via Mujuru emerges as Mugabe’s likely successor after election success – Telegraph Peta Thornycroft 02 Dec 2013
Joice Mujuru, Zimbabwe’s vice-president, has been placed in pole position to succeed the ageing Robert Mugabe following Zanu PF’s provincial elections
Joice Mujuru, Zimbabwe’s vice president, seized pole position in the race to succeed ageing strongman Robert Mugabe as her Zanu PF faction emerged victorious from the weekend’s provincial elections, securing her almost unassailable support as the country’s leader-in-waiting.
In a blow to her rival, the feared Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mrs Mujuru’s supporters won elections as chairmen in most of the country’s provinces on Saturday. The result means she will be unchallenged as senior vice president at Zanu PF’s elective congress next December – and, therefore, as heir apparent to the 89-year-old president should he die or retire before the 2018 elections.
According to Zimbabwe’s new constitution, the 58-year-old Mrs Mujuru would then also lead Zanu-PF into those elections, smothering the presidential aspirations of Mr Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s former defence and now justice minister known as “The Crocodile”, who is notorious for his role in the massacre of thousands of political opponents during the 1980s and the violence of the disputed elections in 2008.
“Joice Mujuru has won overwhelming support from the provinces, even though this is not said in public by Zanu PF. She will be the transition, when Mugabe goes, hopefully to a better Zimbabwe,” said a Zanu PF insider who asked not to be named, adding: “This is a sensitive moment.”
For decades all senior party leaders, including vice presidents, routinely denied they had presidential ambitions.
Many inside Zimbabwe and in the region will be celebrating the success of Mrs Mujuru’s supporters last Saturday as she is seen as more democratic and compassionate than Mr Mnangagwa, who has heavy backing from the security sector.
Mrs Mujuru became junior vice president of Zanu PF in 2004, helped by the backing of her powerful husband, General Solomon Mujuru, a popular former army chief who died in a mysterious fire at his farm two years ago.
He was one of only a handful of politicians who stood up to Mr Mugabe and wanted him to step down ahead of elections in 2008.
Many, including some in Zanu PF, believe that General Mujuru was killed to prevent him helping his wife’s political advancement.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was not available for comment. A spokesman for Mr Tsvangirai responded to queries by text messaging: “We are not commenting on Zanu PF elections. Let the devil talk about his Hell.”
His colleagues say that he developed a friendly and constructive working relationship with Mrs Mujuru during the inclusive government which ended in July.
Paul Themba Nyathi, a member of the smaller Movement for Democratic Change party, said Mrs Mujuru was a good compromise if Zanu PF was to stay in power.
“I have seen a lot of humanity coming out of her. I got on well with her in parliament,” he said.
Brian Raftopoulos, a Zimbabwe political analyst, said the outcome must make Mrs Mujuru feel “pretty confident”.
But he added: “We should not rule out that Mugabe may continue to play off one Zanu PF faction against the other as he has done in the past.”
Piers Pigou, International Crisis Group’s Southern Africa project director, said: “If this represents a shift towards moderation and pragmatism by Zanu PF, we will expect to see implementation of policies that reflect this.”