Mujuru storms through provinces

Takudzwa Munyaka

The vice-president's faction has all but cleaned up in Zanu-PF's elections, but the race isn't over yet.

Vice-President Joice Mujuru entrenched her support, but analysts warn rival factions may find ways to upset her victory. (Shepherd Tozvireva)

The Zanu-PF faction led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru is in a celebratory mood after it won nine out of 10 of the provincial chairperson posts in the party's weekend polls.

Mujuru, who denies leading such a faction, is now in a strategic position to take over the running of Zanu-PF after President Robert Mugabe.

But political analysts have warned that the succession race is not concluded and her rival, Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, still has time to make new moves in his bid for the party's top post.

Mnangagwa's faction only won Matabeleland North and he even lost in his home province of Midlands, where Zanu-PF spokesperson and politburo member Rugare Gumbo is co-ordinating work for the Mujuru faction.

The provincial elections were crucial in that provincial executives will nominate and elect senior Zanu-PF office bearers at the party's elective congress in December next year, where the presidency, two vice-president slots, secretary for administration and other key posts will be up for grabs.

It is unlikely that Mugabe would be contested at that congress, but the factions are likely to battle it out for the remaining posts.

In full control of the party
By winning nine provinces, the Mujuru faction, which already controls the Zanu-PF politburo and Zimbabwe's Cabinet, is for now fully in control of the party.

Political analysts believe the Mujuru faction may be in control at the moment, but there is no guarantee she will automatically take over when Mugabe, who turns 90 in February, calls it quits or is forced by circumstances such as failing health to quit.

Dumisani Nkomo, a Bulawayo-based political analyst, says the history of Zanu-PF suggests that the succession game is far from over.

"It looks like the Mnangagwa ­faction was defeated, but that is not the end of the story. If you look at Zanu-PF, particularly in the last 10 years when factionalism was ­increasing, we have been having ­provincial executives being ­suspended year after year and being replaced by interim executives.

"This may happen again. In fact, expect internal turmoil and strife to increase after the elections," he said.

Last year, Zanu-PF disbanded district co-ordinating committees after the Mnangagwa faction won most of them, including in Mujuru's Mashonaland Central home province. Some provincial executives loyal to the Mnangagwa faction were replaced with people linked to the Mujuru faction.

Elections worsen fissures
The elections have worsened fissures in Zanu-PF and three candidates — Philemon Mutongi (Mashonaland East), Killian Sibanda (Bulawayo) and Ailes Baloyi (Masvingo) — are alleging that the elections held last Saturday were rigged and that their supporters were deliberately disenfranchised.

They join Larry Mavima (Midlands), Monica Mutsvangwa (Manicaland) and Dickson Mafios (Mashonaland Central), who were also unhappy with the outcome of the poll.

Nkomo said the bitterness in the party brought about by the elections would not heal quickly and the fights would likely be more brutal.

Mugabe might benefit from the chaos in the party by continuing to play the factions against each other to hold on to power for a while longer, he said.

Another analyst, Alexander Rusero, said anyone who thinks the Mujuru faction was poised for a takeover simply because it controls the provinces could be in for a surprise, given the fluidity of Zanu-PF politics.

"The political dynamics of Zanu-PF can't be predicted so easily. The Mujuru faction may have won the elections, but it may count for nothing. Look at Mujuru's dramatic rise to the vice-presidency in 2004. It was never about party hierarchy, therefore it's not obvious she will take over," he said.

"There are many forces in Zanu-PF other than the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions. There is the military. There are some Young Turks who are also ambitious and are lurking in the shadows." Rusero said the party was only being held together by Mugabe's balancing act.

"He is the centre holding the party together, but that centre is now weak and if he goes you cannot rule out a split or even all-out fighting."

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