|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
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An engineer by profession, Makoni's chances of filling Mugabe' s shoes are about as good as Ian Smith's.
He may well find favour with Western leaders, particularly as he understands how the International Monetary Fund works, but he has little clout with the all-important military.
As a Cabinet minister, Makoni was almost invisible. He has no political constituency and, while he may know his way around a boardroom, he is scarcely acquainted with the Machiavellian world of politics.
It has been mooted by some that Makoni could be a compromise candidate - a suggestion that may make sense in Pretoria, but not within the ranks of the Zanu-PF elite.
Minister of Defence
A medical doctor by profession, Sekeremayi has been considered a presidential contender because he has served in Mugabe's Cabinet since 1980. But the truth is that he is simply too bland for president.
Despite his tough portfolios - security and defence - Sekeremayi's strength of will has been questioned. He is known only for his loyalty to Mugabe, not as a man capable of original leadership.
Minister of Information
Anyone suggesting Moyo as a serious presidential candidate - and there have been several such suggestions in recent weeks - doesn't know what they're talking about.
Mugabe's spin doctor and one-time Wits University academic is considered an infant in the realpolitik of Harare.
Observers have even suggested that Moyo will have reached his sell-by date the moment Mugabe leaves office.
Despite his high profile, particularly outside the country, Moyo's only contribution to date has been to serve as Mugabe's flak catcher - and he will remain useful only as long as he fills the role of Zanu-PF punchbag.
Moyo has neither the military nor the civilian support to command enough votes for a mayoral position - let alone the presidency.
Leader of the opposition MDC
While he has commanded enough votes to get the job, Tsvangirai is considered by many the least qualified for the position, a man simply lacking the required sophistication for president.
Once a successful trade unionist, Tsvangirai and his ill-experienced advisers appear to have no understanding of, or interest in, African politics.
Politically he has proved incorrigible. On the land issue, which runs so deep among Zimbabweans, his position has not been at all clear.
Tsvangirai has failed to articulate any sort of feasible plan to get Zimbabwe's economy off its knees; his only contribution to this debate is his constant refrain that things will get better once Mugabe has gone.
He has even called for full sanctions against the country - an act that would harm his supporters more than Mugabe.
Instead of building alliances with leaders of neighbouring countries, Tsvangirai has elected to insult them and, at the same time, court favour with Western leaders.
He has, for example, dismissed in recent weeks both President Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian counterpart, Olusegun Obasanjo, as dishonest brokers - not the way to win friends and influence people, let alone garner their support in a push for the presidency.
Tsvangirai was a rising star in the late 1990s but committed a fatal mistake in 2000 when he allowed the international media to film him receiving donations from white farmers, many of them soldiers of the Rhodesian army that fought against Mugabe's freedom fighters. This association did much to alienate Tsvangirai from progressive people locally and abroad.
The strongest contender, Mnangagwa has been described as an exceptionally calculating man who intimately understands the nature of power.
That understanding he perfected over several years as chief of intelligence at a time when Mugabe' s government was hellbent on breaking the backs of a group of powerful right-wing Rhodesians.
During Mnangagwa's tenure at the head of the security ministry, the Central Intelligence Organisation (the secret police) was feared more than at any other time.
Mnangagwa was instrumental in Mugabe's effective neutralising of Joshua Nkomo and his Zapu party, which resulted in a merger with Zanu-PF.
A lawyer, he served as a Cabinet minister for 20 years, most of that time handling the justice and, briefly, the finance portfolios. Since losing his parliamentary seat to an MDC candidate in 2000, Mnangagwa has presided, as Speaker, over Zimbabwe' s first multiparty parliament in which the ruling party has not had a two-thirds majority.
Mnangagwa, however, lacks the full support of the Zanu-PF executive, which is riddled with ethnic factions jostling for Mugabe's position. But he is known to be the one politician connected to "big" money. He has substantial business connections both in Africa and abroad.
Internationally, Mnangagwa has influential friends in all the capitals that matter. If he enjoys a reputation in the West, it is that he gets things done and keeps the troops in line.
Mnangagwa's struggle record is impeccable. Joining the liberation movement at a critical time in the 1970s after leaving the University of Zambia, his anti-colonialist resolve was enough to attract and retain Mugabe's interest and backing.
Most importantly, Mnangagwa is more comfortable in an officer's mess than in a golf club - a trait that goes down well with the generals who have muttered that they would only serve under a leader they believed would not compromise the principles their fellow comrades died for during the independence struggle.
Some observers believe Mnangagwa's chances of succeeding Mugabe are seriously hampered by the Mata beleland massacres of the 1980s - when he was in charge of intelligence. The crushing of that Zapu revolt claimed an estimated 20 000 lives - most of them civilians - in the worst atrocity of the Mugabe regime.
It is likely, however, that any immunity Mugabe negotiates for himself before quitting office will include his most faithful lieutenants - and Mnangagwa certainly fits this category.