Mugabe’s heirs beat a hasty retreat

If anyone wanted a lesson in how Robert Mugabe continues to wield power over his party, it is how he handled the aftermath of the latest bout of speculation over his health.

Over the past week, the two pretenders to his throne have been pressured into taking the unusual step of denying their ambitions and publicly worshipping at Mugabe’s feet.

Vice-President Joice Mujuru declared that Mugabe was “a gift to the nation” and her rumoured rival, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, said those who claimed he had made a secret deal to replace Mugabe were “mentally deranged”.

It is classic Mugabe: force ambitious lieutenants to declare their allegiance publicly and whip all other ambitions back into line behind him.

The rival faction leaders appear to have come under pressure from hardliner Mugabe loyalists who are angered by reports that the two factions are making new moves to nudge Mugabe off the stage.
Mnangagwa, who seldom speaks about his rumoured ambitions, used a public lecture at a university to deny he had reached a “pact” with Mugabe to take over power.

“There is no such thing and these are the efforts of detractors bent on causing alarm and chaos among the authorities, both in Zanu-PF and the government,” he said. “There is really nothing to it. It’s just wishful thinking from our enemies. The fortunate thing is that we are too mature to be distracted by such mentally deranged people.”

Once Mnangagwa had issued his denials, Mujuru had to follow suit. At the weekend, she described Mugabe as “a gift to the nation” and said that talking about his replacement would be a betrayal of a leader she had known for 37 years. “I will never seek to occupy his seat as long as he remains in office. We would never betray the leadership. We were groomed well by the party,” she said.
Speculation about the factional fighting between the two groups said to be vying for power has been a feature of newspaper columns for years.

But the talk has increased over recent weeks and is beginning to eat away at Mugabe’s traditionally strong grassroots support.

Jonathan Moyo, a politburo member and avid Mugabe loyalist, said factionalism in the party had reached “shocking levels”. What made it worse, he said, was that the “factionalism which has taken root within our nationalist movement is content-free in ideological and policy terms”.

Zanu-PF officials say a serious worry for the party is the growing signs that the question of Mugabe’s succession is tearing apart its grassroots structures, which loyalists have been mobilising to rustle up support for a new election.

Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said infighting had disrupted district elections in three provinces. Mugabe has blamed divisions on Zanu-PF’s 2008 electoral loss, but Gumbo insisted the party would pull together in time to face the opposition once elections were called.

Mugabe, in a speech to mark independence, spoke against violence caused by “sitting members of Parliament and potential candidates” but said this was not only happening in his own party.

A recently released United States diplomatic cable quoted a senior member of Mugabe’s politburo, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, as saying Mugabe had “respected and feared” the late Solomon Mujuru.

Mujuru had been the only one to ask Mugabe when he intended to retire, Ndlovu was quoted as telling a former US ambassador. He reportedly said that Mujuru had become “independently wealthy, which [gave] him a freedom for manoeuvre that those whose livelihoods depend on ruling party beneficence do not have”.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Jason Moyo
Guest Author
Advertisting

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Not a sweet deal, Mister

Mister Sweet workers say they will not risk their health, and the lives of others, to continue producing and packaging confectionaries

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world