ZANU PF has demonstrated faith in its old guard as the party prepares for a face off with other political parties — primarily the MDC-T and the MDC — and a coterie of independent candidates in the harmonised elections scheduled for July 31.
Report by Phillip Chidavaenzi
Among these old war horses are Didymus Mutasa, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Sidney Sekeremayi and Olivia Muchena who have all been in Parliament and government since independence in 1980.
Although these politicians are beyond their prime, political observers have attributed their continued stay in power to President Robert Mugabe’s goodwill rather than any meaningful contributions they have made in parliament and government.
Presidential Affairs minister and Zanu PF stalwart Mutasa recently admitted age was fast catching up with him and he was likely to quit politics within the next five years. Should the 77-year-old veteran politician stick to this aspiration, it means that he will give up at the ripe old age of 82.
The veteran said: “Age is a controlling factor. I don’t think I will have another political life in which I will be active as I have been in the past. I think in the next five years, I will take a break.”
Mutasa disclosed that since getting involved in politics at the tender age of 11, he had never considered anything else, and his other passion — to empower young black people — was also tied up to politics.
Mutasa, who was the country’s first Speaker of Parliament between 1980 and 1990, has been the legislator for Makoni North MP since independence. His continued stay in Parliament — and subsequently in government — has, however, been attributed more to his intimidation of opponents and Mugabe praise singing.
According to the Zanu PF hierarchy, Mutasa is ranked fourth after Mugabe, Vice-President Joice Mujuru and party chairman Simon Khaya Moyo.
Mnangagwa (76), another notable figure in Zanu PF, has held the portfolios of defence, state security, justice and rural housing. He was also
the Speaker of Parliament between 2000 and 2005. Although Mnangagwa was defeated in the 2000 parliamentary election by MDC-T’s Blessing Chebundo in Kwekwe constituency, Mugabe gave him a new lease of political life by appointing him to one of the unelected seats in Parliament.
Five years later, in March 2005, he was further rejected by the Kwekwe electorate and Mugabe came to his rescue again by appointing him to an unelected seat.
Several other Zanu PF politicians who had lost in elections did not court such favour as they were shown the door out of government.
Three years later — in the March 2008 parliamentary election — Mnangagwa opted for a rural constituency, Chirumanzi–Zibagwe, which he won by an overwhelming margin. Mnangagwa is reputed as a covert and shrewd tactician, something that has probably aided him in his political longevity.
Another political survivor, Sekeramayi (79), who has also become like a permanent feature in government since 1980. Political scientists have tipped Sekeramayi as a distant third after Mujuru and Mnangagwa in the race to succeed Mugabe (89).
According to University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure, Sekeramayi cannot be written off in the succession race if one looks at the Zanu PF structures.
“The second approach yields several names, including Mujuru, Mnangagwa, Sekeramayi, Mpofu and Young Turks like (Saviour) Kasukuwere,” Masunungure told NewsDay in an interview. “I may also mention that Sekeramayi is an inexplicably underrated candidate, but I think he is a very serious dark horse.”
Sekeremayi, who is the State Security minister, is contesting the Marondera seat on a Zanu PF ticket.
Olivia Muchena (67) described by Wikileaks as a respected technocrat with political savy and a sensible proponent of indigenisation and economic liberation, spent the greater her career in education and working for non-governmental organisations.
Born in 1946, Muchena participated in the liberation struggle both as a student activist at the University of Rhodesia and as a member and chairperson of Zanu branches in Edinburgh and Rochester-Syracuse-Ithaca, New York.