The reported unease between President Robert Mugabe’s two deputies, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, is being fuelled by the unresolved succession politics in Zanu (PF), analysts have said.
Mnangagwa and Mphoko, who were both appointed VPs after the party’s controversial December congress, are alleged to be in a superiority tug of war.
Two weeks ago, Mphoko reproached Psychomotor minister Josaya Hungwe at a meeting in Masvingo over the issue after Hungwe, who has referred to Mnangagwa as the “Son of God”, addressed Mphoko as second VP.
With the Mujuru faction floored, Mnangagwa looks set to take over from Mugabe, but Information minister Jonathan Moyo told the British Broadcasting Corporation that it was not automatic that Mnangagwa would take over from Mugabe as the succession race was still wide open.
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said in an interview that the succession race in Zanu PF was still highly contested and the relationship between Mnangagwa and Mphoko appeared to be grounded in their common loyalty to their principal, Mugabe.
“They are, however, going to be at odds over the acting presidency where and when the President is absent or decides to resign,” Zhangazha said.
“This is because the immediate previous acting president automatically assumes the office of president for 90 days before their party either endorses or changes such a president through writing a letter to Parliament. Their fight will eventually be about that endorsement or lack of it. In the meantime, they have to be in good books in order to keep their principal happy.”
Since the signing of the Unity Accord that united Zanu and PF Zapu to form Zanu PF, the VP from the Zapu side has always played second fiddle to his Zanu counterpart although Article 4 of the Unity Accord says: “Zanu PF shall have two Second Secretaries and Vice-Presidents who shall be appointed by the First Secretary and President of the Party.”
According to the Constitution, the first and second VP will only come into effect after the introduction of the clause of running mates in the next eight years.
But Mnangagwa has been largely viewed as the senior of the two and has had more chances as acting president than his counterpart, fuelling speculation that he would be Mugabe’s eventual successor.
Media consultant Ernest Mudzengi said: “From the Unity Accord, the VP from Zapu was always regarded as second VP. It is not about the Constitution because even in the Zanu PF constitution itself, it is not provided for.”
He said the tiff between the two had been exaggerated by the media.
Dewa Mavhinga, senior researcher for Zimbabwe and Southern Africa with the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch, said: “My reading is that the real problem in Zanu PF is the unresolved succession question which is pitting many people against one another in the party.”
He added: “Until there is a clear successor to Mugabe, we will continue to witness tugs of war all over, including between the two Vice-Presidents who may both be vying to be next in line after Mugabe.”
Another analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said. “Mphoko has an inferiority complex because he is second grade Zapu. He was not in the structures, so he became a compromise candidate since most senior Zapu guys are a threat to Mugabe. Frankly speaking, he is second Vice-President and I don’t think this has any bearing on Zanu PF succession.”
He said Mphoko was junior because nobody knows where he came from.
“If you hear someone saying I am not something, he will be hiding something. Why do you think he is harping about Gukurahundi? Trying to justify himself before Mugabe. He’s desperate. There is no tug of war. According to Mugabe, Mnangagwa is the man.”
He added: “By the way, Mugabe has no friends, but I think he’s more comfortable doing business with Mnangagwa.”
On Gukurahundi, another political analyst Charles Mangongera said Mphoko was trying to thank Mugabe for appointing him as VP from nowhere.