Mai Mujuru is here to stay

 

The meteoric rise of Joyce Mujuru to Vice-President has left many people baffled.

The question still lingering in most people's minds, more than a month after she was catapulted to the country's second most powerful post, is: Is she for real or is she just holding fort while ZANU-PF looks for a suitable successor to President Robert Mugabe, who has been party leader since 1978?

Many in Zimbabwe's male-dominated society are still reeling from the stark reality that the country could soon have its first woman President. They cannot stomach this because for years they believed that the succession battle was between Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa, with other candidates such as the late Eddison Zvobgo and Simba Makoni coming in and out of the picture.

ZANU-PF supporters and pretenders to the throne were so taken aback by the rise of Mujuru that her nomination almost split the party, with six provincial chairmen being suspended for five years after attending a meeting at which it is alleged they plotted to oppose her candidacy for Vice-President.

They are, therefore, still clinging to the forlorn hope that Mujuru is just holding fort while the party sorts its internal problems.

But though she seems to have been imposed on the people, in ZANU-PF, the "party" is supreme. Its decision stands. And President Mugabe did not mince his words.

"Moda kuti zvigumire ipapo here? (Do you want this to end here?)" he asked party supporters who were stunned and speechless, forcing President Mugabe to add: "Ho, ah, kana kuti tichaita private yedu next week. (Or shall we have a private discussion about this next week?)."

To show his determination that he wanted Mujuru to succeed him, President Mugabe added: "I have a dream and I will tell you about it then."

In less than a month Mujuru had already had a taste of how it feels at the top when she was thrust into the hot seat when President Mugabe went to the Far East on his annual leave.

Observers say Mujuru's appointment as acting President when she was still learning the ropes of Vice-President and while the party was in turmoil was an indication of how President Mugabe wanted her to quickly acclimatise to her new job and at the same time assert herself.

Others, however, feel people should not read too much into her appointment as Vice-President.

"If one looks at the politics in southern Africa, very few sitting vice-presidents have assumed the top post when the president retired," political commentator Heneri Dzinotyiwei said.

"If you look at Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia and Malawi, none of the vice-presidents took over when the president retired. Mujuru's chances of becoming President are, therefore, just as good as those of any other party cadre."

Indeed, in Zambia, Levy Mwanawasa, though a former vice-president, beat sitting Vice-President Enoch Kavindele to replace Frederick Chiluba. In Malawi, rank outsider Bingu wa Mutharika beat Justin Malewezi who had been vice-president for almost a decade.

Malewezi was so bitter that he quit the ruling United Democratic Front to join forces with the opposition because he felt that after nearly 10 years as vice-president, he was qualified enough for the top job. Though the situation in Mozambique and Namibia is different since the countries have prime ministers rather than vice-presidents, the situation was almost the same.

Armando Guebuza sprang from nowhere to lead Mozambique while a bitter Pascoal Mocumbi, who had been prime minister for a decade or so, was left in the cold.

The same applied to Hifikepunye Pohamba, considered a political lightweight in Namibia, who beat strong candidates such as Foreign Minister Hidipo Hamutenya, Prime Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab and former prime minister Hage Geingob.

Mujuru's case seems to be different though. She was "anointed" by the President, who should step down before the party's next congress which is due in 2009.

A former staunch supporter of the ruling ZANU PF said whether people liked it or not, only God could now stop Mujuru from becoming President.

"There is no way Mugabe can go back to Sekeramayi or Mnangagwa now because he would have implied that Mujuru is incapable," the former supporter said.

"The way I see it, Mujuru is Mugabe's trump card. She has all the right credentials. She is a former freedom fighter. She is a woman. She is fairly clean. But most important of all, she can protect the family fortunes."

He argued that President Mugabe could not appoint anyone who would do a "Mwanawasa" on him, someone who would haul him before the courts like Mwanawasa is doing to his benefactor, Chiluba.

"He cannot trust (Joseph) Msika on this, or even Mnangagwa for that matter. But he is safe with Mujuru."

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