If Mugabe goes.......................

Pressure has been piling on President Mugabe to go but the question that has never seriously been addressed is who will replace him if he goes? The country's constitution, which should be the nation's bible, is very vague about succession. It even implies that if the president dies or leaves office elections should be held within 90 days.

"An election to the office of President shall take place within ninety days before the term of office of the President expires...... or after the office of President becomes vacant by reason of his death or his resignation or removal from office in terms of this constitution," it says.

While there is a section on an acting president, this section states: "When ever the office of President is vacant or the President is absent from Zimbabwe or is unable to perform the functions of his office by reason of illness or any other cause, his functions shall be assumed and performed, where there is only one Vice-President, by that Vice-President; or where there are two Vice-Presidents (which is the case at present), by the Vice-President whom the President has designated for such an eventuality; or by the Vice-President who last acted as President in terms of this section where neither Vice-President has been designated for such an eventuality...."

The constitution, however, clearly states that anyone acting as president "shall not exercise the power of the President to declare war or make peace; or enter into any international convention, treaty or agreement; dissolve or prorogue Parliament; appoint or revoke the appointment of a Vice-President, Minister or Deputy Minister; or assign or reassign functions to a Vice-President, Minister, Deputy Minister, including the administration of any Act of Parliament or of any Ministry or department, or to cancel any such assignment of functions." This seems to imply that an acting president has no powers at all but just to hold the fort.

And while Parliament has powers to remove a president, this can only be done if a report prepared by a committee of Parliament appointed by the Speaker upon the request of not fewer than one-third of the members of Parliament has recommended the removal of the President on the ground that "he" has acted in wilful violation of the constitution, that "he" is incapable of performing the functions of "his" office by reason of physical or mental incapacity or gross misconduct, and the members of Parliament have resolved by the affirmative votes of not less than two- thirds of their total number that the President should be removed from office.

With only three seats out of 150 belonging to the "opposition", President Mugabe is virtually assured that nothing of the sort will happen. Besides, over the years he has craftily manipulated the composition of the House to ensure that alliances would be difficult to forge except in his favour. In 1980 for example, out of the 80 seats for blacks, Masvingo and Midlands had 23, Mashonaland 31 and the two power brokers, Matebeleland and Manicaland 15 and 11, respectively. By 1995, out of the 120 elected seats, Masvingo and Midlands had only increased to 29, Matebeleland because of Bulawayo had jumped to 23, Manicaland was still at 14 while Mashonaland had skyrocketed to 54 with 20 of the seats in the capital Harare.

With the 30 reserved seats filled by Mugabe by appointment, he therefore can safely tuck in 84 seats, a majority in the 150-member house, only through the support from Mashonaland. Besides, he has also weeded out all educated people from the armed forces who could have engineered a coup, leaving loyalists who are beholden to him. Defence forces commander, Vitalis Zvinavashe, though a Karanga has no soldiers of his own since there is army commander Constantine Chiwenga and air force commander Perrence Shiri.

President Mugabe is also surviving because there is no opposition to talk about. Although on paper there are more than 20 opposition parties in the country, only one has two seats in Parliament. His lieutenants, though not willing to go down with him, are scared of the fact that there is no future outside ZANU-PF unless they walk out en-masse. The labour movement, perhaps the strongest force at the moment, seems to be preoccupied with the politics of the stomach.

Although President Mugabe continues to hang on to power, the situation is so tense that when ZANU-PF Harare provincial chairman Rodrick Nyandoro tried to denigrate Masvingo Central MP Dzikamayi Mavhaire for saying in Parliament "the President must go", at the funeral of veteran nationalist Misheck Mushayakarara in Mugabe's own home area of Zvimba he was told to shut up because there were other capable leaders who could take over.

The problem, however, seems to be who can take over. With his two Vice-Presidents Joshua Nkomo (81) and Simon Muzenda (76) already out of the running because of their age and a lucrative retirement pension already lined up for them, the strongest contender at the moment is Masvingo supremo Eddison Zvobgo. Although at one time he took a South African publication to court for saying he had presidential ambitions, Zvobgo has been quietly building up his constituency following his demotion to Minister without Portfolio soon after the 1996 presidential elections.

The demotion also followed a serious car accident while Zvobgo was campaigning for Mugabe. Reports say he was so bitter about the demotion that he is not receiving any government salary because as minister without portfolio, he says he is "doing nothing" and should not be paid.

Zvobgo has always proved he can stand on his own and has established a strong constituency, which perceives him as an honest politician who is not corrupt. Although he owns several businesses in Masvingo he has always openly declared the businesses. Most of his colleagues hide behind relatives or use other people as fronts. Zvobgo, like his protege, Mavhaire, was fired as party chairman of Masvingo in 1986 but he bounced back through popular support at the 1989 congress and went straight to the politburo.

As the party legal secretary, he knows all the weaknesses of the constitution and has also been advocating the limiting of the presidential term of office as well as the reintroduction of an Upper House, the Senate. Already a close colleague of ailing Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, Zvobgo scored a major plus for himself when he publicly apologised for the massacres of the people in Matebeleland during the 1980s civil strife. The massacres have been a major bone of contention especially with the people of Matebeleland who more than 10 years after the unity accord of 1987 do not see any tangible benefits apart from the peace itself. The victims were not compensated and some are still trying to get death certificates, and therefore benefits, of their spouses or parents who disappeared.

Observers view Zvobgo's apology as a major political victory not emulated by anyone else. Besides, these observers say, he really had nothing to apologise for as he was not in the security council during the disturbances. Although regarded as the leader of Masvingo, Karangas also constitute a majority in the Midlands, which has a sprinkling of Ndebele. This further boosts Zvobgo's constituency as the Karangas constitute more than one-third of Zimbabwe's population and are now scattered all over the country. And with his main opponent for leadership of Masvingo, Vice-President Simon Muzenda out, largely because he is too old for the job and would not stand a chance anyway, the field seems almost clear for Zvobgo.

While some people argue that Zvobgo, at 63, is now too old others argue that people are not likely to look at this considering that he will be replacing a 74-year old. He will be some 11 years younger and could therefore still be below 74 even if he serves two five-year terms.

The other person from Masvingo one could look at is his protege Dzikamayi Mavhaire who too has built a strong constituency. Mavhaire's suspension has turned him into a hero. He has robbed his main opponent, Masvingo provincial governor Josiah Hungwe, Muzenda's man, of all ammunition.

Also not to be written off is the former air force commander Josiah Tungamirai. Tungamirai has youth on his side. He is only 50. He is a self-made man. A soldier, Tungamirai became a pilot when he was transferred to the air force and still managed to do a first degree and then a master's degree. And as one observer put it, he is the only person, as chairman of the youth wing, who had the guts to tell Mugabe to his face: "Your excellency the party is in a crisis and only a fool can claim otherwise." He also belongs to the powerful Zvobgo camp.

Until recently Zvobgo's main contender appeared to be party secretary for information and Minister of Industry and Commerce, Nathan Shamuyarira, but observers now say he can only be a kingmaker and not a major player himself. They say although Shamuyarira had worked his way up from a disgraced member of the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI), an organisation most people, including himself, would like wiped out of the history books, Shamuyarira's main problem was that he allowed himself (and revelled in it) to be considered President Mugabe's closest ally and the person most likely to succeed him.

"With people saying Mugabe must go, everyone who has been closely associated with Mugabe stands a very little chance to take over," one observer noted. "People here are saying they do not want another (Julius) Nyerere-type of administration where a retired president can continue to pull the strings from his retirement home." Age too is not on Shamuyarira's side. He is 69. Besides, he is Zezuru, President Mugabe's tribe. There is general a feeling of "not another Zezuru" for president.

While there are a number of younger and promising candidates like Higher Education Minister Ignatius Chombo and Information Minister Chen Chimutengwende, they have spoiled their chances by being too close to Mugabe. The only young minister who stands a chance is deputy Mines and Environment Minister Edward Chindori-Chininga. A former diplomat he has been quietly building his own constituency. He has also quietly endeared himself with the media and has proved on a number of occasions that he can stand on his own.

Not to be written off too, is Minister of State Security, Sidney Sekeramayi and former diplomat John Tsimba. Although he controls a powerful ministry and sits in the politburo, Sekeramayi has been too quiet and he does not have the charisma and dynamism required to convince or capture a national audience. But as the country's chief "spook", he may have something up his sleeve. Tsimba on the other hand has a strong constituency. He even at one time won the provincial leadership for Mashonaland East but decided to step down to make room for another former diplomat and now Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa. With the current state of the economy, Murerwa stands no chance. Although he is not to blame for the current economic woes, everyone seems to be shifting the blame on him and being the gentleman that he is, he has done very little to defend himself.

From the Midlands, the strongest contender seems to be Justice Minister and party secretary for finance, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Age seems to be in his favour. He is 56. Although on paper Richard Hove, the country's planning commissioner (a cabinet post) and a member of the powerful politburo, is the Midlands boss, he has no constituency. He was just handed over the mantle by Muzenda when he left the Midlands for Masvingo.

Mnangagwa faces two problems though. He is not likely to contest Zvobgo as this would split the vote ( Karanga versus Karanga). Another big problem is that he is closely linked to the massacres in Matebeleland as he was the security minister during the disturbances. Some observers, believe he could have scored some points if he had apologised, like Zvobgo did.

Mnangagwa has already stated through the weekly Mirror that he has no presidential ambitions. But one observer succintly put it: "As we all know, guys with presidential ambitions start innuendoes in the press, then, in response to the item they 'planted' in the press declare that they are not interested in the job. And as debate increases, the tone slowly but surely turns to I am merely a humble servant of the people, and if the people's wish is that I become President, I will make myself available".

Apart from Mnangagwa there appears to be no other political heavyweights from the Midlands. The only other person one could watch is provincial governor Herbert Mahlaba who as chairman of the war veterans in the province may have a constituency of his own. He seems to be trying to win favour with Mnangagwa, as he was one of those to quickly defend him that he had no presidential ambitions.

Byron Hove once a political force was kicked out and has been on the sidelines since. But in his own league is Minister responsible for Privatisation and Indigenisation, Cephas Msipa. Regarded as the only government minister, who can afford to smile, one political commentator aptly described him as "the president Zimbabwe never had". Never dodging the media, Msipa has steadily been building his constituency in his home area of Zvishavane and in the short period he has been Minister reponsible for Indigenisation he has managed to finally come up with a government policy on indigenisation. But his ZAPU past could be a dent in his career.

In Matebeleland, the major player in any political alliances that may be formed, Dumiso Dabengwa remains the major force. He has completely overshadowed John Nkomo and Simon Khaya Moyo who was widely believed to be Joshua Nkomo's favourite. Dabengwa's only problem is that as Minister of Home Affairs he has been linked to police brutality when he quells down riots. He himself seems to have admitted that his acceptance of this portfolio was his own downfall. But he has established a strong constituency in Bulawayo as well as Matebeleland as a whole and spearheads the multi-billion dollar project to bring water to the drought stricken province.

But deputy higher education Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu could turn the tables. An educationist who runs a chain of distance education colleges, Ndlovu had everything going for him before he joined politics. He is therefore generally regarded as one of those in politics to serve the people and not to enrich himself. It is understood he has been giving away his salary to his constituency, Mpopoma, in Bulawayo. This could play in his favour.

But it is also worth watching the youths, mostly university students who have formed Imbovane Yamahlabezulu. Imbovane was one of King Lobengula's crack regiments so Imbovane Yamahlabezulu literally means the crack regiment of the people. The group currently led by Themba Ngwenyama, a former university student leader is worth watching. The youth are critical of the ZAPU old guard, which they accuse of not doing anything for the region. Last year the group successfully organised a boycott of celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the unity accord between ZANU-PF and ZAPU. They have also organised meetings at which they have discussed the massacres in Matebeleland as well as the critical land issue.

Also to be watched is former Bulawayo mayor Joshua Malinga. Though he has kept a low profile since being denied the executive mayor's post which he felt he had won because of his popular support from the people but the leadership had someone else in mind Malinga is reported to have been working quietly for a political come back. And it looks he is aiming at for a big coem back. Some reports even suggest he may be the force behind imbovane.

In Manicaland, Lands Minister Kumbirai Kangai, seems to be in full control. Regarded as one of the top contenders for the presidency, Kangai is a survivor. He is the only surviving member of the once powerful ZANU inner circle Dare of the early 1970s. He has survived numerous scandals in which he was implicated including one when he was Minister of Social Welfare in the 1980s.

In one of the country's biggest financial scandals businessman Sampson Paweni defrauded the government of $5 million. At the time the Zimbabwe dollar was stronger than the US dollar which means at today's rates this could be equivalent to $90 million. Kangai was implicated but he survived the scandal. Paweni was jailed and died soon after his release from prison.

He has also survived the land scandal, taking the blame to weather off the storm. Kangai has the dubious position of heading Manicaland yet after the death of former ZANU chairman, Herbert Chitepo, in Zambia in 1975 he was arrested as a Karanga together with former ZANLA chief Josiah Tongogara. Besides being a strong contender, he is a powerful power broker.

The other leader from Manicaland, Didymus Mutasa is now a spent force. He has been too close to Mugabe and made the blunder of saying Mugabe should not go alone, meaning he would go down with him. But former diplomat Moses Mvenge has been building his own base in alliance with Kangai and could be someone to watch and so is Lazarus Nzarayebani, an outspoken MP who once even boasted he could beat Mugabe in his own ( Nzarayebani's) constituency of Mutare South.

Nzarayebani has been a backbencher for 13 years and should be aspiring for greater heights. His outspokenness has won him national recognition. But also not to be written off is former Southern African Development Community secretary- general, Simba Makoni. Throughout the 80s and early 90s Makoni was believed to be the man Mugabe was grooming to take over from him. But he was pushed out of politics by being offered the better paying job of Zimbabwe Newspapers chief executive where he was fired three years later but left a millionaire.

Although out of mainline politics, Makoni has been keeping a high profile, officiating at events that would normally be officiated at by senior government ministers or Mugabe himself, like being the guest of honour at the graduation ceremony at Africa University.

Among the party women, Joyce Mujuru, wife of former army commander Solomon Mujuru, continues to be the dominant player but she has been in power for too long she does not seem to have higher ambitions. Women's league chairman Tenjiwe Lesabe is just too old. Oppah Muchinguri, though young has been too close to Mugabe while Shuvai Mahofa, once a political force in Masvingo, has been too close to Muzenda. These women are likely to have no political future once these leaders go.

Independent candidate Margaret Dongo seems to have stolen the show and has been grooming more women to stand as independent candidates and has been using the courts to get elections nullified in her quest to ensure independent candidates contest free and fair elections. As a member of the Foundation for Democracy in Zimbabwe (Fodezi) and the Movement of Independent Candidates, she is such aformidable political force that anyone who aspires for power should take her on because she now has a very large national constituency. She is now generally regarded as a symbol of resistance. But Dongo could stand for president if she wishes and there have already been headlines in the media of "Dongo for presidency". She has the following.

Among the civic groups, the most prominent seems to be the Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (Zimrights) headed by David Chimhini but chaired by Reginald Matchaba-Hove. Both do not seem to have political ambitions. Matchaba-Hove's brother, Zephaniah is already in politics and replaced Mavhaire as chairman of Masvingo province so he may just be happy to pursue his career as a medical doctor and lecturer at the university's medical school.

Another lecturer, John Makumbe, has been cultivating himself as one of the leading political commentators and should not have political ambitions as he heads the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International Zimbabwe. He is also a member of Fodezi, and Open Society. He will have to step down from these organisations to pursue politics.

Up to last year, Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association leader Chenjerai Hunzvi could have been a leading contender. Though popular with the war veterans he has lost credibility with the general public because of his outbursts which most people now believe are aimed at appeasing the government. There is a feeling that either he was told to tone down if he wanted a political career or he is now afraid he is too deep into the War Victims Compensation Fund scandal that it is only his loyalty that might win him pardon.

In the business sector, most people now seem to be thinking that it is unwise to mix business with politics, especially after the collapse of controversial businessman Roger Boka whose United Merchant Bank licence was cancelled in April. With most businesses controlled by whites and Asians who would rather pull the strings from their executive desks, perhaps the only business people one can talk about are Isaac Takawira and Elisha Mushayakarara, both bank executives.

Isaac Takawira is the managing director of Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe and of late he has been receiving a lot of coverage indicating that he could be testing the waters for acceptability. One weekly paper, The Mirror, even tipped him as one of those who could be considered for the post of Finance Minister.

Elisha Mushayakara, a former permanent secretary for Finance and now managing director of Zimbabwe Financial Holdings, one of the country's largest financial institutions, openly said he was considering coming into politics now that his father (Misheck) was dead. He even warned deputy Local Government Minister Tony Gara, the MP for Mbare East, to watch out since he wanted that seat.
One of President Mugabe's biggest challenges at the moment, however, seems to be coming from the labour movement. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Morgan Tsvangirai, continues to be a pain in the neck. Although ZCTU president Gibson Sibanda has also been riding on the wave of popular discontent, he can only hope to be accommodated among the new leaders of Matebeleland.

Tsvangirai on the other hand has all the qualities of a national leader. He is an eloquent speaker, just like Mugabe was during his hey-days. He has youth on his side. He is only 46. And he has the workers behind him, which is a powerful tool at the moment as workers can cause havoc at any time. Of late he has been attracting huge crowds at workers' rallies, the kind of crowds Mugabe enjoyed in the early 1980s. Tsvangirai has become such a powerful political force that though he may not be presidential material at the moment, he is definitely a kingmaker. Anyone aspiring for the country's top post has to bring him to his side.

While on paper, there are more than 20 political parties, and 10 contested the 1995 elections, there is virtually no opposition party one can talk about. The parties all seem to have sunk into oblivion soon after the elections and are likely to resurface in the year 2000 when the next elections are due. Besides, the more popular opposition parties like the Zimbabwe Unity Movement, the United Parties and ZANU-Ndonga are led by the same "old geriatrics" who cannot seriously challenge Mugabe. Edgar Tekere of ZUM is 61. Abel Muzorewa is 73 and Ndabaningi Sithole is 78.

But perhaps President Mugabe's biggest challenge at the moment is the economy. It is increasingly becoming apparent that there is no way he can turn it around. The country has been on a downslide over the past six months and all efforts to turn it around have failed. Inflation which was down to 14 percent in September was more than double that at 29 percent in May. The long-awaited International Monetary Fund stand-by facility approved on June 1, has so far not restored confidence in the economy if the key industrial index of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange is anything to go by.

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Add comment

Security code