By Sij Ncube
Harare, February 16, 2016 – VICE President Emmerson Mnangagwa appears to be trudging towards the same fate that visited his predecessor Joice Mujuru but analysts are quick to so-nicknamed Crocodile is made of sterner stuff.
Mujuru, the former Zanu PF and Zimbabwe vice president, was summarily fired from the party in 2014 for allegedly plotting to kill President Robert Mugabe, among a myriad of allegations, which she vehemently denies even to this date.
Mnangagwa, known as Ngwena or Crocodile or Lacoste, has been in the line of fire from Mugabe’s wife Grace and her camp, ostensibly for publicly flaunting his presidential ambitions in Zanu PF where succession is perceived as taboo subject.
Speculation is rife he could suffer the same fate as Mujuru who was kicked out of Zanu PF together with other former top party wigs who had tipped her to succeed Mugabe.
Grace’s side-kick Sarah Mahoka, the Zanu PF secretary for finance, set the ball rolling last Wednesday when she dared Mnangagwa to publicly declare his presidential ambitions in front of Mugabe and other bussed members of Zanu PF.
At a rally in Mazowe two days later, Grace made a party of Mnangagwa who has been taunted as Mugabe’s heir apparent by virtue of being the first vice president.
“We have realised that those we thought were being groomed as leaders are sell-outs. We no longer have confidence in them,” Grace charged in what critics say is in apparent reference to Ngwena.
“Do not take us for fools. They (Mnangagwa camp) will not take over from Mugabe. I will rather put him in a wheelbarrow to work” Grace said of her 92 year-old husband whose advanced age is seen as fuelling vigorous horse-trading within the ruling party.
Analysts have been quick to note similarities between Mujuru ‘s ouster and the political problems presently circling Mnangagwa, pointing out that Mujuru’s demise started during one of Grace’s 2014 rallies where the former VP was accused of attempting to assassinate Mugabe.
Grace charged at the rally in Chiweshe on Friday that there were attempts to kill members of the first family, including her children after a rat-tag band of soldiers and a little-known politician were nabbed for allegedly plotting to bomb the Mugabe family dairy in Mazowe.
Mnangagwa is thought to be close to army generals who have previously vowed they would not salute any aspiring leader who did not participate in the liberation war.
Reward Mushayabasa, a political analyst based in the United Kingdom, believes a script has been written already for Mnangagwa’s fate.
“We have seen the same script being used against Mujuru. This is the same script used against (Joshua) Nkomo and (Morgan) Tsvangirai,” he said.
Vivid Gwede, a Harare-based political analyst, concurred, saying Mnangagwa literally has to move a mountain in his defence to survive the political onslaught in Zanu PF.
“It appears his days are numbered. Mujuru’s demise tells us that Mugabe caucuses with Grace before such shellacking of people by the First Lady,” said Gwede.
“In any case, the charge sheet is the same for Mnangagwa of wanting to replace Mugabe and harm his family physically. But the truth is Mugabe said way back even before Mujuru’s expulsion that they had both destroyed themselves by being mentioned as faction leaders.”
As if not raining but pouring enough for the Lacoste camp, Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere has suspended three provincial chairpersons linked to Ngwena for allegedly barring party members and supporters from attending Grace’s rally last Wednesday ahead of the politburo meeting.
This development, according to analysts, is yet another major blow to the Midlands politician’s political machinations to succeed Mugabe. Last week Grace also lashed out at suspended war veterans’ leader Chris Mutsvangwa, a close ally of the VP.
But David Coltart, an opposition politician considered a fiery critic of Mugabe and Zanu PF, said it would be folly to underrate Mnangagwa’s political staying power following his latest, seemingly, political set-backs.
“Don’t count him out too soon,” Coltart told RadioVOP, “He has more support amongst heavyweights in the army than Joice had.”
The MDC former legislator said although there is no doubt Mnangagwa is in trouble, he strongly believes Ngwena would not be as much of a pushover as Mujuru, adding “he has a ruthless streak which Joice never had”.
Mushayabasa also agrees, postulating that Ngwena’s strength lies in his ties within the army generals as their former minister of defence.
“There is an understanding some security generals are on his side. Let’s remember there are divisions in the security. There are those who supported Mujuru and were neutralised after Mujuru’s sacking,” he says.
“Then there some in the middle; we have Generals like Phillip Sibanda who are well respected professional soldiers who are not actively involved in politics. We do not know with all certainty where their political allegiances lie. Of course, VP Mnangagwa can rely on those who have been very active in politics like Major General Chiwenga.”
Other critics doubt Mugabe would have the will to fire him due to their ties during the war of liberation. The Zanu PF leader could neutralise him or destabilise him using the rival G40 camp.
Ricky Mukonza, a political analyst based in South Africa, said Mnangagwa’s fate will largely depend on how he will handle the situation he is facing.
“If he goes back to the President crawling and asking for his mercies he will survive. But if he chooses to remain adamant he will likely face the Mujuru fate. There is little doubt now that Grace Mugabe determines who leaves or stays in the party,” he said.
“The challenge ED does not seem to have is a good following within the Zanu PF party. However his huge experience leading the various security ministries and his liberation credentials give him some advantage ahead of the other likely successors. It must be emphasised that as things are now in Zanu PF, Mugabe and Grace hold the powers on many aspects of the party including; who leaves or stays in the party and who will lead it in feature.”