ZIMBABWE – Factionalism continues to ravage President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party following its controversial elective congress last year, which saw the ouster and expulsion of his long-time right-hand person, Joice Mujuru, and several other top officials, who were accused of trying to unseat the veteran politician.
The party has been unstable since then with indications that all is not well in the former liberation movement, which has to juggle with a lot of stakeholders, including high-demanding former freedom fighters, a politically ambitious first lady, the electorate and a group of young Turks in the party calling itself the Generation 40 or G40.
And the question is, with Mr. Mugabe, at 91, what will happen if he left office suddenly? Section 101 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution clearly stipulates that if the country’s president dies or is removed from office, the first vice president assumes the presidency until the expiry of the former president’s term of office.
The second vice president of the ruling party is then elevated to the vacant vice presidential post and the new president appoints his second assistant.
This transition is full of political booby traps and constitutional complications in the ruling party, which arose in the run-up to its 6th Congress last year when the president was given powers to appoint members of the presidium, comprising the president, his two assistants and chairperson.
Right now the party does not have a chairperson and this is for the first time since independence.
This lack of clarity does not worry some party members like Nick Mangwana, a provincial Zanu PF leader in the United Kingdom.
Mangwana says anyone, who is above the age of 40 as stipulated in Zimbabwe’s Constitution, is eligible for election as long as they are members of the ruling party.
But observers say the succession battle is more complicated than this simple transition being portrayed by Mangwana and his colleagues as factionalism has ravaged the party, with some backing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and others looking elsewhere for Mr. Mugabe’s successor, including his wife, Grace.
Political analyst Professor Shadreck Guto of the University of South Africa believes that Mr. Mugabe has eliminated all potential successors to the extent of keeping everyone guessing about the hot presidential succession issue.
Professor Guto adds that this is leading to the demise of the party.
Andrew Weir, deputy editor of Africa Confidential, a London-based publication, says indications are that anyone can be the next president as the party is too secretive to understand at times.
This is the first time after independence that Zanu PF has been ravaged by such intense factionalism, which may lead to the formation of a new group likely to be led by former Vice President Mujuru. According to Weir, she still has a lot to do with the current factionalism and can outpace Mnangagwa to even land the presidential post.
Most observers, including Professor Guto, dismiss as far-fetched speculation that Mrs. Mugabe will succeed her husband.
He says the first lady does not have the political stamina to run Zanu PF and the nation.
Wier agrees, noting that Mrs. Mugabe was just “inserted into the party leadership” by the Zanu PF elite. He says this is Mr. Mugabe’s way of controlling the party.
But Mangwana is of the view that Mrs. Mugabe can land the position as long as she has the support of the party.
However, a group of people above the age of 40, who are also eligible presidential material, are likely to scuttle such attempts and even diminish Mnangagwa and other ambitious politicians’ plans of becoming Zimbabwe’s second black president after independence from British rule in 1980.