Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday denied recent media reports that President Robert Mugabe had secretly annointed him as his successor.
Early this month, the international media was awash with unsubstantiated reports that Mugabe had entered into a “gentleman’s agreement”, where he would hand over power to the Zanu PF politburo member in the event of his sudden death. The reports reached fever pitch last week when Mugabe was rumoured to be battling for his life in a Singapore hospital, a story which was proved to be false.
“I am as surprised as you. I also read of these rumours in the papers,” he said.
Mnangagwa, who is believed to be leading the race to succeed Mugabe, made the remarks while presenting a public lecture at the Midlands State University in Gweru yesterday.
His lecture was titled Zimbabwe’s Defence Policy in Times of Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment.
“There is no such thing and these are the efforts of detractors bent on causing alarm and chaos among the authorities, both in Zanu PF and the government,” Mnangagwa said. “The fortunate thing is that we are so mature to be distracted by such mentally-deranged people. I, therefore, rest my case.” Mnangagwa and Vice-President Joice Mujuru are believed to be leading two factions vying to take over the reins if Mugabe leaves power. The Zanu PF succession matrix has given rise to wild speculation, with Mugabe repeatedly declaring appointing a successor would divide his party.
Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980. Turning to the controversy surrounding the appointment of serving and retired army chiefs to head parastatals, Mnangagwa said the country’s laws did not prohibit military bosses from occupying such posts.
“There is no law that forbids those that have been in the army to work in civilian life,” Mnangagwa said. “If a retired general has destroyed some aspects of a company, it is not because he is a general, but because he is himself. We don’t import generals. They are born and bred into you. Once you have acquired skills in the military, they may be useful in civilian life so you may be deployed there.” MDC-T leader and Prime Minister Morgan has often accused Mugabe of militarising parastatals and government institutions, thereby destroying most of them. Mugabe is the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. Serving or retired military officers are now heading strategic parastatals such as the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe, the National Railways of Zimbabwe and the Grain Marketing Board. Mnangagwa also castigated MDC-T leaders for denouncing the indigenisation policy. “It is a fact that the majority of our people live in poverty due to limited opportunities to participate in the mainstream economy as a result of the colonial system which was based on the systematic exclusion of indigenous Zimbabweans from the mainstream economy,” he said.
He said the army had entered into joint ventures with foreign investors, particularly Chinese and Russian mining firms involved in diamond mining in Chiadzwa, to counter Western sanctions.
“This, to a large extent, stabilises industry and eliminates chances of internal economic sabotage,” he said.
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