A FIERCE battle is unfolding in the ruling Zanu PF over a controversial committee tasked to look into President Robert Mugabe’s succession. Official sources this week sai
d Mugabe’s succession struggle – likely to be fuelled by the death of Vice-President Simon Muzenda last weekend – has intensified amid clashes over the committee’s role.
Zanu PF heavyweights are said to be quarrelling over the committee which some fear is being used as an instrument to promote personal political agendas in the escalating power struggle.
Political combat has been rumbling on within the party structures for five months, partly reflected in the state media where recently the succession issue has been given prominence.
The committee, chaired by Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs and Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, was formed in March to engage the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in informal talks to resolve the country’s political and economic crisis.
Chinamasa’s committee originally included Zanu PF secretary for security Nicholas Goche and secretary for the commissariat Elliot Manyika, but was later enlarged to deal with the succession issue after Mugabe’s April ZBC interview in which he authorised the debate.
It is understood Zanu PF secretary for external affairs Didymus Mutasa added impetus to the succession drama after he approached Mugabe on behalf of party cadres seeking permission to get the debate rolling.
“Mutasa met Mugabe and suggested the idea of going around the country soliciting people’s views about the succession,” a source said. “He was given the go-ahead but Mugabe wanted to know what Mutasa’s interest was in the whole issue. Mutasa said he wanted to succeed Mugabe but only after working under him for some time as vice-president.”
The source said that explained why Mutasa later appeared in the Herald on June 28 saying he wanted to be vice-president.
Afterwards, Chinamasa expa-nded his team to include party barons from different provinces. Politburo members such as Retired Air Marshal Josiah Tungamirai, Dumiso Dabengwa, Oppah Muchinguri, Ignatius Chombo and Sabina Mugabe, among others, were brought in.
It was, however, agreed the party’s top five – Mugabe, Muzenda, party second secretary Joseph Msika, chairman John Nkomo and secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa – would not be involved.
Sources said Zanu PF political newcomers like Jonathan Moyo were excluded to give the committee credibility.
“There were some like Stan Mudenge who were approached but refused because they did not know that Mugabe had sanctioned the issue,” a source close to the issue said. “Mudenge and his Masvingo faction members like Shuvai Mahofa, who later clashed with Chinamasa over the committee, did not join it.”
After his exclusion, Moyo is said to have unleashed the state media in a bid to nip the initiative in the bud.
“When the plot became clear to Moyo, journalists were deployed to approach party heavyweights to find out whether they had succession ambitions,” the source said. “That is why the Herald started in June running succession interviews just from the blue.”
The interviews – seen as fishing expeditions to catch the unwary – started on June 14 with Mnangagwa, seen as Mugabe’s anointed heir, followed by Nkomo on June 21, Mutasa on June 28, Msika on July 5 and Dabengwa on July 12.
Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and ex-Finance minister Simba Makoni declined the interviews.
As the succession plot thickened, Moyo is said to have brought Mahofa, a politburo member, into the fray to try to sink the initiative. Mahofa was given considerable space in the Herald to denounce the committee. This is said to have angered senior Zanu PF members like party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira who knew what was going on.