Mu­gabe grip tested by the sack­ing of VP

It will be dif­fi­cult for Mnan­gagwa to rein­vent him­self for he played a key role in the vi­o­lence oc­ca­sioned on op­po­si­tion lead­ers and sup­port­ers

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS - HARARE, Fri­day

An­a­lysts say as­cen­dancy of Grace to lead­er­ship sig­nals end of rul­ing party

Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe has ex­erted al­most to­tal author­ity over Zim­bab­wean pol­i­tics for decades — but the dis­missal of his most se­nior long-time con­fi­dante could spark reper­cus­sions beyond his con­trol.

Vice Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa was fired and hu­mil­i­ated on Mon­day af­ter clash­ing with Mu­gabe’s wife Grace, who is now in prime po­si­tion to suc­ceed the ag­ing leader.

The re­moval of Mnan­gagwa, who has pow­er­ful mil­i­tary con­nec­tions, has laid bare the ri­val­ries in­side Zim­babwe’s po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment as Mu­gabe, 93, shows in­creas­ing signs of old age.

“The sit­u­a­tion re­flects an enor­mous amount of un­pre­dictabil­ity. We are mov­ing into un­char­tered ter­ri­to­ries,” said Piers Pigou of the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group.

“It ap­pears Mu­gabe is pre­pared to sur­gi­cally re­move sig­nif­i­cant sec­tions of the party’s his­tor­i­cal sup­port base to try to con­sol­i­date his own po­si­tion and the fu­ture lead­er­ship.”

Mnan­gagwa, 75, fled into ex­ile, but vowed to re­turn and launched a di­rect chal­lenge to Mu­gabe by call­ing for mem­bers of the rul­ing Zanu-pf to desert the pres­i­dent.

Mu­gabe re­acted by ex­pelling him from the party, which will hold its an­nual congress next month when Grace — a hugely di­vi­sive fig­ure — could be ap­pointed as one of the coun­try’s two vice pres­i­dents.

“The ball is in Mnan­gagwa’s court, but what are you go­ing to do out­side the party?” Pigou said.

“The big­gest ques­tion is what kind of el­e­va­tion do we see for Grace.”

The po­ten­tial lead­er­ship role for Grace, who has many op­po­nents within the party and gov­ern­ment, could even threaten the fu­ture of Zanu-pf.

“This is the be­gin­ning of the end of Zanu-pf. It is a to­tal de­struc­tion of Mu­gabe’s le­gacy,” in­de­pen­dent an­a­lyst Dewa Mavhinga said.

“If Grace as­cends to the top, she will fall be­cause she has cre­ated very many en­e­mies. She has been reck­less. Zanu-pf could be de­stroyed from within.”

Mnan­gagwa’s next move is un­cer­tain, but any path back to high of­fice seems be­set with ob­sta­cles.

“It will be very dif­fi­cult for him rein­vent him­self as a demo­crat be­cause he is cut from the same cloth as Mu­gabe,” said Mavhinga.

Mnan­gagwa was in­stru­men­tal in much past elec­tion vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing the 2008 pres­i­den­tial runoff when op­po­si­tion leader Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai pulled out due to a wave of killings and beat­ings.

And as se­cu­rity min­is­ter in the 1980s, Mnan­gagwa played a lead­ing role in the Guku­rahundi mas­sacres that claimed the lives of around 20,000 per­ceived dis­si­dents in the south­west of the coun­try.

Mnan­gagwa is­sued a de­fi­ant state­ment on Wed­nes­day, telling Mu­gabe that Zanu-pf was “not per­sonal prop­erty for you and your wife to do as you please”.

The next flash­point could be next week when Mnan­gagwa sup­port­ers plan to stage protests against Mu­gabe in Harare.

Zim­babwe’s ruth­less se­cu­rity forces have of­ten vi­o­lently bro­ken up street demon­stra­tions against the au­thor­i­tar­ian pres­i­dent.

But some ex­perts be­lieve the tur­moil may ac­tu­ally al­low Mu­gabe — the world’s old­est na­tional leader — to strengthen the ex­tra­or­di­nary hold on power he has main­tained since 1980.

While the coun­try’s econ­omy col­lapsed long ago, Mu­gabe’s pres­ence only seems to grow.

On Thurs­day, Harare Air­port was re­named Robert Gabriel Mu­gabe In­ter­na­tional Air­port in his honour.

The pres­i­dent’s birth­day was also re­cently de­clared a pub­lic hol­i­day, while a $1bil­lion Robert Mu­gabe uni­ver­sity is be­ing planned.

“He has fired se­nior party of­fi­cials for decades and has con­tin­ued in a ‘life-as-usual’ mode,” El­dred Ma­su­nun­gure, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist from the Uni­ver­sity of Zim­babwe, said. (AFP)

It ap­pears Mu­gabe is pre­pared to sur­gi­cally re­move sig­nif­i­cant sec­tions of the party’s his­tor­i­cal sup­port base to try to con­sol­i­date his own po­si­tion” Piers Pigou

PHOTO | AFP

Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe un­veils a plaque at the coun­try’s main in­ter­na­tional air­port in Harare on Wed­nes­day. The air­port was re­named af­ter him.

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