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Sekeramayi emerges as likely Mugabe successor

Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi could spring a surprise in the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe

Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi could spring a surprise in the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe as the two main factions in Zanu PF continue to tear each other apart ahead of an elective congress later this year, it has emerged.


Sources said while Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa were considered the leading contenders in the race to succeed Mugabe, Sekeramayi was now being touted as a compromise candidate.

Mujuru and Mnangagwa have been linked to the factions fighting for power in Zanu PF, but Mugabe recently declared it was not automatic either of the two would succeed him.

Senior Zanu PF officials who spoke to NewsDay said Sekeramayi was now the dark horse to take over and was amenable to the many forces at play in the ruling party.

An official said the military and intelligence chiefs who usually dabbled in Zanu PF politics and have played a huge role in Mugabe’s election success were comfortable working with Sekeramayi.

He said perceptions that only bigwigs occupying positions from chairperson and above would ascend to the Presidency were false.

“The Zanu PF constitution actually allows any member of Zanu PF — even those who are not members of the politburo — to contest for any position in the party, including that of the Presidency,” a politburo member said.

“Therefore, to construct a matrix and say the person who assumes the post of chairman in Zanu PF becomes President is false because at the end of the year when the party goes for congress, people can elect persons in or even out.”

The source said Sekeramayi was indeed the dark horse and could easily ascend to the top just like Mujuru did when she was elevated to her current position, after upstaging more senior women in the party such as the late Thenjiwe Lesabe and Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development minister Oppah Muchinguri.

Another source from the politburo said Sekeramayi could upstage the leading contenders because of his depth in security matters which was pivotal as a requirement for the Presidency in Zimbabwe’s highly partisan politics.

“He does not talk too much and he is also often given the Security ministry, which makes him a big contender for the post,” he said.

“The only problem with Sekeramayi is that there are some people within Zanu PF who think his liberation war credentials are not deep enough as he started participating in the war during the late 1970s while others had long started.”

The official said having impressive liberation war credentials was a vital requisite for the Presidency in Zanu PF.

A senior Zanu PF legislator said although Sekeramayi had some of the attributes for the Presidency, other characteristics like consistency, ability to turn around the economy of the country and bring about political stability, as well as security for the First Family in the post-Mugabe era, were required for one to land the post.

“The question of consistency in terms of defending the President when things are difficult is also important,” he said.

“For example, in 2008 when the MDC-T won the Presidential elections, there were some who had decided Mugabe should pack his bags and started negotiations with the MDC-T. Others like Mnangagwa remained consistent and mobilised the security forces to secure Mugabe’s stay. So, consistently defending party interests is imperative.”

Alexander Rusero, a political analyst, named Sekeramayi and former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono as some of the serious contenders in the Presidential race, but added there was likely to be a big surprise as to who would succeed Mugabe.

Rusero said Sekeramayi had managed to maintain a composed character, spoke very little, and compared to the other contenders, was less scandalous and rarely fingered in corrupt activities.

Rusero said if one were to put Mugabe’s words into context, it, therefore, was not necessarily people from the old guard who could possibly take over from him. “Mugabe is likely to spring a big surprise and I do not see the successor coming from the old guard, and in this succession matrix, people should not underestimate the securocrats (military, police and Central Intelligence Organisation) who are likely to be very influential on who takes over as President,” he said.

Rusero said Mnangagwa, though, had an advantage in that he was visible in the media, adding this was mainly influenced by his position as Leader of the House in Parliament.

Another political analyst and Media Studies lecturer at Midlands State University, Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri, said the Zanu PF succession matrix was such that every politburo member was a potential Presidential candidate.

“They have their own structures and ranks in terms of who can be considered first, and certain people might be elected to occupy positions that are weaker or stronger than others. Anybody with the right experience and necessary ideological focus in Zanu PF will perhaps be positioned to take over the Presidency,” Mhiripiri said.