ZIMBABWE – OVERSEEING the collapse of a country’s economy is not an accomplishment most presidential contenders would want on their résumé.
But Gideon Gono, 54, the former governor of Zimbabwe’s reserve bank, has emerged as the favourite to succeed Robert Mugabe as president.
As his health begins to fade, Mugabe, 90, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 34 years, has begun to cast around for a political heir.
Until recently there appeared to be only two heavyweight contenders left in the increasingly vicious battle: Joice “Spill Blood” Mujuru, the vice- president, who claims to have shot down a Rhodesian helicopter with a machinegun in the 1970s during Zimbabwe’s bloody struggle for independence; and Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former defence minister known as “the Crocodile” after leading a group of guerrillas against white colonial rule in the 1960s.
But Gono — known as “Consider It Done” during his 10 years as governor of the reserve bank.
Mugabe for the first time in a long while last week openly defended Gono’s credentials and right to ascend to higher political office despite blatant opposition from some within Zanu PF and government.
The analysts said while Mugabe publicly endorsed Gono, the Zanu PF leader could not implement far-reaching changes to the politburo and Cabinet before the party’s congress in December.
University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masunungure said the praises were only anecdotal evidence that Mugabe had a special interest in Gono and that attempts by political rivals to put a wedge between the two had failed.
“Mugabe is playing his cards close to his chest,” Masunungure said. “The appointment to Cabinet is a long shot — maybe after congress even though Mugabe has been unhappy about the performance of some of his ministers.”
He added that Gono’s chances to become a compromise candidate to take over from Mugabe were remote considering his lack of political shrewdness.
“Gono is not politically astute to navigate the crocodile infested waters in Zanu PF. I also don’t see him succeeding Mugabe because he is too divisive a factor to take over especially that he is a leading player in one of the factions intending to succeed Mugabe,” he added.
Other Zanu PF heavyweights touted as contenders in the succession race include Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, dark horses Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Information minister Jonathan Moyo.
Midlands State University lecturer Nhamo Mhiripiri said the development shows that Mugabe may be preparing Gono for political office in the long term.
Mhiripiri said: “Most Zimbabweans see it as a natural progression to self-actualisation by making it into politics. It may not be surprising that he gets possibly a politburo or Cabinet position in the ruling party.”
The analysts agreed that Mugabe was alive to the political realities in Zanu PF and that is why he has not immediately moved to remove the impediments blocking Gono from being sworn-in as Buhera senator.