HARARE – Opinion was over the weekend split on whether President Robert Mugabe and his outspoken wife, Grace, could do “a Mujuru” on Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was the target of their acerbic tongue-lashing in Chinhoyi on Saturday.
By Maxwell Sibanda and Fungi Kwaramba
Ahead of the ruling party’s congress in 2014, Mugabe and his wife went on a warpath with Joice Mujuru, the former vice president, and her acolytes, resulting in her ouster from Zanu PF and government.
Mujuru, who made history by becoming the first woman vice president in the country’s history, had tried to line up her underlings to push back foes that were gunning for her ouster but they crumbled like a deck of cards days before the congress.
Exactly 32 months after Mujuru’s unceremonious fall, knives have been sharpened against the man who replaced her — Mnangagwa, a shrewd schemer.
At a Zanu PF youth interface rally in Chinhoyi on Saturday, Grace tore into Mnangagwa and his allies, including presidential spokesperson George Charamba.
This was after a well-choreographed shellacking in the politburo of the former Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe legislator by Jonathan Moyo, the minister of Higher and Tertiary Education.
Mugabe also had a go at army generals who are sympathetic to his deputy whom he reprimanded by telling them not to be involved in politics.
Political analysts canvassed by the Daily News were divided on what this might build up to in Mnangagwa’s political life.
Alex Magaisa, an analyst based in the United Kingdom, believes that the attacks were part of a predictable script, one used with devastating consequences in 2014 against former VP Mujuru.
Magaisa said from the look of it, the Team Lacoste faction, which backs Mnangagwa did not seem to have been prepared for the sudden turn of events despite all the signs in the past three years.
“Their strategy is probably to hang on until the old man vacates office by death in which case they might still have a better chance. But the pace at which events are unfolding they will go the same way as Mujuru, if Lacoste fails to respond and guard their territory,” said Magaisa.
“Remember people believed Mujuru had a strong power base and that she was indispensable. Yes, Mujuru and Mnangagwa are different but in Mugabe, they are both dealing with an astute and ruthless political veteran. Grace Mugabe, Jonathan Moyo and others are mere instruments — the key actor and architect is Mugabe himself,” he added.
Social commentator and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono also reasons that the script playing out before Zimbabweans has been written, directed and put out by Mugabe: It is a choreographed succession race that would end with the coronation of someone that Mugabe chooses.
Chin’ono said Mnangagwa and his team have made the same blunders that Mujuru’s team made of assuming that the crown was already theirs, with some of them making careless comments to the effect that the military had long settled the succession race.
“All this talk got to Mugabe and it unsettled him. Mnangagwa has been ridiculed for over a year now with Mugabe sending juniors to verbally abuse him. He can only recover if he stands up and pushes back. If he fails to do so, it will prove that all the so-called powerful generals backing Mnangagwa are as powerful as Mugabe wants them to be. We are seeing the same Mujuru tragedy repeated again. It’s show time!” he said.
Yet others believe that while Mnangagwa could be having his back against the wall, he is a bigger fish to fry than Mujuru.
Afghanistan-based political analyst Maxwell Saungweme postulates that Mnangagwa is a bit more sophisticated than Mujuru, adding that Mugabe does not appear to be on the same page with his wife, who could be cajoling him by taking advantage of his advanced age.
“If Grace succeeds in pushing Mnangagwa out, there is likely to be resistance given his entrenchment with the military and inner circles of power. Also for Mugabe, he will be left with very few friends he went to war with and he will be isolated,” said Saungweme.
“A Mnangagwa ouster means removing (Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantino) Chiwenga and other generals who are key to Zanu PF’s infrastructure of electoral violence. It therefore may not augur well for Zanu PF to collapse ahead of elections. So, Mugabe might still maintain his seeming stance that his successor will be chosen by Zanu PF and Mnangagwa stays,” he added.
Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said Mnangagwa was an indispensable entity of the presidium, adding that Grace was taking a risk by goading Mugabe to ditch him.
“Just like the (Saviour) Kasukuwere debacle, this public charade will just die down,” said Ngwenya.
Political activist Farai Maguwu believes Mnangagwa was finished a while ago.
“Zanu PF people are cowards who will suffer silently and will never stand up to defend themselves. No one ever thought belligerent (George) Charamba would be sheepishly humiliated like that while standing akimbo as if he was receiving the Holy Communion.
“This is how they allowed Mugabe to destroy the country and now he is destroying them. Handei tione! Mnangagwa and his entire team are finished. It’s a delayed funeral,” said Maguwu. – Daily News