HARARE – Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, pictured, has thrown his weight behind Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidential bid, saying he never wanted to succeed President Robert Mugabe as widely alleged.
Sekeramayi, whose name was thrown into the Zanu PF succession ring by Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo at a public meeting in June this year, ululated, jumped and punched the air as the ruling party’s special central committee meeting resolved on Sunday to recall Mugabe and make Mnangagwa interim party president.
It was a totally different picture from the Sekeramayi who would grin from ear-to-ear whenever he gets a pat on the back from the First Family for standing firm behind Mugabe.
Only recently, First Lady Grace Mugabe revealed that Mugabe now confides his closely-guarded secrets to Sekeramayi, implying he was the most trusted lieutenant.
The praises resonated with the view that Sekeramayi was on course to succeed Mugabe, a narrative that went quiet after it became apparent that Grace was also interested in the top job.
At no point had Sekeramayi emphatically refuted Moyo’s claims, serve to indicate that the media should leave him alone.
This appeared to be a confirmation that he was in agreement with sentiments linking him to the succession race.
But he told the Daily News on Sunday: “I was equally shocked by what was happening. I wasn’t a part of that,” he said as he danced to Jah Prayzah’s Kutonga Kwaro hit song which talks about the advent of a hero, whom observers believe could be Mnangagwa.
The song further suggests that the new hero will introduce new rules of engagement.
Pressed if he was in agreement with Mnangagwa’s enthronement as Zanu PF’s first secretary, he said: “I’m a servant of the party and I follow what the party wants,” before he was whisked away by his security details.
The Zanu PF special central committee session, whose main agenda was to recall Mugabe and reinstate Mnangagwa as the interim party president, started without the former State Security minister.
Sekeramayi arrived several minutes after the commencement of the meeting, his motorcade skidding into Zanu PF headquarters before he quickly disembarked and rushed past a scrum of journalists and into the closed-door meeting.
Any uncertainty over where he stood in the Zanu PF succession matrix appeared extinguished at the end of the central committee session as he danced and cheered the dismissal of Mugabe and reinstatement of Mnangagwa.
It is not clear how Grace will take Sekeramayi’s volte face given that only a few months ago, she claimed that when Mugabe was taken ill and had diarrhoea for two weeks, he called Sekeramayi to his bedside, emphasising how close the Defence minister is to her husband.
“He spent two weeks experiencing diarrhoea but we never made noise about it,” she told Zanu PF supporters at a youth interface rally in Bindura, adding Mugabe summoned the Swedish-trained medical doctor because he felt he was on his deathbed.
“My husband asked me to call Sekeramayi to come and see him before he died and I called Sekeramayi who entered his bedroom when he was hardly able to wake up from his bed,” she said, without giving a specific date on the incident.
“My husband went through food poisoning for sure . . . but he never went public about it,” she added.
The revelation at the rally was a jibe at Mnangagwa, whose allies claimed he was deliberately poisoned by political foes during another interface rally in Gwanda.
The revelation that Sekeramayi was summoned by Mugabe at a time of severe ill-health fuelled speculation that the soft-spoken politician was favoured to succeed Mugabe.
But if Sunday’s actions are anything to go by, there is no going back for the Defence minister who has now drawn a line in the sand and chosen his side.