Zimbabwe has known only one leader since independence and that is President Robert Mugabe. Now that the President has turned 90, slowed down and is on his way out one way or the other, it is also natural that his juniors are thinking of the future and in that, position themselves for a post-Mugabe era.
GUEST COLUMNIST RASHWEAT MUKUNDU
No matter how the Zanu PF leadership, especially Mugabe, may try to sit on top of this simmering debate and now turning into open clashes and public spats, his succession is the most topical political question and issue in Zimbabwe and, unfortunately, one that is not going away as he wishes.
Mugabe appears the only one oblivious to what is going on around him because he has allowed himself to be shut off from this reality, that one day State House will be occupied by someone else, be it Vice-President Joice Mujuru or Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
We need not waste our time on the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, whose political career will end with the departure of Mugabe and her fortunes are as limited in time as the ticking clock of her husband.
As Grace predicted herself, her political career will be dragged in the tarred road the day Mugabe leaves office and this will be done by both camps, those who support her and those who dislike.
In other words, we do not have any Grace supporters in Zanu PF. What we have are people who are using her only to dump her later while others are outrightly opposed to her.
As all this fire is burning around, Mugabe is in the dark, calling for peace and unity when the hour calls for competition, disunity and rivalry and the possibility of a break-up.
This is the natural course of politics which the President is missing and no one is going to listen to him.
His song is indeed one of a loner in the desert, his juniors have long moved past him, they do make intermittent turns to look at his shadow and pay homage to it, but even that will soon, and very soon, end.
The moment therefore calls for a new approach by the President, that of acknowledging that he is not going to be around forever and allow for open debate on his succession.
An open and robust debate on succession is what Zanu PF needs now, not calls for peace and unity.
There has never been peace and unity where political leadership contest is underway. Peace and unity will only come back to Zanu PF when a leader with a grip on the party for the next decade or so is elected and that is not Mugabe.
The only and the best thing that Mugabe can do for Zanu PF now is to manage the succession debate, allow the various factions to debate openly and canvass for support on the basis of a vision for both the party and Zimbabwe.
That way the fire engulfing Zanu PF now will be better managed and Zimbabwe will be safe as we are all set to be engulfed by the conflagration in Zanu PF.
The future of Zimbabwe and Zanu PF has long slipped off the hands of Mugabe. The President is not in a position to define the trajectory of Zanu PF from now going forward; rather he is becoming a victim and a spectator of events.
The President may try various machinations to still influence politics, but the bottom line remains that it is Mugabe who has to leave at some point. It also appears that Mugabe is not only losing his grip on Zanu PF, but may become of a victim of the events in the party.
If the spats among the various factions intensify, it could be that the President will also be soiled. A fight in the house cannot leave those inside untouched by some mud, or some projectile is bound to go in the wrong direction and hit an unintended target.
As stated earlier on, Mugabe can do Zimbabwe and Zanu PF a huge favour by defining the parameters of the succession debate, and encourage open debate that involves not only those in the party, but all interested citizens, since Zanu PF, is, after all, the party in power.
All citizens have an interest in who will take over from Mugabe, more so ensuring that the debate on succession is anchored on a vision for Zimbabwe, not self-serving political interests as we see now.
What value does Oppah Muchinguri’s “Pasi nevanopisira varume mudzimba” add to Zimbabwe?
This is an example of the nonsense Mugabe must stop. Mugabe can do Zimbabwe a huge favour by beginning the process of facilitating a smooth handover of power to whom`soever Zanu PF chooses so that the peace we enjoy now can be sustained.
The legacy that Mugabe can leave for Zanu PF is that of smooth power transition as well as the election of a Zanu PF leadership that has the best interests of the people of Zimbabwe at heart.
The unfortunate message that Mugabe is sending with the elevation of his wife to lead the Women’s League is that he narrowly focused on the welfare and interests of his family and inner circle rather than the rest.
In other words, by allowing rivals to tear each other up, Mugabe is losing the moral ground to leader Zanu PF and also failing as a leader in protecting the interests of all in the party and ultimately the whole country.
The President must awaken to his national responsibility of leading the country and leading also includes planning your exit.
Pretending that being re-elected as First Secretary at the December congress is the end of the matter is merely fooling oneself.
This may work to quieten the unwanted for a few months, but may make the debate even more dangerous if it is pushed underground.
So instead of calling for unity and silence, Mugabe must rather call for orderly noise on his succession.
This is the best and last thing that he can do for Zimbabwe. We don’t expect anything more from him as the future no longer belongs to him, but another generation.