VICTORIA FALLS — President Robert Mugabe Saturday effectively derailed plans by a faction reportedly linked to his wife, Grace which has been trying to elbow out Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa from the race for the presidency.
The group’s campaign could have seen Mnangagwa demoted at the Zanu PF annual people’s conference, which ended in Victoria Falls Saturday.
Mnangagwa had reportedly been the target of a plot by a group of hawks in the ruling party known as Generation 40 (G40) which has been pushing for the elevation of Grace, the Zanu PF Women’s League boss, to the presidium.
But Mugabe, in his speech to officially close the conference Saturday, seemed to pour cold water at the plot, describing any thoughts of leadership change as “dreams”.
“We all had our thoughts of what was going to happen at this conference. Some said there would be chaos, fights and violence. Some said there would be thugs planted to cause confusion,” Mugabe said.
“Some even said there would be changes to the leadership. That was a dream maybe driven by fear, but that is all gone. We are now working together, the leadership smiling and committed to the resolutions of the party.”
The women’s League had demanded in its resolutions to the conference that a woman be incorporated into the presidium by 2016, giving Mugabe only two weeks to do that. But Mugabe in his closing remarks appeared to brush off the suggestion, saying the resolutions would be looked into and consolidated with only the most important ones being picked.
Reports abound that the G40 faction was pushing until the very end to have Mugabe tweak his inner circle. But the Mnangagwa faction hit back by lobbying for the adoption of the contentious “women’s quota” resolution, but with a sting in the tail. They wanted the Zapu side of Zanu PF to provide the candidate.
The tide was now rising against Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, with deputy secretary for Women’s League Eunice Sandi-Moyo’s name featuring prominently.
“We will, of course, agree to the women’s quota resolution but this time she has to come from the Zapu side. Zanu PF has already provided [Joice]Mujuru [former vice-president],” said a source close to the goings-on.
Mnangagwa loyalists were upbeat when other provinces said they would back a former Zapu woman into the presidium.
“Tables have turned against them because they thought they were done with Mnangagwa,” the source said.
The Standard heard that at least eight of the 10 Zanu PF provinces had agreed to this move, taking G40 by surprise and forcing a rethink and rephrasing of resolutions.
When Sandi-Moyo stood up to read the Women’s League resolution, everything had been watered down and the radical stance that had characterised the run-up to the conference was gone. But insiders claimed there had been an audacious attempt to push Grace even further than the vice-presidency.
“They, at one time, actually wanted a resolution endorsing Grace as party leader, but she had been rattled by the push for the VP position. She could not read the resolution, so Sandi-Moyo had to do it for her,” said another source.
The Standard was there when one youth leader early Saturday received a call with the message “if you are called and asked about a resolution relating to Amai [Grace] being nominated for the presidency, do not say anything. There is a trap,” the caller claimed.
Now it is back to the drawing board for both factions with Mugabe having been unambiguous about issues of leadership renewal; “…not until 2019. We cannot change the team if it has been working well mid-stream after congress”.
Mnangagwa’s apparatchiks are clear they will continue to push for Sandi-Moyo but for G40 the situation is not as clear. Grace seemed to buckle under the weight of prospective power and it remains to be seen what tact she will turn to now that the purpose of rallies is over.
But Mnangagwa is not without bruises as his alleged storm trooper and war veterans leader, Christopher Mutsvangwa received a tongue lashing from Mugabe as the former guerrilla leader rallied his faction ridden troops into some sort of cohesion that seemed all but utopian.
But the die has been cast and the “Crocodile” as Mnangagwa is known by his adversaries lived to fight another day for the throne that has oscillated into and from his grasp for decades now