PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has dumped the two main rival factions in Zanu PF, which for years have been plotting against each other to succeed him, in favour of the Minister of State Security in his office, Sydney Sekeramayi, authoritative sources said.
The sources said the 87-year-old leader confided in his inner circles in February that he preferred Sekeramayi to succeed him ahead of both Vice- President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangangwa.
Although he may not openly choose a successor, Mugabe has vast influence on who can take over from him in Zanu PF. The issue of succession has become so hot in Zanu PF in recent months amid increased reports of Mugabe’s ill health compounded by his advanced age.
For a long time, Mugabe has been oscillating between supporting Mujuru and Mnangangwa, causing confusion among his party supporters. This is not the first time that Sekeramayi’s name has been tossed in the succession ring. Sekeramayi, described as very intelligent and calculating, is seen as a presidential contender partly because of his powerful voice in Zanu PF’s upper echelons.
The “spymaster”, as he is affectionately known in party circles, has served as a minister in Mugabe’s cabinet since the country’s Independence in 1980. He also still commands both support and respect among the military.
“It is now common knowledge in our circles that the President prefers Sekeramayi,” said one source. “This is why people like Mutasa (Didymus) can openly castigate the two factions and telling supporters to rally behind Mugabe and no one else”.
Sekeramayi is considered a moderate and is also “acceptable” among the hawks due to his close links with the army and intelligence. Mutasa, who is Zanu PF secretary for administration, recently told a rally in Manicaland that they should neither join the Mujuru or Mnangagwa factions but support the liberation party.
“If you are in either of the factions, move out as we should all be in President Mugabe’s faction,” said Mutasa.
Indeed, said sources, there is a Mugabe faction in Zanu PF which comprises a clique of loyalists, who believe Mugabe can rule until he dies. Mutasa yesterday professed ignorance that Sekeramayi was Mugabe’s anointed successor.
“I don’t know anything about that,” said Mutasa. “In any case, such issues are not discussed in newspapers but in our politburo meetings.”
In 2004 Mugabe appeared to have anointed Mujuru. When elevating Mujuru to vice-president in December 2004, Mugabe said she was destined for “higher office”, a statement which many analysts concluded to mean her anointment.
Mujuru is the wife of former army chief, Solomon Mujuru, who remains highly influential in government and the military.
But University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer John Makumbe said Zanu PF was unlikely to violate its party hierarchy by imposing someone junior ahead of Mujuru, who has been Vice-President since 2004.
“Mujuru is likely to be the successor to Mugabe because she is the Vice-President,” said Makumbe. “Zanu PF rarely violates its party hierarchy. She (Mujuru) is more acceptable in the party than Mnangagwa and John Nkomo (Vice-President) who would be considered junior to her.”
Mnangagwa’s disadvantage stems from his stint as Minister of State Security during the Gukururahundi era, where an estimated 20 000 people were killed. Mugabe has not forgiven Mnangagwa for his alleged role in the botched Tsholotsho saga, in which his faction was accused of plotting to unseat him.
Sources said Mnangagwa is the hawks’ favoured successor in their strategy to protect themselves in a post-Mugabe era.
“Hawks would prefer someone who sings from the same hymnbook with Joint Operations Command (JOC) and Mujuru is definitely not one of them because she does not condone violence,” said Makumbe.
Another analyst said hawks would rather prefer Sekeramayi to Mujuru if their plans to prop Mnangagwa faltered. But the succession matrix would favour the last acting Vice-President, should Mugabe resigns or die in office.