Will Mujuru's Death Change Zanu (PF)'s Succession Matrix?

But the late army commander’s demise could have removed a very important piece in Zanu (PF)’s succession jigsaw since there has been a long speculation that two Zanu (PF) factions led by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and the late Mujuru have been fighting to replace the ageing President Robert Mugabe.

Careful not to cause divisions within his party, which faces a real challenge from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mugabe has not encouraged internal debate on his succession.

But behind the scenes, the battle to succeed him has not stopped and may even be heating  up, more so with the death of Mujuru.

“It is apparent that the Mnangagwa camp now has an upper hand and all it can do is consolidate this position,”says Chrispen Majongwe, a keen watcher of Zanu (PF)’s power games.

Mujuru was a shy, quiet figure whose power brokering credentials date back to 1976 when he helped elevate Mugabe, then party secretary general, to the position of party leader.

He flexed his muscles in 2004 when he helped elevate his wife Joice, who faced a fierce challenge from the Mnangwagwa camp, to the post of Vice President.

It is generally believed that although Vice President Joice Mujuru has her own liberation war credentials which she can lean on to justify her occupation of the country’s second most influential job, it was apparent her late husband played a bigger role for her to secure the job.

There are suggestions Mnangagwa, as defence minister, already has a head start in the destiny of Zanu PF’s power games.

Many believe his position allowed him to suck in the Joint Operations Command, a coalition of heads of the country’s four security organs that has a strong influence on how the country is being ruled.

But some say Mujuru, as former army chief, still commanded strong influence within the country’s military.

“The death of Mujuru leaves the Mujuru camp without a stewart,” says one Harare based political analyst who did not want to be named.

“Mujuru was the principal figure in his camp and he was one such person who could move mountains. His equal in this feat was Mnangagwa.He commanded a lot of respect from the Zanu PF rank and file and the leadership.

“No other person in his camp has the mettle to step into his shoes and drive the camp. Without her husband, Joice Mujuru has no political clout to whip people into line. It leaves her vulnerable.”

There are suggestions Mujuru’s death has left his camp at its weakest moment and susceptible to exploitation by the rival camp.

“The Mujuru camp has been plunged in mourning,” says the analyst.

“Generally if you are bereaved, you tend focus a lot at yourself and you are momentarily less conscious of the people who come around you to comfort you.”

“This is one situation where you usually let strangers to even enter your bedroom purpotedly trying to comfort you. It is later that you begin wondering who the strangers were. Unfortunately sometimes the damage would have been caused.”

But there are some who think the Mujuru camp may emerge even stronger after this.

“Infact, the death of Solomon Mujuru could actually leave his camp in general and Joice Mujuru in particular even more powerful,” says Pamela Mafa, a Harare resident.

“It is apparent that the manner in which Mujuru died touched a lot of people because dying in a fire is unnatural. She can get a lot of sympathies from other Zanu (PF) members.”

There are fears that failure to conclusively investigate Mujuru’s death could also fan suspicion and unease among Zanu (PF) factions and could turn even nastier.

According to some analysts, not many of Mujuru’s followers believe his death was just an accident.

Political analyst Trevor Maisiri says all will depend on the outcome of the investigation into the real cause of Mujuru’s death.

“In the absence of a clear answer as to the real cause of Mujuru’s death, there would be a lot of suspicion and instability in the party,” says Maisiri.

“But the history of Zanu (PF) politics is such that when the party is hit by party squabbles, the President emerges as the internal stabiliser and so much power is concentrated around him.

“This also motivates the security sector to weigh its support on him. While it is apparent the Mujuru camp has been shaken by his death, for now it may not be so obvious the Mnangagwa camp has emerged victorious.”

Mxolisi Ncube, a Zimbabwean journalist based in South Africa thinks the death of Mujuru is a loss to his camp in as much as it is a loss to the MDC-T.

He says this does not only have a bearing on Zanu (PF)’s internal politics but national politics as well.

Ncube says in the event of a Mugabe death, it was apparent the Mujuru camp would form alliances with the MDC-T and vote for a common leader in parliament, leaving the Mnangagwa camp empty handed.

According to Zimbabwe’s Constitution, in the event of the death of the incumbent, both Houses can sit jointly as an electoral college to select a his replacement.

“Mujuru led a camp that many viewed as less inclined to violence than the rival Mnangagwa faction,” says Ncube.

“He is also one of those viewed as having realised that Mugabe stood for all that is wrong in the country and his continued intransigence meant that Zimbabwe would continue to go down and was calling for a change of game-plan.”