“I think that the Zimbabwean succession race has been unpredictable. It’s easy for us to look with the benefit of hindsight and say it all falls into place, but the reality is when [former vice-president] Joice Mujuru was at the top, we all thought she was destined for the presidency. When Emmerson Mnangagwa took over many of us thought he was the one. Now we have Grace, I don’t think we should fall into the same trap as thinking it is all locked up,” said Alex Magaisa, a political analyst.
“I do think she is in a stronger position than she was before … but there’s no reason to believe that G40 is a homogenous entity. There will be people within G40 who have their own big ambitions and have found Grace useful to this point.”
In other words, Grace may not be useful for much longer for any other pretenders to the throne.
Ibbo Mandaza, director of the Harare-based Southern African Political Economy Series Trust think tank, is not even sure that Grace really wants the top job.
“I don’t think it will be Grace. I think the media are misreading. If Grace wanted to be president, she would not have said to Mugabe at the Chinhoyi rally [in late July], and I quote: “Tell us which horse to back” – i.e., choose the successor to be, and we will run with it. She wasn’t saying put me there. She was saying identify a successor and we, including myself as first lady, will back that person to the hilt,” said Mandaza.
Although Mandaza can’t be certain who else among the ZANU-PF leadership may end up succeeding Mugabe, he is clear on one thing: the presidency is likely to remain in the party following the presidential election scheduled for next year.
“I think given what I’ve described [previously] as an obliging and complicit opposition in the form of the [Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai] MDC-T in particular and all the others represented in Parliament, ZANU-PF is hardly threatened. Clearly they appear more prepared for elections than the opposition. ZANU-PF appear to be in control, if not total control, of the electoral process, so much so that for me elections are a mere formality,” he said.
Derek Matyszak, a Zimbabwe expert with the Institute for Security Studies, agrees. “There is a big difference between the preparations by the ruling ZANU-PF party for the polls and those of the myriad opposition parties. While ZANU-PF has already been campaigning – suggesting that it will use its parliamentary majority to call elections early – and distributing patronage to secure votes, the opposition parties, including the MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai, are still fumbling in their attempts to form a united front against Mugabe. They are beset with leadership problems and are totally unprepared.”
As the dust settles following Mnangagwa’s enforced departure, attention turns now to the extraordinary ZANU-PF party conference scheduled for 12-17 December. The appointments made here, including a new vice-president, should provide a clearer picture of ZANU-PF’s internal dynamics – and therefore a window into the future of Zimbabwe as a whole.
By Simon Allison. This article first appeared on ISS Today