By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
OUSTED former Zimbabwean and ZANU-PF vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s political career could be over as he appears to have little chance of bouncing back after his spectacular fallout with long-standing ally President Robert Mugabe, analysts said this week.
Faced with a pending crucial election next year, Mugabe, who is ZANU-PF’s President and First Secretary, fired Mnangagwa from his cabinet post on Monday citing disloyalty and conduct inconsistent with the discharge of his duties.
The dismissal was communicated to the public by the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Simon Khaya Moyo, who said the former deputy had “demonstrated little probity in the execution of his duties”.
However, analysts said besides the cited misdemeanours, the former vice president is said to have committed, Mnangagwa has also been touted as the “godfather” of factionalism in the party.
Now that he is out of the way, they said, ZANU-PF might have dealt with the issue of intra-party divisions once and for all ahead of an extraordinary congress next month and key elections next year. The party has already endorsed Mugabe as its candidate in the elections next year.
Analysts also ruled out any chances for a political comeback for Mnangagwa, who over the years rode on the party’s national popular appeal.
They said the former vice president did not have popular grassroots support, as evidenced by his loss, twice, to a then little known MDC candidate Blessing Chebundo in the 2000 and 2005 parliamentary elections in his home town of Kwekwe, in central Zimbabwe.
They say he was likely to go the same way as his predecessor, Joice Mujuru, who was sacked in 2015 for committing the same sin that he is accused of, namely, plotting to unconstitutionally remove President Mugabe from power.
Mujuru’s fortunes have since waned, even though she leads an opposition party which lacks national appeal.
Contrary to beliefs that Mnangagwa had support in the military and security forces, his sacking appeared to have left him clutching at straws as even his so-called allies could not do anything to save him.
If anything, there were likely to be more purges of his supporters and sympathisers within the ruling party and government, among them senior cabinet ministers and party officials.
Mnangagwa issued a statement on Wednesday in which he said he would “one day” return to lead the party and country but the analysts said this was highly unlikely given the fact that nine of the party’s 10 provinces endorsed his ouster.
War veterans sympathetic to him also issued a statement in which they claimed to have re-claimed the party from President Mugabe, but this was seen as more of “bark and no bite”, as they are not in the party’s structures.
UK-based analyst, Blessing-Miles Tendi, said one external factor that contributed to President Mugabe’s decision was Mnangagwa’s relationship with former colonial power, Britain.
“Beginning in the 1980s, Mnangagwa has assured London that he would be a more effective and technocratic leader than Mugabe. More recently, this led British diplomats in the UK Embassy and some in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to see the decades-long ZANU-PF insider as the candidate they could best work with and the figure most likely to implement urgently needed economic reforms.
“With Mnangagwa’s dismissal, the UK’s alleged strategy has not only clearly failed, but its perceived backing for Mnangagwa prompted outrage among many Zimbabweans, further weakening the UK’s image in the country. Moreover, its support for Mnangagwa may have even contributed to his downfall,” Tendi said.
Relations between Zimbabwe and Britain soured in 2000 after the country embarked on the land reform programme to redress colonial imbalances in the ownership of land.
Tendi added: “In February 2016, I warned in African Arguments that the United Kingdom’s bias for Mnangagwa may prove a kiss of death for this long-time presidential aspirant.”
Others said the fact that Mnangagwa tried to portray himself as a reformist and was said to have been behind a plan to re-engage the Western powers in return for financial aid could also have backfired and led to his downfall. Soon after the announcement of Mnangagwa’s dismissal, ZANU-PF provincial structures swiftly moved on to pass a vote of no confidence in Mnangagwa who a day after being relieved of his post was believed to have attempted to cross into neighbouring Mozambique.
Reports indicated that Mnangagwa’s entourage of three cars was allegedly stopped from entering Mozambique through Forbes Border Post in Mutare, Manicaland.
Unconfirmed reports on Wednesday suggested that the former vice president had since crossed the border into neighbouring South Africa in a private jet, ultimately signalling the beginning of his life as a private citizen.
It was not clear what his mission in South Africa would be but a statement attributed to him indicated that he might soon be joining the opposition ranks.
Other unconfirmed reports said he was headed for China, although his mission to the Asian country was not clear. On Wednesday, thousands of ZANU-PF supporters gathered at the party headquarters in Harare for a solidarity demonstration in support of President Mugabe’s decision to relieve Mnangagwa of his position for fanning factionalism.
ZANU-PF’s top decision-making body, the Politburo, also met on Wednesday where a decision was reached to relieve Mnangagwa of his position of deputy president and first secretary of the revolutionary party.
There was also widespread indication that just like Mujuru, Mnangagwa’s known loyalists in the party were likely to be purged in a move seen as cleansing the party of the factionalism that was threatening its efforts to deliver on its electoral mandate and move towards the elections as a united entity.
Analysts believe that the firing of the former vice president was long in coming, especially after the First Lady, Dr Grace Mugabe, who is also the ZANU-PF Women’s League secretary, had indicated that Mnangagwa was plotting to topple Mugabe from power.
Things came to a head when the former vice president claimed to have been poisoned at a ZANU-PF Presidential Youth Interface rally in August in Gwanda, a small town in Matabeleland South province. Mnangagwa had to be airlifted for treatment in South Africa.
On 5 October 2017, at a similar rally in Bindura, Dr Grace Mugabe accused Mnangagwa of currying public sympathy by claiming that he had been poisoned by party adversaries.
“And depending again on the audience you will be talking to, probably it is the Politburo, you vehemently deny before the Politburo that you didn’t eat ice cream and that you were never poisoned.
You go again to the Central Committee, people are talking about the issue, that someone was poisoned. Aah, probably it is the First Lady who did it and you say, ‘let me set the record straight, I was not poisoned’,” said Amai Mugabe.
But that was not all. Mnangagwa was once accused by Manicaland Provincial Minister, Mandi Chimene, of dining with expelled youths and members at his rural home after a picture of the former VP with a party renegade member went viral on social media. In the picture, Mnangagwa was captured holding a mug inscribed “I Am The Boss”, which was interpreted by other party members as vindication that he was harbouring covet ambitions to topple President Mugabe.
Other expelled youths, among them Godfrey Tsenengamu and Godwin Gomwe, had also joined the bandwagon of denigrating the First Family while praising Mnangagwa as a potential successor to President Mugabe. Instead of reprimanding the youths, some of whom were publicly seen wearing T-shirts inscribed “Lacoste”, the insignia of a crocodile associated with Mnangagwa’s nickname of “Ngwena”, the former vice president remained mum, as if he was in agreement with the youths.
His continued existence in government and party became tenuous when fellow senior party cadres like the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Jonathan Moyo, accused him of being a “successionist”. Moyo went on to present a dossier in the Politburo were he highlighted a litany of the vice president’s misdemeanours, including the abuse of public office. Moyo claimed that Mnangagwa was abusing his portfolio as the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. He accused Mnangagwa of manipulating the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission officials to target him for dubious corruption acts.
Mnangagwa was also accused of disabling veteran journalist, Godfrey Majonga, after he forced him to jump off a flat after a clash over a girlfriend. Majonga sustained serious spinal cord injuries and has not been able to walk upright since then.
Attempts to rebuff the accusations in the same Politburo came to nought as the First Lady raised the ante, accusing the vice president of gross disloyalty to the President.
The real denouncement that signalled the end of Mnangagwa’s career, as a Cabinet member and vice president of the country and ZANU-PF, came last weekend when some youths aligned to his faction booed the First Lady, as she delivered a speech at a Presidential Youth Interface Rally in Bulawayo.
This forced President Mugabe to ask whether he had made an error by appointing Mnangagwa, a decision he was prepared to rescind.
The nation did not have to wait long for Mugabe to act.
On Monday, Mugabe terminated the vice president’s contract and in an instant rendered Mnangagwa an ordinary citizen.
Quoting the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 20 Act of 2013, Section 329, 6th Schedule, Paragraph 14, Sub-paragraph 2, Information Minister Moyo said Mugabe had exercised his powers to relieve Mnangagwa of his position as vice president of the country with immediate effect.
ZANU-PF is scheduled to hold an extra-ordinary congress in December where Mugabe is scheduled to be re-endorsed as the presidential candidate in next year’s harmonised elections.
The special congress is also meant to come up with new members to fill vacancies left by expelled members in both the Central Committee and the Politburo.
Another outstanding issue likely to come under discussion is the appointment of a female member into the presidium, in accordance with the ZANU-PF conference held in Victoria Falls in 2015.
At the Victoria Falls conference, women called for a quota compelling the party to have a woman within the presidium.
The women want one of the vice presidential positions to be occupied by a member of the league.
The favourite candidate to fill the vacancy left by Mnangagwa is Dr Grace Mugabe by virtue of her being the leader of the Women’s League.