Mnangagwa increasingly set to take over from Robert Mugabe

Vice-President Mnangagwa looks increasingly set to take over the reins from President Robert Mugabe though Mugabe has already been endorsed as the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front presidential candidate for 2018, says London-based Africa Confidential.

It says as Mugabe’s 93 birthday approaches, Mnangagwa is clearly taking more control of government business while Mugabe retreats to a more ceremonial role.

Mnangagwa is currently acting President. Mugabe is on leave.

“All eyes are on 2018 as Zimbabweans nurture the hope that Mnangagwa, if he takes over in name as well as in substance, permits free elections,” the London fortnightly says in its yesterday’s edition.

“The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, is expected to revive his presidential challenge, possibly in conjunction with former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who was sacked at the party’s 2014 conference for allegedly plotting to topple Mugabe.

“Expectations are high that the opposition will hold coalition talks this year. Mujuru’s new party, Zimbabwe People First, complements the MDC but who would lead a coalition?

“Mujuru has already indicated that she wants to be President after the 2018 polls. Tsvangirai says the ‘best candidate’ should lead, chosen on the basis of past performance – which favours himself. He has laid to rest one major concern by saying he has fully recovered from cancer treatment. ‘If we can defeat cancer, we can defeat ZANU-PF,’ he told hundreds of MDC supporters in a pre-New Year message, saying he was going ‘to form the next government’.”

African Confidential says ZANU-PF’s hopes for persisting in power rely on its hope that Tsvangirai and Mujuru won’t agree, and that Mnangagwa will provide a steady hand in government and broker a stable transition.

Though Mnangagwa faces opposition from G40 and First Lady Grace Mugabe, the fortnightly says Grace’s chances are entirely dependent on her husband’s prestige. “Nobody believes it has a long-term future”.

“The President has tried to prevent Mnangagwa from prevailing in the faction-fighting, carrying out various manoeuvres to maintain a balance between the rivals but the Vice-President has independent support from the securocrats of the army and police.

“Grace Mugabe is head of the ZANU-PF Women’s League and can call on the loyalty of the G-40 faction, which has much to lose from a Mnangagwa presidency. Without her husband in her corner, that loyalty could evaporate.”

It adds: “So far, Mnangagwa has survived. His support comes largely from the military, which has been Mugabe’s political backbone and from war veterans, who have publicly demanded that he should succeed the President.

“The leaders of liberation war veterans were sacked from the party last year but they remain influential, particularly in its rural structures, which have always been key to Mugabe’s grip on power. The war veterans would use 2017 to ‘mobilise for Ngwena’, one of their leaders told Africa Confidential. Ngwena, or crocodile, is Mnangagwa’s nom de guerre.

“Mugabe has indicated his discomfort at the military’s role in propping up Mnangagwa, who has been endorsed by Harare’s key ally, China. There was pressure from the G-40 to sack the army generals but Mugabe has admitted that he has kept them on due to a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ after they saved him from defeat in 2008.

“The military, therefore, will play a major part in the succession. They also dominate electoral bodies and other key institutions, making them potentially important in the management of national elections.” – The Insider

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