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Mugabe Succession

Robert Mugabe resigned as president of Zimbabwe on 21 November 2017, ending almost four decades of rule. The announcement came as parliament began an impeachment process to remove the 93-year-old from power. Mugabe was confined to his residence late 14 November 2017 as soldiers took up positions at strategic points across Harare and senior officers commandeered state television. Powerless, disempowered. Mugabe only had to negotiate a deal for his family and sign an agreement to resign. Mugabe had survived by pitting one faction against the other. He would elevate one faction, but discard it at the time as it began to feel comfortable, and prop up another one.

Beijing has long been a close ally, and Zimbabwe's top brass recently paid a visit to leaders in Beijing. During the Cold War in the 1960s and 70s, Zimbabwe's independence movement enjoyed Chinese support. As with so many other African liberation struggles, China provided arms, training and its Maoist ideology to Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union, today's ZANU-PF. In 2015, China became Zimbabwe's largest trading partner. That same year, Harare adopted the Chinese yuan as one of its currencies in a bid to cancel a $40 million debt.

Mugabe stressed he was still in power in a much-awaited address to the nation, defying a call by the country’s ruling party to resign. In an address broadcast live on the state-run ZBC TV, Mugabe pledged to preside over the ZANU-PF party congress next month even though the party had removed him as its leader hours earlier.

On 19 November 2017, the ruling ZANU-PF party sacked Mugabe as leader. Its Central Committee said he must resign as president by noon Monday or impeachment proceedings will start. The party also announced that it had appointed Emmerson Mnangagwa in his place. Mnangagwa's history as state security chief during the so-called Gukurahundi crackdown, when an estimated 20,000 people were killed by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland in the early 1980s, suggested that quick, sweeping change was unlikely.

Mugabe's deeply unpopular wife, Grace, was also tossed out of the party. It was alleged that the military would prefer Mugabe to voluntarily resign for the sake of creating a veneer of legality in the leadership handover. Several high-level party members close to the first lady, who had formed the backbone of her "G40" political faction, were also told to resign or face impeachment. Those expelled include minister of higher education Jonathan Moyo, finance minister Ignatious Chombo, Mugabe's nephew Patrick Zhuwao, as well as foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi and several other top ZANU-PF members who were associated with the first lady.

Zimbabwe soldiers blocked thousands of protesters as they tried to march on embattled President Robert Mugabe‘s official residence in Harare on 18 November 2017. The demonstrators, participating in nationwide protests calling for the 93-year-old veteran leader to step aside after the army took power earlier this week, staged a sit-down protest in the road after being halted by the troops. The crowd got within 200 meters of the gates to the complex that had been the nerve centre of Mugabe’s authoritarian rule, as large protests swept through the capital. The Mugabe had been under house arrest in his lavish ‘Blue Roof’ compound in Harare.

On 17 November 2017 high-ranking members of Mugabe's own ZANU-PF party called for his ouster. All ten of ZANU-PF's provincials passed votes of no confidence in Mugabe. In a rare show of defiance, the provincial branches' move was carried by Zimbabwe's state broadcaster ZBC. the provinces also demanded the reversal of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa's expulsion from the party. They also removed their endorsements of First Lady Grace Mugabe and demanded she step down from her post as first secretary of the party's Women's League.

Leaders of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party met to draft a resolution to dismiss President Robert Mugabe and laid the ground for his impeachment if he refused to stand down. Mugabe had never faced a no-confidence vote or a similar collective leadership challenge since his election as ZANU-PF's leader in 1977 during the liberation struggle.

Mugabe insisted 16 November 2017 he remained Zimbabwe’s only legitimate ruler, and resisted mediation by Fidelis Mukonori, a Catholic priest to allow the 93-year-old former guerrilla a graceful exit after a military coup. Reports suggested that former security chief Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was ousted as vice-president on 06 November 2017, had been mapping out a post-Mugabe vision with the military and opposition for more than a year. Fuelling speculation that such a plan might be rolling into action, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who had been receiving cancer treatment in Britain and South Africa, returned to Harare.

Mnangagwa, 75, is a veteran of the country's 1970s liberation struggle and popular with the Zimbabwean military. Known as the "Crocodile," he was picked by Mugabe as vice president in late 2014. He had been expected to succeed the aging president before he and around 100 of his allies were fired in early November 2017. Mnangagwa fled the country, only to return after the military takeover. Mnangagwa had the tacit support of the armed forces, which viewed 52-year-old First Lady Grace Mugabe -- a political novice -- with derision.

Zimbabwe’s Army Commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, visited Beijing on 10 November 2017, where he met with Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan. General Chiwenga issued a hard-hitting statement 13 November 2017 calling for the purges of war veterans to stop and for the “counter revolutionaries” to be “fished out”. Many saw this as the military throwing its weight behind Mnangagwa. The party responded by accusing the general of "treasonable conduct."

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was approached on the topic of who will succeed Mugabe during a visit to Beijing as early as June 2015. Mnangagwa was urged to ensure that Zimbabwe maintain an investment-friendly climate and that Chinese interests and property rights remained secure.

Grace Mugabe, 52, had made no secret of her wish to succeed her husband, who she married in 1996. She publically called for the dismissal of Vice President Mnangagwa and pushed for the ruling ZANU-PF party to reserve party leadership for a woman. After Mnangagwa was ousted in early November, she said: "If you see yourself going against the chosen leadership, you are gone and finished."

Kudzai Chipanga, the 35-year-old leader of ZANU-PF's youth wing had supported Grace Mugabe's bid for power. After General Chiwenga's threatened intervention, Chipanga fired back, saying: "We in our millions will not let an individual military man interfere with the leader of the party and legitimately voted president of the country." He added "Defending the revolution and our leader and president is an ideal we live for and if need be it is a principle we are prepared to die for". Chipanga was also reportedly detained. Chipanga publicly apologised for opposing the army 16 November 2017 after being marched into the state television headquarters to read out a statement.

The Zimbabwe war veterans association called for the creation of a transitional government. Zimbabwe is a militarized state. Former members of the military head parastatals amd large sections of the mining sector pay directly into army coffers. Veterans from the liberation struggle are everywhere.

Issuing a "stark warning", Zimbabwe's influential war veterans on said Mugabe, the patron of their 35,000-strong association, should not be allowed to stay any longer in power. "If he doesn't leave, we are going to settle the score," Chris Mutsvangwa, the war veterans' leader, told a press conference in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. "There is no going back about Mugabe - he must leave," added Mutsvangwa.

Mugabe Succession - Background

The first lady of Zimbabwe said 17 February 2017 President Robert Mugabe, who turned 93, would be a candidate in the 2018 elections even if he died. Addressing a rally of the ruling ZANU-PF party, Grace Mugabe said, "Even if the president dies before the election, millions of Zimbabweans will vote for his corpse next year.”

Zimbabwe's 92-year-old leader returned home 03 September 2016 amid rumors his health is failing. Said Mugabe on return: "Yes, I was dead. It’s true I was dead. I resurrected like I always do. Once I get back to my country, I am real. ...I don’t know how many times I die but nobody has ever talked about my resurrection. ... I suppose they don’t want to, because it would mean they would mention my resurrection several times and that would be quite divine, an achievement for an individual who is not divine. Jesus died once, and resurrected only once, and poor Mugabe several times."

The ruling party faction, that goes by the moniker Generation 40 (G40), backs Grace Mugabe and is rabidly opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe. On the other hand, many war veterans, who are said to be in the opposing Team Lacoste group (Mnangagwa faction) assert that the VP should succeed Mugabe and have even gone on record to warn that if the Midlands godfather is overlooked, blood could be shed in the country.

Rumors about Mugabe's health are common. Robert Mugabe's plane touched down at the main airport in the capital, Harare, after Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader, went to Dubai to seek medical attention. Zimbabweans were growing increasingly frustrated with Mugabe and his failure to fix the economy. Mugabe, who was a leader in the independence movement, had been in power since 1980.

It is a criminal offence in Zimbabwe to make any derogatory or insulting comments about President Mugabe. Any person making such comments is liable to arrest and prosecution. Distributing or displaying books published by banned authors or displaying any form of political allegiance, slogans or images from Zimbabwean political parties may attract strict penalties including arrest, detention or deportation.

Mugabe's 18 April 2003 Independence Day speech, in which he encouraged open discussion of the succession issue within ZANU-PF councils, opened the floodgates of speculation. Politburo members and ZANU-PF party members long known to harbor latent presidential ambitions suddenly stampeded to the fore. Competing succession scenarios and successor lists have appeared in local media, and different timelines were presented. In the final analysis, however, there appears to be no heir apparent that does not suffer some disqualifying flaw, and no clear-cut scenario for when, or under what terms, Mugabe might actually step aside. As usual, and barring unforeseen actuarial developments, the decision on where Mugabe goes remained squarely with Mugabe himself.

Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF leadership sent out ambiguous messages for most of a year about their willingness to embark on a genuine transition process. Their willingness to contemplate such a transition waxed and waned depending on the degree of pressure that the Government has been under, particularly from their African colleagues. His continued evasions about succession suggested his unease about any successor's ability to hold the party together and "protect his legacy."

Most in the party's upper echelons knew their future with Mugabe was limited, whether they fall victim to Mugabe's expected cabinet dismissals or simply lost their place in a crumbling patronage system.

Free and fair elections or a transitional government of national unity do not figure into any scenario that ZANU-PF insiders or government-owned newspapers have conjured up. In ZANU-PF logic, ZANU-PF succession is a given. Politburo discussions of the succession issue reportedly concluded that any successor to Mugabe must meet two basic requirements: enjoy significant acceptance in all provinces, and be acceptable to the Ndebele in the South.

The ruling ZANU-PF party probably temporarily deferred succession tensions within its ranks by tapping Minister of Water Resources and Infrastructural Development Joyce Mujuru, the wife of retired General Solomon Mujuru, as its second Vice-President at party provincial meetings on 21 November 2004. Mujuru was the choice of six of ten provincial councils, edging out Speaker of the Parliament and Party Secretary for Administration Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mugabe in 2006 promised he would step down as president in 2008. But he appears determined to die in office and it is unlikely that he will provide any clues to succession. Determining a successor to Mugabe is therefore speculative.

In April 2016 Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe accused potential successors for wishing him dead and told ruling ZANU-PF supporters to unite against foreign enemies he said wanted to destroy the Southern African nation. Mugabe told a meeting of about 10,000 veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s independence war that his frequent trips to Malaysia and Singapore had fed newspaper reports that he was ill and sometimes dying, stoking succession fights in ZANU-PF.

As the succession battle involving Mugabe deepened, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa emerged as a frontrunner in the unofficial race. Mnangagwa as State Security Minister played a key role in the Gukurahundi Massacres that saw over 20 000 civilians butchered to death in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces. It was again Mnangagwa as head of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) that violently kept Mugabe in power following his humiliating defeat in the 2008 presidential elections. Because of his involvement in the Matebeleland massacres of the 1980s, Emmerson Mnangagwa cannot pass muster with the Ndebele. In addition, he is feared and mistrusted by many ZANU-PF insiders, including his arch-rival (and former ZAN/ZANLA Commander) Solomon Mujuru, for his ruthlessness.

Mnangagwa had done a lot of dirty work for President Robert Mugabe both as State Security Minister, Defence Minister, Justice Minister and chairman of the Joint Operations Command (JOC). With the Tsholotsho Declaration of 2004, a group aligned to Mnangagwa hatched a succession plan for the late vice president Simon Muzenda that involved the elevation of Mnangagwa as Muzenda’s successor. The plan was, however, foiled by the elevation of Joice Mujuru, who was expelled in 2014 for allegedly plotting to unconstitutionally remove President Mugabe from power.

By September 2016 Mnangagwa faced mounting pressure from Zanu PF members to resign on allegations that he is plotting to stampede Mugabe’s ouster, with some openly attacking him. Mnangagwa enjoyed the support of the military and from the stance of the war veterans, the military’s support for Mugabe was tenuous. Mnangagwa remained a trusted alternative.

Grace Mugabe made political advances of her own. As of 2007 Grace's primary personal interest appeared to be shopping; she reportedly spent large amounts of forex on her infrequent trips to Asia. Initially Grace Mugabe was not active or well-liked within ZANU-PF circles and she had no close relationships with cabinet members. Grace's relationship with President Mugabe appeared stable. In the past she was rumored to have had affairs, but there were no recent rumors.

Grace Mugabe acted as a kind of gatekeeper, often controlling who sees him, and what information gets to him. She became the head of the women's league in the ruling ZANU-PF party. There was no good reason for Mugabe to not want his wife, Grace to take over as President. What he does know however is that his wife remains divisive and unpopular within the party. President Robert Mugabe believed his wife is strong-headed and he does not challenge most of her decisions for the sake of peace at home.

In December 2014, she was appointed by her husband to head the Women's League of the ruling ZANU-PF party after becoming instrumental in the downfall of former Vice President Joice Mujuru. She used a string of political rallies to publicly accuse Mujuru of corruption, power mongering and vowed to get her husband to fire the VP for attempting to usurp power.

Grace has been identified as one of the people causing factionalism that threatened to destroy Zanu PF. After Grace made her entry into politics, the veteran ruler was forced to dump some of his long-time allies such as Joice Mujuru and Didymus Mutasa. This came after Grace organised rallies across the country demanding their ejection from the party and government. One Cabinet minister, Chris Mutsvangwa, faced suspension after he hinted in a privately-owned newspaper that Grace Mugabe owed her political rise to her marriage to the president. His predecessor, Jabulani Sibanda, was kicked out of the party in 2014 and faced criminal charges after describing Grace Mugabe's swift political rise as a “bedroom coup.”

Grace spent the year 2015 crisscrossing the country, addressing supporters in the blazing sun in remote areas. She handed out food parcels, clothing and farming equipment, most paid for by the government and some by her family. She told farmers that they should be loyal to her. She is referred to as “Mother,” and cars and T-shirts are covered with her image and the slogan, “Everyone Belongs to Mother.” Most of these events and speeches are duly carried live on state television, magnifying their impact, to the dismay of the opposition which accuses the country's sole television broadcaster of partisan reporting.

In December 2015, she claimed seniority over Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. “He has more experience in politics than me,” she conceded at a rally attended by thousands of villagers in south-eastern Zimbabwe, but then added: “It does not mean the first lady is below the VP.”

On 10 July 2016 Grace told a Zanu PF Harare inter-district meeting that Zimbabweans must learn from countries such as Libya and Iraq and stop entertaining forces that might lead to chaos. “Let us not be hoodwinked by our detractors because we know there are some governments that don’t like us and they will give money to sponsor a stay away,” she claimed. “If we embark on a stay-way they would be busy manufacturing and their economies prospering yet things will halt in our country. If we calculate how much we lost through the stay away you will be surprised how much we lost.

ZANU-PF, according to most analysts, is not ready to accept a woman as president.

Simba Makoni was the darling of the donors, popular with the more liberal-minded, and acceptable to many in the MDC. However, he comes from Manicaland and lacks a broad constituency base in Mashonaland rural areas and is anathema to pro-Mugabe hard-liners for his commitment to reform and his conciliatory political views. The Zanu PF politburo member broke ranks with Mugabe in 2007 to form MKD - Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn.

Zimbabwe presidential hopeful Simba Makoni held his first rallies in March 2008, vowing to reform the economy and end the system of patronage that marked President Robert Mugabe's 28 years in power. Some Zanu-PF heavyweights, and some war veterans, said they were supporting Mr. Makoni rather than Mr. Mugabe in the March 29 election.

Simba Makoni's rally in Harare, in Shona, was a long attack on Mr. Mugabe's economic policies and his system of political patronage. For approximately 3,000 to 4,000 mostly young men who attended the Harare rally Sunday, it was a revelation. They laughed out loud and clapped and cheered when Mr. Makoni reeled off a list of economic problems faced by Zimbabweans.

He said many put their hard-earned cash in the bank, but were then not allowed to draw it out when they wanted, and had to wait for days to get access to their money. He said there was chaos on Zimbabwe's farmland, in a country which has for decades been dependent on agricultural exports. He also said there was a gross abuse of state resources, which were used along partisan lines.

On 25 April 2016 (MKD) leader Simba Makoni said a grand coalition of “progressive forces” including opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, disgruntled Zanu PF stalwarts led by former Vice President Joice Mujuru and Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zapu would defeat President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in the 2018 elections. He said that that consultations were under way between various opposition leaders, with a view to form a broad front that would challenge Mugabe.

“We have ongoing communications with the so-called Gamatoxes (disgruntled former Zanu PF stalwarts), the renewal team (MDC breakaway faction), and the MDC for the  purpose of building national consensus and to search for common ground so that we can engage in effective common action,” Makoni said.

Other potential successors mentioned included Defense Minister Sidney Sekeremayi, who had considerable Politburo support, and retired Army General Solomon Mujuru. The former suffers from a reputation for personal weakness, while the latter is widely considered too rough-edged and uneducated to handle the job. In Mujuru's case, he seems more interested in being kingmaker than the king. The very ambitious Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo, an Ndebele, is widely disliked in party circles. His dependence upon the patronage of Mugabe is such that he appears determined to block or delay any moves toward Mugabe's departure, since Moyo himself is an unlikely dauphin. Like Mugabe, Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo is from the Zezeru sub-clan of the Shona, and his nomination would spark fierce opposition from the competing Karanga and Manyica sub-clans.

Other candidates included Minister of Special Affairs in the President,s Office John Nkomo, whose Ndebele bloodlines and ZAPU origins might qualify him for a prime ministerial or custodial role, but certainly not a strong presidential one. Lesser candidates included Minister of Home Affairs Kembo Mohadi, Minister of State for National Security Nicholas Goche, Minister of Social Welfare July Moyo, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Stan Mudenge. Most are not serious contenders for ethnic/clan reasons, or for a lack of political traction with party elders.

The generation of ZANU-PF heavyweights from the liberation era must ultimately second Mugabe's choice. Many of these old-timers in their 70s and 80s, and can be expected to resist mightily any change from the effective one-party system they have known so long. Less entrenched and ideological insiders would like to see reform, but only ZANU-PF reform, and fear that the party has not prepared for succession and would be extremely vulnerable in the post-Mugabe period. For different reasons, many within the party would prefer to still the winds of change.

From the ZANU-PF perspective, the path to the Presidency of the Republic clearly goes through the ZANU-PF presidency. Mugabe held this position since 1987. The ZANU-PF party Constitution provides a clear framework for electing party leadership. The National People's Congress, which is held once every five years, elects the President, two vice-presidents, and the National Chairman of the party directly, upon nomination by at least six provincial executive councils of the party, meeting separately, in special session called for that purpose. If more than one candidate is presented, then the candidate having the highest number of votes stands as the nominee.

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Page last modified: 21-11-2017 11:18:55 ZULU