South, Bulawayo, Harare, Mashonaland Central and East provinces.
Analysts also said Mujuru will win a contest against Mnangagwa because of her strong social base compared to her succession rival.
Mujuru is also younger than Mnangagwa by far and will be in her early 60s in 2018.
But University of Zimbabwe Political Science lecturer Shakespeare Hamauswa says social base alone will not secure Mujuru’s position.
“Having a social base alone will not give anyone political power. Look at the case of the just-ended election, people expected Tsvangirai to win because he had a social base but that was not the case,” Hamauswa said.
In 2004, the Justice minister managed to secure massive support in Midlands, Manicaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Bulawayo, Matabeleland South, and Mashonaland West, leaving Mujuru with
only Harare, Mashonaland East and Central.
Mujuru, however managed to clinch the vice presidency after a constitutional amendment which stated that a woman be included in the presidium.
Hamauswa said although Mnangagwa was seemingly unpopular, he could still scheme his way into power.
“There are rules of power that a politician should apply and Mnangagwa is very good at that but at the same time, Mujuru has good advisors who seem to be doing a good job. Although Mujuru will not struggle to get support, she should not relax because one can always use one’s own craft to obtain power,” he said.
The stakes for Mujuru sweeping through to presidency have also become high following a constitutional provision which states that; “vacancy of the office of president must be filled by a nominee of the political party which the president represented when he or she stood for election”.