FUNGI KWARAMBA 26 February 2017
HARARE – Despite the frenzied speculation within President Robert Mugabe’s
warring Zanu PF that Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mooted
presidential aspirations are now dead in the water, former ruling party
spokesperson and Cabinet minister, Rugare Gumbo, says the Midlands
godfather “may be down but definitely not out”.
Speaking to the Daily News On Sunday in an interview yesterday, the
forthright Gumbo who is now a senior official in the troubled Zimbabwe
People First (ZPF) said he had no doubt that Zanu PF’s succession riddle
still had many twists and turns to come.
Madyira, as Gumbo is fondly referred to – and who worked with both Mugabe
and Mnangagwa for many decades, before and after Zimbabwe’s independence
from Britain in 1980 – also said it was “folly” to assume that Mugabe had
shut the door on his deputy succeeding him.
He also said it could not be ruled out that Mnangagwa himself was “playing
a game of hide-and-seek” with the nonagenarian, adding that the two men
had a strong bond and longstanding relationship which was “only fully
understood by them”.
“What is increasingly becoming certain is that Mugabe wants to die in
office. When we were still in government he never hinted on his preferred
successor and we never pressured him because we assumed that he would soon
choose his successor,” he said.
Pressed to say whether he thought Mugabe had nuked Mnangagwa’s chances of
succeeding him, Gumbo – who was expelled from Zanu PF in 2014 with many
other ruling party bigwigs on untested allegations of plotting to
assassinate and topple the nonagenarian from power – said the two men were
“sizing and testing each other up”.
“Mugabe has always been a slippery character because of all things he
always wanted power the most. While many other liberation movements had a
succession plan, Mugabe long decided against coming up with one.
“Still, I wouldn’t say Mnangagwa has been blocked out. However, what I
know is that Mugabe and Mnangagwa vakateyanirana mariva (the have set
traps for each other). They are playing each other and only time will tell
who will win,” he said.
Gumbo, one of only two surviving members of the venerated Dare
reChimurenga (liberation war council), also accused Mugabe of having used
Mnangagwa “for a very long time”, warning further that continuing to
sideline the VP could be “a dangerous game” given Zanu PF’s current high
Speaking in his annual interview with the ZBC last week, ahead of his 93rd
birthday, Mugabe appeared to rule out the chances of Mnangagwa succeeding
him when he said he would soldier on in power – notwithstanding his
advanced age and declining health – and that he would only step down if
Zanu PF asked him to do so.
“The call to step down must come from my party, my party at congress, my
party at central committee … I will step down.
“But then what do you see? It’s the opposite. They want me to stand for
elections. They want me to stand for elections everywhere in the party.
“Of course, if I feel that I can’t do it anymore, I will say so to my
party so that they relieve me. But for now I think I can’t say so … The
majority of the people feel that there is no replacement, a successor who
to them is acceptable, as acceptable as I am,” Mugabe said.
His statement was seen as slamming the door shut in the face of his
longtime aide Mnangagwa, who until recently had been touted as a front
runner to succeed him.
Stung by this damning statement, Mnangagwa’s angry allies, including
sacked Mashonaland Central youth leader, Godfrey Tsenengamu, came out guns
blazing, warning the increasingly frail nonagenarian that he faced a big
fight if he continued to thwart the Midlands godfather’s mooted
Tsenengamu also said that they would now openly campaign for Mnangagwa as
Mugabe’s successor, raising the stakes high in the succession saga.
He was subsequently nabbed by detectives, a day after he held his press
conference in the capital where he let rip at Mugabe and his powerful wife
Tsenengamu has since appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court where he
was denied bail.
He is facing three charges: violating provisions of the draconian Public
Order and Security Act (Posa) for holding his press conference without
clearance, undermining the authority of the president and subverting a
Mnangagwa has been under the cosh in Zanu PF for the past few months for
allegedly working fervently to stampede Mugabe out of power before the
nonagenarian’s current presidential term ends in 2018.
Things became worse for him when he hosted sacked Zanu PF officials at his
rural home during the festive season, with his party foes alleging that
this was in fact a meeting organised to plot the immediate ouster of
Mugabe from power.
Grace also recently took a veiled dig at Mnangagwa during her rally in
Buhera, when she attacked Zanu PF bigwigs angling for her husband’s job,
and mocked them on their alleged lack of “leadership qualities”.
She went on to tell the gathered crowd that if Mugabe were to die,
Zimbabweans would vote for his corpse.
And on the same day that Grace was lynching party bigwigs, Mugabe was
being recorded for his annual birthday interview in which he said there
was no one worthy of succeeding him in Zanu PF.
While Mnangagwa’s allies have openly attacked Mugabe, he has repeatedly
declared loyalty for the nonagenarian and on Tuesday heaped praises on the
country’s long-ruling leader during a surprise birthday party held for
Gushungo at his Munhumutapa offices.
However, insiders also say beneath the smiles between the two men lies
deep mistrust despite their having been in the trenches together for so
Mnangagwa has served as one of Mugabe’s top aides from the days of the
liberation struggle until now.
In a previous interview with the Daily News on Sunday, Gumbo has claimed
that both Mugabe and Mnangagwa wanted to wipe out freedom fighters that
they disagreed with, and in particular leaders of the Dare reChimurenga
“so as to assume total control of Zanu PF.”
“VaMugabe has said it before and even Mnangagwa has also said that they
arrested us and threw us in dungeons, but they have not said the whole
story,” he said.
Gumbo and other members of Dare clashed with Mugabe over the direction of
the liberation struggle, leading to their barbaric detention in
Mozambique, together with the likes of the late Henry Hamadziripi, police
commissioner general Augustine Chihuri, former ZBC chief executive
Happison Muchechetere and Mukudzei Mudzi.