By JOHN CHIMUNHU
Now Daily Analysis
Zanu PF vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa has outsmarted his boss Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace Mugabe, bringing to an end her soap opera bid to upstage him.
The dramatic bid to oust Mnangagwa and replace him with Grace Mugabe backfired horribly after war veterans scuttled it, amid threats of violence. Out of anger and frustration at his wife’s failure to secure the vice presidency by a popular coup at the recent Zanu PF conference in Victoria Falls, Mugabe railed against war vets, accusing them of abusing their liberation war credentials to “scare others”. Those within party ranks assumed Mugabe was lashing out at Mnangagwa’s running dogs, led by war veterans minister Christpher Mutsvangwa.
Nowhere did Mugabe mention Mnangagwa by name during the angry speech but he poured vitriol on the foreign investment portfolio that he superintends, accusing officials there of corruption and multi-million tender fraud, which he said was hampering relations with the Chinese government.
He also attacked factionalism, and it was clear to all present that Mnangagwa now leads the dominant faction within the ruling party. The Zapu element within the ruling party is weakened by the exclusion of credible leaders like Dumiso Dabengwa, so the other vice president Phelekezela Mphoko has no strong base, even as he is allegedly being used by the faction led by Grace Mugabe known as G40.
The meaning of Mugabe’s attack was not lost on an audience of hardened party loyalists from the provinces, used to such war-time jargon. Mugabe is used to giving deadly orders while joking about it, but the end result is that someone always gets attacked or is ‘dealt with’. Many are waiting to see what will happen to Mnangagwa. Grace Mugabe has hinted that her husband will exclude the vice president from his 2018 election team and include her as his running mate representing women.
No Easy Win
But many say Grace Mugabe has started a war with Mnangagwa which she cannot win. The president has tried to downplay the dispute, claiming there is no beef between the two. However, the open attacks on Mnangagwa have continued unabated, leaving many wondering how this low-intensity war will end.
Mnangagwa is a veteran of Zanu PF infighting while Grace Mugabe is counting on the support of her husband. As the conflict intensifies, the possible outcome can only be a matter for conjecture. Many fear, however, that as the conflict continues, there will be blood on the floor. Only, it is not certain whose blood it will be.
The first lady launched a virulent campaign to have the vice president removed from office by unorthodox means. She wants to take over his post, and position herself to become president if her 92 year-old husband steps down, as expected, due to poor health, or dies in office, which is also likely.
To Grace Mugabe, it is all about getting the trappings of power to enable her to continue looting national assets. The power game is just a side-show, which is necessary to enable her to stay right inside the regime’s feeding trough. However, to impoverished and long-suffering Zimbabweans, this is yet another of Grace Mugabe’s sexy but reckless actions, which will simply cause them more uncertainty and more pain.
Mugabe is known to be stubborn and once he gets fixed on an idea, he carries it through, whether good or bad. But the financial implications of removing Mnangagwa mid-term could be staggering.
To begin with, if Mnangagwa and the other vice president Phelekezela Mphoko are removed by hook or by crook, the government will be forced to pay them life pensions equivalent to their current pay and benefits. That will bring to three the former vice presidents the bankrupt regime is paying to sit at home, when Joice Mujuru is factored in. This alone is a consideration which any rational president would have to take very seriously before plunging into firing a vice president.
Naturally, it will not be a matter of firing Mnangagwa alone. Cabinet ministers, MPs, army and intelligence officers who happen to be associated with him, or are suspected to be in his camp, will also be booted out. Already, the government is paying hefty amounts to about 20 ministers who went with Mujuru, and numerous other bosses of parastatals, the army and intelligence services who were considered her cronies. All this is draining the state treasury at a time when the government cannot afford to pay those on the job regularly and on time. In fact government pay dates are no longer known in advance because of the state’s precarious financial position, which has forced it to survive from hand to mouth.
But, of course, Mugabe doesn’t care. He is rich enough to survive on the proceeds of looted diamonds, farms and other state assets even if the situation spirals out of control. Besides, he has gone through this rigmarole before. He has fired many others, only for taxpayers to be burdened with the costs. As long as he achieves his political objective of neutralizing his opponents – and getting unfettered access to the depleted state treasury – the rest does not matter to him. Like all dictators, he puts personal survival and self-enrichment above the national interest. He will wreck the ship of state in the process of acquiring the billions of dollars that he and his wife want.
Unfortunately for the dictator and his busybody wife Grace Mugabe, getting rid of Mnangagwa may not be as easy as it was to remove Mujuru. Mnangagwa is a self-made man while Mujuru was positioned were she was by her powerful husband and ex-commander of the army, General Solomon Mujuru, who plucked her from the trenches during the war and ensured she was promoted so she could be close to him. Mrs Mujuru is used to having someone fight for her. Mnangagwa fights for himself.
Government business could come to a standstill if Mnangagwa is removed without due process. It works like this. When Mujuru was suddenly removed as vice president in 2014, Mugabe could rely on Mnangagwa to take care of business while he and his wife went to Singapore on holiday and medical treatments. This was possible because Mnangagwa is the leader of a powerful Zanu PF faction. He is former minister of the key defence, finance, state security and justice ministries, where he has naturally planted his cronies among the generals, industrialists, spooks and judges. These cronies may not come out in open support of a dethroned Mnangagwa, but they will certainly sabotage Grace Mugabe’s presidential ambitions and plunge the country into deeper misery.
The other faction, G40, bankrolled by Grace Mugabe herself and led by Saviour Kasukuwere and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao exists in name only and in the fertile imaginations of a few academics and media analysts. It has no ground troops and will not survive for a day without the active support of Mugabe and his wife. G40 has already caused widespread divisions within the ruling party as it seeks to get a foothold.
Even without sabotage from anyone, Grace Mugabe is not presidential material, many say. She is clearly out of her depth, politically, even if she was pushed up to the rank of politburo secretary for women’s affairs, a reasonably important but not too powerful post. She is not intelligent, although she makes every effort to put on an intellectual air after she successfully wrung a doctorate out of the Mugabe-controlled academic jungle that used to be a respected education system. She makes important decisions at rallies and is too desperate to please the people she considers her friends regardless of the consequences. She cannot keep state secrets under wraps and is deeply emotional, taking things too personally and not knowing the limits of her powers or the potential impact of her reckless public statements. Grace Mugabe lacks tact and diplomacy, necessary qualities for anyone aspiring for national leadership. The fact that she wants to be vice president without ever running a government ministry or sitting in cabinet for one day means she is too ambitious. It is the same way that she demanded, and got a politburo post courtesy of her husband without ever having been a member of a Zanu PF branch. In short, she is corrupt and likes to take short-cuts, which is dangerous in politics as there is no time to build alliances and grassroots support which are crucial for defending one’s position when attacks come, as they always will.
Besides, Grace Mugabe is too openly greedy for riches and can grab state resources for herself in broad daylight and without shame. She may have the ‘support’ of a few rich foreigners like the British criminal Nicholas Van Hoogstraten, who is funding her presidential bid, but cannot suddenly win the support of nation states like China and Russia, which are very active in power games in Africa. Mnangagwa is familiar with both and appears to be winning back the support of Britain, where his children now live after sanctions against him were lifted.
Mnangagwa is Zimbabwe’s richest man, according to Wikipedia. He wired the economy during his tenure as the Zanu PF secretary for finance. Indeed, there was an investigation in 2004, led by his main rival General Solomon Mujuru into allegations that he had stolen party funds. Some of Mnangagwa’s allies, such as the Joshi brothers, Jayant and Manharlal who ran party companies like M&S Syndicate, Zidco Holdings, FBC Bank, Catercraft and Lobels were forced to flee the country under threat of arrest. However, the probe fizzled out and Mujuru’s report never saw the light of day until his mysterious death from a house fire in 2011. No one knows where Mnangagwa’s money is hidden, although the United Nations accused him of making a killing from diamonds and timber in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mnangagwa’s money could come into play if Grace Mugabe actually gets him removed from office. He has rich, powerful and dangerous friends like Billy Rautenbach and the arms merchant John Bredenkamp, who will not want to lose their billions because some political upstart from Chikomba wants to be president.
Many within Zanu PF are considering the implications of making Grace Mugabe president and enduring several more years of debilitating Western sanctions, or removing the Mugabe clan and ensuring Zimbabwe has a fresh start. Unfortunately, the matter will not be brought to an open vote. As Grace Mugabe has hinted ominously, Mugabe has the prerogative to choose whoever he wishes to work with, and going into the future, this doesn’t seem to include Mnangagwa, who might be well advised to start thinking about a future without Zanu PF. The alternative will be open warfare, if Mnangagwa refuses to quit as he is being nudged to do by Grace Mugabe’s daily taunts.
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