It is becoming increasingly clear that Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is now left with two options — to resign from his position or risk dismissal — analysts have said.
This comes as relations have broken down between him and the First Family over a series of events that drove a hunk between them.
Mnangagwa has also fallen out with his counterpart — Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko — who accused him on Tuesday of undermining President Robert Mugabe’s authority over claims that he was poisoned in Gwanda on August 12, contrary to what he had told the Zanu PF leader.
While the vice president has rebuffed Mphoko for distorting his speech, delivered in Gutu last Saturday, he has become isolated since his appointment in December 2014.
Although he still enjoys the backing of ex-liberation war fighters, through the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), and pockets of the military, influential organs of the party — the youth and women’s leagues — have cut him off.
On Thursday, the first lady, who is Zanu PF’s women’s league secretary, told Mnangagwa that he was free to leave the party after she became infuriated by his alleged prevarication over the Gwanda incident.
In remarks analysts see as portentous, Grace made it known that there was no love lost between her and Mnangagwa, and inferred her husband was no exception.
“If you are at your wits’ end, go home and rest. If you try everything and there is no positive outcome don’t keep on repeating the same things. It is not possible to love the president and hate the wife, it means you don’t like the president,” said Grace.
In September 2014, Grace started what eventually led to the dismissal of Mnangagwa’s predecessor, Joice Mujuru, from Zanu PF and government over allegations of plotting to unseat her husband using unconstitutional means.
Many are therefore wondering if history could repeat itself.
Analysts canvassed by the Daily News said as long as Mnangagwa continues to fight back like he did on Thursday, when he hit back at Mphoko, the situation in Zanu PF might become messy.
In a statement issued late on Thursday night, Mnangagwa said he would never rebel against Mugabe while expressing grave concerns over Mphoko’s utterances.
He said he could not believe that Mphoko, who is a trained cadre and veteran of the struggle, would issue a statement “that goes against the spirit and grain of our national Constitution and the principles, which is further alien to the revolutionary ethos, culture and decorum of our party Zanu PF”.
“It is further disconcerting that the statement is littered with subjective falsehoods, mischievous perceptions and malicious innuendos written in a language and tone which is disrespectful and contemptuous to my person and indeed to the office I occupy,” he added.
Political analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa said Grace’s statement sounded a death knell for Mnangagwa, for long perceived as a shoo-in to succeed Mugabe.
“I think it is now a question of when Mnangagwa is going to be booted out. The Generation 40 (G40) faction is obviously behind the attacks. Mnangagwa is also being backed by some in the military. It is now up to Mnangagwa to make a strategic move.
“Hanging on is too risky and resigning might see him going to Chikurubi. But he will not continue serving as vice president under the current developments,” said Hamauswa.
G40 is an acronym for Generation 40, which refers to a faction in Zanu PF that does not believe Mnangagwa has what it takes to lead the ruling party.
Another political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said while Mujuru went down without a murmur, Mnangagwa, will go down fighting.
Saungweme said the vice president has been emboldened by the support of ZNLWVA and the military.
“It’s clear to him that Mugabe is no longer himself; is of advanced age and some faculties, as expected, are waning. He understands that the man he served for a long time is no longer himself and is being manipulated. So he can’t watch himself go down like Mujuru,” he opined.
“So he is doing what he has to do to survive, politically. If he keeps quiet, he would still go the Mujuru way and probably end up in jail. So he is doing what a soldier has to do — ‘attack before you are attacked’. This is a basic principle in war — you kill, before you are killed. He is doing just that. I think what he is doing is the most reasonable thing under the circumstances,” added Saungweme.
Critics often accuse Zanu PF of persecuting its rivals by preferring trumped-up charges against them just to silence them.
“Certainly, the G40 — with frontline people such as (Jonathan) Moyo, Mphoko and Grace Mugabe, would like to see Mnangagwa go,” said Chan.
“And they’re pushing very hard in a coordinated fashion right now. Mnangagwa’s account of being poisoned is in fact a warning to them not to go too far. But he remains confident that he retains the backing in key security quarters. This will be messy, but he is stronger than Mujuru was. However, I repeat that this power struggle means no one is looking at how to rescue the economy. The winner may inherit a ruined country,” he added.
Uncharacteristically, the army, that for long has been perceived to back Mnangagwa’s presidential bid, has been conspicuous by its silence.
Interestingly, Grace told her audience on Thursday that there were some mulling a coup if their preferred successor does not become the country’s next president.
Mugabe has already hinted at retiring some of the army generals.
Mnangagwa’s crime, in the eyes of the G40 faction, is his claim that he was poisoned by his political rivals which rivals claim is contradictory to what his medical doctors told Mugabe.
Moyo, one of the fiercest critics of Mnangagwa, wrote on his twitter account yesterday slamming the vice president for doublespeak.
“This ‘I was not poisoned, I was poisoned’ Mnangagwa statement is an example of desperate dog-whistle politics. Even fools are not fooled!” Moyo said.
On Thursday, Mnangagwa insisted that he was poisoned, contrary to what his counterpart Mphoko had said.
Saungweme said that the Mnangagwa and his co-vice president are fighting does not bode well for Mugabe and government.
He said the result of it was that it speeds up the decomposition and implosion of Zanu PF which he said was long overdue.
“The opposition needs to be serious, do away with power and rank fights, come together and overthrow Zanu PF and share power spoils later,” said Saungweme.
Yesterday, ZNLWVA chairperson Christopher Mutsvangwa — a close ally of Mnangagwa — came out guns blazing, accusing Grace and her allies of fuelling tensions over the poisoning saga.
“Mphoko and Jonathan are not medical doctors. Why has been this tribal duet been so uptight on this ever since the Gwanda incident? Surely, only South African doctors who treated the VP can speak on authority. Their ranting(s) only serve to confuse rather than clarify. Why such a sustained and spirited outburst on this matter when they are so distant to it?” he queried.
On Grace’s scathing attack on Mnangagwa, Mutsvangwa replied rhetorically: “Kuramba uchivhunduka chati kwatara hunge uine katurike (the guilty are afraid)”.
He also branded Moyo, Grace and Mphoko as “poisonists”.
“The poisonists, having failed to kill their quarry, are haunted by the prospect of being exposed.
They now frantically wish their surviving victim to absolve them of their sordid and heinous act,” he said.
Zimbabwe Youth Platform Forum leader Tonderai Chidhawa — a Mnangagwa loyalist — said Mugabe must deal with Moyo and other party leaders who are “fomenting factionalism”.
“It is no more a secret that Zanu PF continues to disintegrate due to factionalism and personal fights that are aimed at discrediting each other in the race to succeed president Mugabe. That being the case, we condemn factionalism, regionalism and tribalism that has been demonstrated by senior officers in the party and government and manifested in the on-going fights,” said Chidhawa.
He added “Mphoko as the vice president must know that there is something called patient-to-doctor confidence and that cannot be disclosed to anyone, not even the president. Mphoko must focus more on working for his party,”
He alleged that the biggest culprit was Moyo whom he accused of causing the expulsion of several Zanu PF officials in order to isolate Mugabe from the likes of Mnangagwa.
“The VP’s admission that he was poisoned and is recovering from the poison ailment makes us believe that statements made by one Energy Mutodi, who is currently facing trial for revealing the suspects who allegedly poisoned VP Mnangagwa,” he said.
“Cde Energy Mutodi was also expelled from the party for the same reason. We wish therefore to see finality to this issue with the truth being laid bare to allow unity of purpose and togetherness as we approach next year’s elections,” added Chidhawa.