The political analysts reckon that it is now too late for Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga to mount a serious challenge to wrest power from Mnangagwa at the October congress despite concerted efforts by his supporters in the country and abroad. A string of developments have in recent weeks dented Mnangagwa’s political gravitas.
On 18 July this year, Jim Kunaka, a former Zanu-PF youth leader who led a notorious terror group called Chipangano, but was later expelled during the then Robert Mugabe era, publicly accused Mnangagwa of reneging on a deal to hand over power to Chiwenga after one term following the November 2017 coup.
Kunaka said Mnangagwa must hand over power to Chiwenga in the letter and spirit of their arrangement and went on to announce the formation of new break-away political outfit, Zanu-PF Original.
He described Mnangagwa’s Lacoste faction as a group of power mongers.
Before Kunaka’s diatribe against Mnangagwa, another former Zanu-PF youth leader, Godfrey Tsenengamu, had also battered the embattled leader in a public address to the media, in which he said exiled party commissar Saviour Kasukuwere was supposed to come back and take over at the helm of the ruling party.
The situation reached a crescendo last week when Mutami conducted a Twitter Space address which attracted an audience of 13 000 in which she accused Mnangagwa of raping her while she was a 15-year-old minor.
Mutami made detailed revelations to back her claims which included information on Mnangagwa’s body, like a birth mark on his inner left thigh and another one on his bottom.
Australian police in Brisbane have since opened a probe after a formal complaint of rape was made by the 33-year-old health services professional.
The Australian police said they will hand over the case to “international jurisdictions”.
Mutami also accused Mnangagwa of murder and sexual abuse of women in Zanu-PF.
She told her Twitter audience that she had informed Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe and the current Zimbabwe National Army commander Lieutenant-General David Sigauke about the sexual abuses.
In separate interviews with The NewsHawks, political analysts forecast a dark future for Mnangagwa insofar as his political life is concerned on account of the latest revelations.
Political analyst and professor of world politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Stephen Chan, told The NewsHawks that while Mnangagwa’s sex scandals may not directly lead to his downfall, his political endgame was nigh.
“It will not be a sex scandal that impedes Manangagwa’s quest to be the 2023 presidential candidate for Zanu-PF, but power struggles within Zanu-PF itself that have much bigger stakes than a sex scandal,” he said.
He added: “Susan Mutami has had a varied romantic and sexual life. Whether or not her accusations are true, they will not register with the bulk of Mnangagwa’s supporters.”
Chan also indicated that Mnangagwa, on the other hand, may take comfort in the fact that his rivals are not clean as well.
“The problem with using sex scandals to criticise one leader is that his rivals also have their own colourful and controversial intimate lives. Painting one person as sullied is hard when so many can be placed in the same boat,” he said.
In his assessment of Mnangagwa’s political life at present, University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masunungure told The NewsHawks that the leader’s advantage is the support he enjoys in the military.
“On balance, I think ED [Mnangagwa] has enough support within the military, thanks to the deliberate and concerted efforts to coup-proof himself by reconfiguring the command element in the whole security sectors. If there is any trouble from this quarter, it is most likely to arise from the middle to lower ranks who are haunted, as are most Zimbabweans, by the spectre of empty stomachs,” he said.
Masunungure reiterated that given the fact that the Zanu-PF congress is two months away, breakaway elements like Jim Kunaka and Chiwenga’s supporters no longer have adequate time to topple Mnangagwa at the elective meeting.
“If in October [the Zanu-PF congress], then Chiwenga’s challenge is far too late and presently the intra-party momentum is with ED and the multiple party structures and quasi-party proxies deliberately created to mobilise support for him. Jim Kunaka’s Zanu-PF Original is not likely to upset the apple cart.”
“If No.2 [Chiwenga] is serious about challenging ED and winning, then he has to craft an interparty coalition-like formation between disgruntled elements in Zanu-PF (and they are many) and the main opposition. This could take the shape or form of the 2008 ‘bhora musango’. Otherwise, as I see it, all doors to the Zanu-PF presidency via official party organs are now closed for No.2,” said Masunungure.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said at present there is “do-or-die political gamesmanship in Zanu-PF”.
“While Chiwenga does not appear to be in any strong position as of now, factionalism is not necessarily ending in Zanu-PF and while ED may still get his way at the October congress, this does not in any way signal his consolidation of power struggles.”
“The Susan Mutami exposés are one signal of Zanu-PF politics heating up, but the boiling point and implosion is not October but a bit later,” Mukundu said.