Speaking to Reuters in June, Tsvangirai did not rule out a coalition deal.
“For the moment, it’s an electoral contestation but post-that, who knows? What are the two things that are important – stability and legitimacy. That is the only way in which you can move the country forward,” Tsvangirai said.
Amid all the jockeying for position, one influential figure is Catriona Laing, the British ambassador to Zimbabwe.
According to four people with direct knowledge of coalition-related discussions about post-Mugabe rebuilding, Laing favours Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.
In addition, three Harare-based Western diplomats said Laing, a development expert rather than career diplomat, supports the idea of a coalition government, believing such a move is needed to maintain Zimbabwe’s stability.
Laing declined to be interviewed, but the British embassy strongly rejected these claims.
It said Laing last met Mnangagwa in May 2016 for routine policy discussions.
“The ambassador has not met with the VP or anyone connected with him to promote the formation of a coalition government,” said the embassy spokesman.
“The UK unambiguously rejects claims that it is pushing for a particular candidate to succeed Mugabe.”
Mugabe’s wife, Grace, suspects that the British support Mnangagwa, according to a Nov. 16, 2015 intelligence report.
It says: “Grace reckons that the Mnangagwa camp is full of sell-outs who are working with the British to remove her husband from power.”
And a report dated March 2, 2016, says: “Laing, whose mouth is ‘too big’, has now been telling other embassies that Mnangagwa is the chosen one to succeed Mugabe.”
The documents give no verifiable evidence for that claim and Reuters could not confirm it.
Whether any plan for a coalition comes to fruition remains to be seen.
Even with the support of some army generals, Mnangagwa will face significant opposition from the president’s wife, Grace, and the G40 group supporting her in the struggle to assume the seat Mugabe has occupied for nearly four decades.
In July, Grace challenged her husband to name his successor, leading Mugabe to tell a political rally he was not stepping down and “not dying”.
“I will have an ailment here and there, but bodywise, all my internal organs … very firm, very strong,” he said, as he leant against a lectern.
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