By Sij Ncube
Harare, October 14, 2016 – FOR one moment, one could have been excused for thinking they were attending an occasion where Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was being ordained for presidency.
But alas, this was at a Zimbabwe Union of Journalist (zuj) awards ceremony in which the VP was just a guest of honour.
This was the feeling among neutral observers as the country’s largest trade union is seen ingratiating itself with Mnangagwa in anticipation of him becoming President Robert Mugabe’s perceived heir apparent.
Zuj invited Mnangagwa as guest at its colourful ceremony Thursday night but their actions have not been lost to critics who view the gesture as influenced by the bruising succession war in Zanu PF.
The Zuj leadership, including president Michael Chideme, secretary general Foster Dongozi, former president and Zanu PF legislator Kindness Paradza and his former secretary general Tapfuma Machakaire, apparently fell over each other in bootlicking and hero-worshipping Mnangagwa.
Before coming to the podium, Zuj played a 10-minute documentary extolling Mnangagwa’s rise and rise in Zanu PF culminating in his appointment in December 2014 as the party and country’s first Vice President.
The documentary showed a young Ngwena (crocodile), as the Zanu PF Midlands strongman is popularly known, at the formative stages of the party after it broke away from the late Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu in 1963 when he was then appointed personal assistant to Mugabe.
It chronicled his assumed heroics during the war of liberation, including his engagement in sabotage acts and his presence at the Lancaster House conference, up to independence in 1980 when he was appointed into Mugabe’s first cabinet up to now where he also holds the portfolio of Justice Minister.
But it is at the conclusion of the documentary which left guests in no doubt of the intentions of Zuj leadership when it featured at the end a roaring male lion hungry ready for the kill.
Apparently, Mnagangwa’s other totem is Shumba, Shona for lion.
He was caricature as the Lion King who would brook no nonsense in his bid to succeed Mugabe as the battle to step into the shoes of the veteran Zanu PF leader goes to the wire ahead of the party’s conference in December.
Impressed by the documentary and praise-singing, Mnangagwa did not disappoint as he donated a beast to Zuj.
Later in his official remarks, he pledged to parcel out stands to journalists under the government’s national housing schemes.
“You are naughty you journalists but Foster (Zuj secretary general) when you are next in Kwekwe come and get a cow,” he said, much to the delight of the journalists and guests who ululated in unison.
“As for stands, you are very few in the fraternity so we have no problems in accommodating you in our programmes.”
But critics say for journalists to be warming up to Mnangagwa is not surprising, saying the scribes have long identified him as a crucial centre of power and likely candidate to succeed Mugabe despite spirited efforts by the rival G40.
The G40 is said to be fronted by embattled Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo and party national commissioner Saviour Kasukuwere who allegedly want the Zanu PF leader to die in power.
Ricky Mukonza, who teaches public management at South Africa’s Venda University of Science and Technology, believes the journalists represented by Zuj are just positioning themselves as the complex Zanu PF succession matrix plays itself out.
“I think they (Zuj) are just positioning themselves close to a person who is closest to be number one in the post Mugabe era, they may however be wrong in their calculations as Zanu PF succession politics has proved to be complex,” said Mukonza, pointing at the case of former VP Joice Mujuru who was fired for allegedly showing presidential ambitions of succeeding Mugabe.
“In essence, this could be a trap for Mnangagwa which may see him being replaced during the December conference.”
In the meantime, the journalists laugh all the way to Mnangagwa’s kraal for an early Xmas.