HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says President Robert Mugabe confided in him that he wanted to retire but fears his party would disintegrate.
Tsvangirai, who shared power with Mugabe for almost five years in a fractious coalition government, told mourners during the burial of his chief of security Benson Muchineuta that the succession dilemma was one of the major reasons why Mugabe was sticking to his job.
“Shamwari yangu inoti netseyi. Ndakaibvunza mumwe musi ndikati muchasiira ani chigaro? Zvikanzi ndogosiira ani, ivo varume vaunoona? Uchazviona kuparty kwako, maroverano avanoita ndikapamumwe. Zvino ndingaite munhu anomedza musangano? (My friend is in trouble, I once asked him (Mugabe) whom he was going to anoint as successor and he said there will be ugly fights if he ever appoints a successor.
He said I would witness the same crisis in my party. He does not want to destroy the party when he leaves office),” Tsvangirai said.
Tsvangirai was responding to his organising secretary Nelson Chamisa who had asked why some people reached an advanced age in power.
Chamisa said sometimes God keeps such leaders in power to demonstrate the folly of their ways.
At the funeral of his security chief, Tsvangirai, who has been the butt of Zanu PF jokes because of his lack of a university education, said he was “a far much better leader than those who boast of numerous degrees.”
Over the past few months since the elections, Tsvangirai and Mugabe have been witnessing public fights erupt in their own backyards as their close lieutenants look beyond them.
While Tsvangirai appears to have survived the latest threat to his throne, Mugabe, who is not facing any apparent challenger, is witnessing his party disintegrate into ugly fights as rival camps seek to influence the outcome of provincial elections due this weekend.
Didymus Mutasa, the Zanu PF secretary for administration, said the succession issue was never closed.
“It was never closed and President never said he does not want the issue to be discussed. How (Tsvangirai) does he speak to the president on Zanu PF matters?” Mutasa said.
Provincial chairpersons hold the keys in Zanu PF ahead of a crucial congress next year.
And there have been behind-the-scenes-battles to ensure that loyalists are elected as provincial chairpersons by rival camps.
Both vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa have denied harbouring ambitions to succeed Mugabe, while Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo has dismissed any link between the provincial elections and the succession issue.
Just before the July 31 elections which Tsvangirai lost, the opposition leader told thousands of his supporters that there was a faction of hardliners in Zanu PF hell-bent on preventing a rule by either him or vice president Mujuru.
On Saturday last week, Mujuru, widely regarded as a moderate, emerged from the party’s extraordinary politburo meeting the biggest winner after the party’s highest decision making body outside congress endorsed the controversial polls in Mashonaland Central, Midlands and Manicaland that saw her cronies romp to victory.
The other faction had been pushing for a rerun of polls and also a postponement to next year of elections in the remaining seven provinces.
Zanu PF is plunging into elections in the seven remaining provinces with no voters’ roll availed, raising fears that the elections could be as disorderly as the first three polls.
Several provincial chairpersons told the State media yesterday that they are going to the vital polls without the voters’ roll, raising alarm that the polls could be rigged.
Last week, Mugabe and his politburo resolved that polls in the remaining seven provinces would be held this Saturday.
The ruling party claimed that it had ironed out sticking points and would ensure smooth elections.