By Peter Bolder
Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa has come under intense pressure from president Robert Mugabe’s loyalists, who are now interpreting his every move as an attempt to topple the aged dictator.
Intelligence and security officials were present in high numbers at the recent launch of ex-Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation chief executive officer Munyaradzi Hwengwere’s Ya FM radio station.
“President Mugabe would never have allowed this in his heyday. Mnangagwa is plotting a coup and he wants to use this station to relay messages,” said an army officer in civilian clothes during the function. He was heard telling his posse at the event in Mnangagwa’s Zvishavane home town that the station was being closely monitored for dissent and could soon be closed down.
Mnangagwa has become the target of a vicious campaign to discredit him by Mugabe’s wife Grace. Although Grace Mugabe was instrumental in the vice-president’s ascendancy by raising false coup attempt charges against his main rival Joice Mujuru, she has now turned against him, considering him a threat to her own publicly stated (and later feebly denied) plans to succeed her ailing husband.
Grace Mugabe rose to the powerful post of Zanu PF politburo secretary for women’s affairs on the back of expectations that she would become vice president in preparation for the top job. The plan to elevate Grace to the presidency were shot down by the country’s powerful military brass, who have more respect for ‘Ngwena’ (the Crocodile), as Mnangagwa is known.
Mnangagwa’s position as heir-apparent to Mugabe appeared secured when the Chinese government made it plain that billions of dollars in investments promised by Beijing could only be released after a coherent plan was put in place on who would succeed Mugabe and ensure the long-term debts were repaid.
According to official sources familiar with the episode, the Chinese demand for a credible successor (not Grace Mugabe) was first made immediately after the chaotic Zanu PF congress in December 2014, where Mujuru was removed as party and national vice president. The demand was repeated in August 2015 when a Chinese ‘team of experts’ visited Zimbabwe ostensibly to assess the value of the ‘mega-deals’ signed in 2014.
“Mugabe never really liked Mnangagwa but was forced to name him vice-president because that is what the Chinese wanted. Now the Chinese are worried that Mugabe was not serious in naming a successor because of the wild statements coming from Grace and Patrick Zhuwao (Mugabe’s late sister Sabina’s son, appointed indigenization minister recently),” said a source.
Grace Mugabe has recently told the public that “the Crocodile will be drowned”, while Zhuwao said Mnangagwa was not guaranteed the presidency if Mugabe died or left office.
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By Peter Bolder