Who will be number three in Zimbabwe?

While President Robert Mugabe mulls over appointments to his new Cabinet, his attention will also be on the appointment of a second vice-­president.

The post became vacant following the death of John Nkomo from cancer in January.

The Mail & Guardian takes a look at the leading contenders for the position, which is usually reserved for officials from the Matabeleland provinces in honour of the Unity Accord signed between Zanu-PF and Zapu in 1987.

Simon Khaya-Moyo
Zanu-PF national chairperson and a former Zimbabwe ambassador to South Africa, Khaya-Moyo is the leading contender.

He is the third most senior official after Mugabe and Vice-President Joice Mujuru and is a member of the party’s presidium. He comes from the Matabeleland South province and is credited with turning around Zanu-PF’s fortunes in the Matabeleland region, something for which Mugabe is likely to reward him.

Lending credence to speculation that Khaya-Moyo may be on his way to higher office are indications that Mugabe has backed the appointment of Jacob Mudenda to become the next speaker of Parliament.

Khaya-Moyo held ambitions for the speaker’s post in 2008 but lost to the Movement for Democratic Change’s (MDC) Lovemore Moyo. By not casting his hat into the speaker race now, Zanu-PF insiders say this indicates that Khaya-Moyo has set his sights on the vice-presidency.

Trevor Maisiri, a senior analyst from the International Crisis Group, said Zanu-PF would also want to consolidate its gains made in the two Matabeleland provinces in the elections and would do so by appointing someone from the region.

“Khaya-Moyo looks the most likely. He holds the most senior post in the party on the side of former Zapu members. The party would also want to consolidate its political grip and even extend it to the remaining domains held by the MDC,” Maisiri said.

If Khaya-Moyo is elevated, it could cause further jostling in the party as Zanu-PF officials line up to take up his post of national chairperson. Didymus Mutasa is seen as a probable replacement.

Obert Mpofu
Mpofu, the outgoing mines and mining development minister, once tried to challenge the late Nkomo for the post of second vice-president. But he withdrew his bid after being told by senior Zanu-PF officials to respect the party hierarchy.

But Mpofu’s wealth has given him great influence in the Matabeleland provinces and he holds significant sway in the party structures. In the past two elections, Mpofu has comfortably retained control of the Umguza-Nyamandlovu constituency.

Mpofu is seen as Khaya-Moyo’s strongest challenger, although he holds a junior rank in Zanu-PF’s chain of command.

Rashweat Mukundu, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said Mpofu was far too low down in the pecking order, making his election unlikely. “His influence in the mining sector and control of the Marange diamonds will unfortunately not be enough for him to leapfrog Khaya-Moyo,” Mukundu said.

Emmerson Mnangagwa
Although Mnangagwa’s chances of landing the post of vice-presidency would be a breach of party hierarchy, it would be a strong catalyst to position him to succeed Mugabe.

Reports indicate that Mnangagwa, the outgoing defence minister, leads a faction in Zanu-PF that is sparring with another faction led by Mujuru to take over from Mugabe.

In Mnangagwa’s favour is the support lent to him by the military’s top brass, which is suspicious of Mujuru’s moderate policies and open-door policy towards the MDC.

His elevation to vice-president could lead to a bitter face-off between him and Mujuru to gain control of the party.

Analyst Khanyile Mlotshwa said, should Mugabe promote Mnan­gagwa, he was “not sure if Zanu-PF will be able to survive such a dogfight”.

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