HARARE – President Robert Mugabe returned home on Friday and chaired a no-holds-barred politburo meeting on Saturday, settling in one stroke his party’s succession feud at an epic meeting that saw his deputy Joice Mujuru emerge victorious at least for now.
Mujuru, who was accused by her party rivals of undermining democracy through poll-rigging in the party’s provincial elections, has now won the three provinces of Midlands, Manicaland and Mashonaland Central and is only three provinces shy of ensuring that her faction will be in charge of the presidium proceedings in 2014 when the 50-year-old movement holds its crucial congress.
But on Sunday, the minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Jonathan Moyo said provincial elections are not succession elections saying those who believed so would only have themselves to blame.
The faction led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa had appeared to have grabbed the initiative by successfully putting pressure on Mugabe to suspend results of elections in the three provinces they were trounced.
Mugabe, who was on business in the Far East, had appeared to buckle under pressure but the wily old fox, seemed to have sold the Mnangagwa faction a dummy and on Saturday, led the chorus to endorse results from the three provinces and in the process appearing to give Mujuru the lead.
Ten provincial chairpersons will be the kingmakers in the party’s forthcoming congress and the majority party is now holding elections in the remaining seven provinces this weekend on Saturday.
Rugare Gumbo, the Zanu PF spokesperson, said the elections are going to be different from the first three since the party has acquired resources lack of which hamstrung it in the previous polls.
Observers say persons aligned to the Mujuru faction are likely to win the chairperson posts in Mashonaland East, West and Matabeleland South provinces.
Simon Khaya Moyo, who hails from Matabeleland South, reportedly belongs to the Mujuru faction, and sources say he is keen on delivering the province to the vice president in order to get her backing to become the party’s second vice president.
Khaya Moyo is also going to lead the elections in the seven remaining provinces.
In Mashonaland East, incumbent chairperson Ray Kaukonde was uncontested until the last minute when an unknown challenger emerged, reportedly backed by Mujuru’s rival faction. But the odds are in favour of the businessman Kaukonde.
Mnangagwa is like a godfather in the Midlands Province but now he has lost the battle in his own backyard where Jason Machaya buried his point man Larry Mavhima in another election that was hotly-contested but endorsed by Mugabe.
At 89, few expect Mugabe to stand again in another bruising national election which comes in 2018 when he will be 94.
As a result, the stage is set for a potentially decisive congress next year.
Analysts and insiders say whoever is going to be elected Mugabe’s deputy next year is certainly going to succeed him once he retires from the top post.
With Mugabe having indicated his desire to serve his full term, none in Zanu PF has the temerity to challenge the hugely popular charmer.
Didymus Mutasa, the party’s secretary for administration has publicly backed Mujuru to take over once Mugabe steps down.
Mutasa said the destiny for Mujuru to succeed Mugabe lies in the hands of people like him, who have been publicly taking a beating for standing in her corner.
“We do not mean that Amai Mujuru takes that position now, no, because it is still with VaMugabe.
“She is still quite young. If she is going to be the president of this country, it is not her fault.
“It is our fault because we like her to be that way,” said Mutasa.
Despite a spirited campaign from the Mnangagwa faction to muddle the waters and project Mujuru as a power-hungry person, Mugabe still leaned towards his deputy.
In power since the attainment of independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe has been the glue in Zanu PF, but there is no illusion among the rank and file that the astute strongman has seen better days and will soon pass the baton.