President Robert Mugabe railed against Zanu PF functionaries who are fomenting divisions and plotting to dethrone him from power despite calls for him to continue from the two critical wings of the ruling party, namely the women and youth leagues.
With Mugabe, 93, now showing signs of tiring, Zanu PF has been sharply divided into two antagonistic camps — Team Lacoste and Generation 40.
Several names have also been bandied around as dark horses in the succession race, among them Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and Defence minister, Sydney Sekeramayi.
Interestingly, all those touted as possible successors, namely Mnangagwa, Sekeramayi and the First Lady, have denied harbouring any interest in landing the top job.
This, however, is hardly surprising given that Zanu PF has previously dealt harshly with all those who aspire for the high pressure job that has been occupied by Mugabe since he took over the leadership of the revolutionary movement in 1975.
For instance, former vice president, Joice Mujuru, was hounded out of her job on account of coveting
Mugabe’s post, with her perceived followers being penalised for hobnobbing with her.
Addressing thousands of Zanu PF supporters yesterday at a youth rally in Lupane, Matabeleland North, Mugabe said he was not going to quit anytime soon as he has the support of the party youth and women’s leagues.
He said party bigwigs positioning themselves to take over from him should take a cue from Zanu PF national youth league secretary, Kudzai Chipanga’s leadership qualities.
Chipanga was appointed by Mugabe to lead the Zanu PF youth wing in September last year after a vote of no confidence had been passed in Pupurai Togarepi in March of the same year.
Before his appointment, Chipanga was Togarepi’s deputy.
“Those of us who are in leadership should look at what the youths are able to do; no fights amongst themselves; no back biting; no factions and no desire to be successors at the moment because they are aware the president is still there,” Mugabe said.
“The youths are saying no, the women are saying no, the majority are saying no (you must stay), who then is saying yes I must go?” he asked.
The Zanu PF leader has since been endorsed by his party to stand as its presidential candidate in next year’s polls in which he is likely to face his long-time rival, Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC and other fringe opposition leaders, among them Mujuru and Nkosana Moyo, who will be entering the race for the first time.
Yesterday, Mugabe also reiterated his call on warring ruling party bigwigs to unite ahead of elections next year.
“Are you as united as your children, whether you are in the politburo and central committee? If you are not, why not? If not, well, at least the youth league has given you the example,” he said.
Amid this, the international community has been expressing its fears that the Zanu PF succession riddle could plunge the country into serious bloodletting as the country prepares for the all-important polls.
“The main security risk to investors in Zimbabwe stems from the threat of political violence, which tends to flare up around election periods. On-going succession battles within the ruling Zanu PF party have contributed negatively to political stability in Zimbabwe,” noted Business Monitor International (BMI) — an independent provider of country risk and industry analysis specialising in emerging and frontier markets.
“We have seen a premature spike in political violence with different factions engaging in clashes countrywide in 2016, and we expect risks of outbreaks of political violence to remain elevated through to 2018,” BMI warned in its latest report.
Another international group that has also expressed its concern over the delicacy of the Mugabe succession conundrum is the United States Centre for Preventive Action, which seeks to help prevent, defuse, or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention
At the beginning of this month, the organisation said in its recommendations for US policy towards Zimbabwe, that the major area of concern was Mugabe’s seemingly reluctance to plan for a transition.
The warning comes as war veterans have also declared that there will be bloodshed if their preferred candidate to take over from Mugabe — Mnangagwa — is blocked.
Mugabe also chided the opposition MDC party, describing it as a small party that has no depth in terms of organisational capacity and leadership.
“We are going towards elections and are we sure that in every province, we are ready? Are our people registered as voters including youths who were 16 and 17 years yesterday but are now 18 and eligible to vote because they are now 18?
“So Chipanga, there is another task to get them all registered. We have universities where there are lots of people and I know there are two groups, one that supports Zanu PF and the other that tends to be affiliated to the MDC.
“I wonder how someone can leave Zanu PF for the MDC because there is nothing there. There is dearth of leadership that can plan, there is dearth of youths who can organise, there is dearth of programmes that resonate with the people,” he said.