Vice-President Joice Mujuru is leading the race of top Zanu PF bigwigs likely to succeed President Robert Mugabe amid indications that State Security minister Sydney Sekeremayi, Mines minister Obert Mpofu, Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere and army commander General Constantine Chiwenga are also in contention.
Leading political scientists and commentators have tipped Mujuru to succeed Mugabe if he quits politics or is incapacitated, ahead of her arch-rival — Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa is second best to succeed Mugabe. Sekeremayi and national party chairman Simon Khaya Moyo are a distant third and fourth, according to the analysts.
Mujuru and Mnangagwa have been allegedly leading factions to succeed Mugabe, who will be Zanu PF’s presidential candidate against main rival Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC-T despite that old age and reported illness are taking their toll on him.
Responding to questions from NewsDay — Who are the top five Zanu PF officials you think can succeed Mugabe and why? Give us their strengths and weaknesses — the political analysts said Mujuru would take over from Mugabe either through the formal hierarchical structure or otherwise.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said from Zanu PF’s hierarchical structure, Mujuru and Vice-President John Nkomo, Khaya Moyo, secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and secretary of commissariat Webster Shamu were the top five in line to succeed the 88-year-old Mugabe.
“According to this hierarchy, the most senior is the ‘first’ Vice-President, that is Mujuru, and would, therefore, get the party crown and, hopefully, that of State House as well,” Masunungure said. “In many respects, Zanu PF has deferred to the seniority rule and unless there are major (and bloody/violent disruptions to this golden rule, eg, an intra-party coup), she is poised to take over.”
He added: “The second approach yields several names, including Mujuru, Mnangagwa, Sekeramayi, Mpofu and Young Turks like Kasukuwere. The first two are the most mentioned, but it does not necessarily mean their chances are also the brightest. What is notable though is that only one name on this list also appears in the first hierarchical list and that is Mujuru. I think this fact alone places her in good stead to inherit the throne when the time is ripe. I may also mention that Sekeramayi is an inexplicably underrated candidate, but I think he is a very serious dark horse.”
Innocent Chofamba Sithole, a political scientist and journalist based in the United Kingdom, said Mujuru would succeed Mugabe.
“Her biggest asset is that she’s a woman and is able to project a softer face of the former liberation movement without the militarised aggression and brazen resort to violence that Zanu PF has come to be infamous for,” Sithole said. “She’s approachable and comes across as an amiable person who is capable of having an emotional connection with her compatriots. She’s a hardened political bruiser with the mettle to drive her agenda through, while also flexible enough to pursue consensual politics.”
Apart from Mujuru, Sithole said Mnangagwa, Sekeremayi, Khaya Moyo and Chiwenga were also firmly in line to take over from Mugabe.
The director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, Pedzisai Ruhanya, said Mujuru had an upper hand to succeed Mugabe as and when he decided to quit politics.
“She is the Vice-President of Zimbabwe and in most cases acts as President when Mugabe is away. The poor health of second Vice-President John Nkomo gives her an advantage over her competitors,” Ruhanya said. “She has access to State power through briefings by the security apparatus by virtue of her position and can use this access to undermine her opponents.”
Ruhanya said Mnangagwa, Sekeremayi, Khaya Moyo and Chiwenga were also strong contenders for Mugabe’s job.
Dumisani Nyongolo Nkomo, the chief executive officer of Habakkuk Trust, said the top five Zanu PF officials likely to succeed Mugabe were Mujuru, Mnangagwa, Chiwenga, Mpofu and Kasukuwere respectively.
“Mujuru is the most senior in terms of hierarchy, has the backing of sectors of the military,” Nkomo said. “She has built her credentials with organised business and is even respected by the opposition and tolerated by diplomats.”
Former University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Brian Ngwenya said Mujuru was the favourite to succeed Mugabe. Besides Mujuru, Ngwenya added that Mnangagwa, Kasukuwere, Chiwenga and Sekeremayi were also top contenders.
“Mujuru has liberation war credentials and is regarded by many as one of the few top leaders in Zanu PF who bear a liberal slanting, also regarded as more willing to work with the MDCs,” Ngwenya, a doctoral student, said.
“She enjoys support from women and Christians due to her reputation as one of the illuminated female freedom fighters, devout Salvationist and a cool-headed wife and mother in spite of her late husband’s known flirtations with younger women.” Newsday