THe debate continues to rage furiously among analysts and within warring Zanu PF about the wisdom of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa granting a controversial interview to British publication, the New Statesman, last week.
Although Mnangagwa did not admit, as usual, that he wants to succeed President Robert Mugabe in the interview, former Cabinet minister and war veterans leader, Christopher Mutsvangwa — who is also one of the Midlands godfather’s most vociferous supporters — was emphatic in the same New Statesman story that the VP would “100 percent” be Zimbabwe’s next president.
But perhaps even more problematic for Mnangagwa, a secret Zanu PF document which was passed on to the New Statesman at the time of the VP’s interview suggested, damningly, that Mugabe himself created the ruling party’s Generation 40 (G40) faction as the nonagenarian had allegedly “always felt threatened by VP Mnangagwa and the prospect of his presidency being outshined by that of his protégé”.
In addition, Mnangagwa also appeared to create more problems for himself in the interview. As he absolved himself of any culpability in the Gukurahundi massacres of the early 1980s, in which an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians were killed by the army, he unwittingly and simultaneously shined the spotlight on Mugabe with regards to the killings.
Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday, political analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa said despite all the recent controversies that had dogged Mnangagwa, including the News Statesman interview, the VP was “a survivor” who had managed to weather the storm in many previous such situations.
“Mnangagwa has survived many times, not necessarily because he is a strategist par excellence, but because he enjoys the support of the security sector.
“The donors, who are increasingly becoming dissatisfied with the opposition are also preparing for a ‘second best option’, which is a reformed Zanu PF, and they also think that Ngwena (Mnangagwa) can lead that reformation,” he said.
“So, the New Statesman interview is for me okay in that the succession battle is being fought through the media and the best way for the protagonists is to fight back through the same media.
“There might be weaknesses in the way he handled the coffee mug storm but that will not guarantee his downfall in the absence of a strong counter strategy, one that is based on tactics and not just the mudslinging of aspiring candidates,” Hamauswa added.
“I think the bigger picture is how Ngwena has conducted government business so far. Yes he can deny involvement in Gukurahundi, but he can not explain such things as his foolish statement when he said US dollars are not meant for buying mazhanje.
“He also can’t deny that he is the first high-level official to start abrogating the Constitution. What it also means is that he could now spend 99 percent of his time defending himself, without showing his capability of taking over,” Hamauswa concluded.
Another analyst, Maxwell Saungweme said “Cupgate” — the controversy related to the VP’s “I am the boss” coffee mug — as well as Mnangagwa’s interview with the New Statesman “betrayed him as an unsophisticated politician who is overrated”.
“His recent moves seem to betray, somewhat, a lack of grasp of how the Zanu PF patronage and factional system works. He seems to have exposed himself, his surrogates and political running dogs.
“If one looks at his liberation history and his tenure in government in senior roles, the guy has never portrayed political shrewdness. He is mostly famed for being consistent in carrying out missions in the liberation struggle or for being brutal in government.
“He is not known for being an orator, a diplomatic politician or a shrewd tactician. His latest actions betray the real person in him, an unsophisticated politician. To me, this is the real Ngwena for you and his actions are definitely suicidal given the factionalism and patronage system in Zanu PF,” Saungweme said.
Within Zanu PF itself, Mnangagwa’s G40 enemies have gone to town to use the events of the past few days to portray him as “completely unfit” to ascend to the highest office in the land.
“We told you a long time ago that Lacoste is not just unelectable, he would be a disaster if he succeeded Gushungo (Mugabe),” a G40-linked senior ruling party official told the Daily News on Sunday. Daily News