THE late former army commander, Solomon Mujuru, reportedly suggested
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa — then State Security minister —
should succeed President Robert Mugabe as the next Zanu PF leader, a
former ruling party politburo member has claimed.
Former Midlands governor Cephas Msipa yesterday said in 1983 Mujuru had suggested Mnangagwa’s name to him as a potential successor, although this was no longer relevant, as this was said before the 1987 Unity Accord.
“In 1983, Mujuru approached me and asked who could be the next leader in the event that Mugabe was no longer there. When I told him that (then Deputy Prime Minister Simon) Muzenda would ordinarily take over, he said ‘never’,” Msipa claimed, an assertion that is likely to muddy the contentious succession issue even further.
“He mentioned the name (Mnangagwa) as being the preferred candidate by Zanla, Zanu’s military wing. This is where the issue of hierarchy is coming from.”
Msipa’s statements could likely embolden war veterans, who have been calling for Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.
In recent times, it is believed that former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Mnangagwa led competing factions angling to succeed Mugabe and Msipa’s suggestions may sound improbable.
While the former Midlands governor seemed to concur with war veterans on Mnangagwa’s seniority, he suggested that this was before the Unity Accord and was no longer relevant.
“He (Mujuru) told me something similar to what war veterans are saying today. So you have to understand what Chris (Mutsvangwa, the war veterans’ chairman) is saying today is in that context,” Msipa continued.
“But it is not implementable today because we have a united Zapu and Zanu under Zanu PF. The next leader must be chosen not because he comes from one region or another, but on merit and the wishes of the people in the party.
“This talk of Zanla or Zipra today is very divisive.”
Msipa, who said he felt strongly about the succession issue, urged Mugabe to choose and groom a successor, as failure to do so would have lasting serious repercussions for the country.
“I am one of the people passionate about this issue because of the effects it could have if not resolved. I think an open discussion on the next leader is needed and all possible names brought to the people for scrutiny,” he said.
Msipa said Mugabe should allow “free and genuine” discussion of his successor within the party as his departure in one way or the other was inevitable.
“I tried to engage him (Mugabe) long back on this matter and he was willing, but his approach was that the people would have to choose their leader,” he claimed.
“In theory, this is well and fine, but in practice, it is does not work because of our politics. We need to discuss this issue sincerely until we find a solution within the party.” Msipa added: “An open discussion over the matter will end the current factional fights bedevilling the party.”
Msipa said judging by recent events, where the party’s democratic processes had consistently failed whenever tested, it would be ideal for Mugabe to groom his successor.
The former politburo member said at one time, Mugabe appointed Mnangagwa, former Vice-President Mujuru and then party chairman John Nkomo to a succession committee meant to identify his heir.
The committee, however, died a natural death before even meeting once, as Mugabe changed goalposts and blocked discussions over the issue.
“For long, we thought he was grooming (Joice) Mujuru for the top job, but that did not happen. She, too, thought so,” Msipa said.
Recently, war veterans have declared that Mnangagwa should succeed Mugabe, but his counterpart, Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, probably taking a cue from the veteran leader, has said discussions on that issue bordered on treason.
Mnangagwa is often seen as Mugabe’s heir apparent, but there have been spirited efforts by another faction in Zanu PF to torpedo his chances. newsday