The Zanu PF faction rallying behind Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations, which has for months been on the receiving end of a ruthless pummelling from its ruling party foes, is said to have wrestled back the initiative in the former liberation movement’s seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars.
Well-placed sources who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said Team Lacoste, as the Mnangagwa camp is known, appeared to have weathered the storm in the ruling party’s brutal dog-fight to succeed President Robert Mugabe — with their nemesis, the Generation 40 (G40) group, the one whose alleged kingpins had lately come under pressure.
“The struggle continues, and we (Lacoste camp) are still standing. In fact, we are going strong again. If you have been watching what’s going on in the past few weeks, you will also have seen that our enemies (G40) are now the ones who are on the back foot,” a senior Zanu PF official linked to the VP’s faction said.
At the same time, both analysts and insiders also told the Daily News this week that Team Lacoste was well-positioned to pick up all the spoils in the event that Mugabe left office before the end of his term, ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
They said in such an event, the nonagenarian would be replaced by one of his deputies — more likely Mnangagwa, whose close allies and supporters were said to be in charge of critical State apparatus, and had allegedly invested both time and resources to plot their way into power.
Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku confirmed that the supreme law of the land allowed for the succession of the president by one of his deputies, for the remainder of his term.
“It all depends, but from a legal point of view if he (Mugabe) leaves office right now, he would be replaced by the last acting president and that person would obviously be from Zanu PF. However, from a political position, people might resist that,” he said.
A Zanu PF insider who spoke to the Daily News expressed fears that should such an eventuality happen, it would spawn political chaos in the country — although he added that Team Lacoste would enjoy many advantages at that point.
“It’s true that it’s dog-eat-dog in Zanu PF right now because of that constitutional clause in part. The aspect of the last acting president taking over from Gushungo (Mugabe) has given the party headaches because it has become a gambling Game of Thrones, with both factions wishing to capitalise on this.
“But even if (Vice President Phelekezela) Mphoko is the last acting president in such an event, it will be very difficult for him because Lacoste has a strong team of strategists while Mphoko appears to be waiting for fate to intervene in his favour.
“Even though whoever takes over temporarily will have to seek internal (Zanu PF) endorsement within 90 days, Team Lacoste also has an upper hand here as it already has strong structures throughout the country.
“At any rate, there is no one of similar political weight to Ngwena (Mnangagwa) in the other camp who can go toe-to-toe with him if Gushungo is not there,” a party bigwig who claims to be non-aligned in its ugly ructions said.
Kent University law lecturer Alex Magaisa was among the analysts who predicted serious chaos in the event of Mugabe’s incapacitation or resignation, as the country’s security establishment had indicated that it was interested in what happened in that event.
“Already, the security structure has waded into the succession drama. The possibility of the military taking a central role in the immediate post-Mugabe era is not far-fetched given the political interests of the older crop of generals,” he said.
But citing the country’s new Constitution, Magaisa also said if Mugabe were to leave office before the end of his term it would be “anyone’s game” in Zanu PF as the party’s officials battled to ascend to the throne.
“During the 90 days, the ruling party is required to select a replacement to complete the president’s term of office. This means, in the current set-up, it would be either Mnangagwa or Mphoko who would become the temporary leader for a period of up to 90 days while Zanu PF selects a successor.
“There will be no national election to look for a successor. However, none of the vice presidents will be guaranteed an automatic card to succeed Mugabe eventually as they would have to contest for the position within the framework of their party.
“Nevertheless, it is arguable that whoever of the two vice presidents takes the reins temporarily will enjoy the power of incumbency. For those three months, he will be in control of the State and its apparatus, and to that extent, will enjoy a comparative advantage over rivals,” Magaisa said.
“However, there is bad blood between the G40 and Lacoste factions. Mugabe’s departure, particularly if it is on account of death, is thus likely to precipitate panic and confusion within the party, with dangerous implications for the nation,” he added. Daily news