Mujuru leading battle to succeed Mugabe

Zimbabwean vice-president Joice Mujuru. Photo: AP

Zimbabwean vice-president Joice Mujuru. Photo: AP

Published Aug 11, 2013


Zimbabwe - President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF now face the task of running the country without their former partners – Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Mugabe has delegated the task of drawing up a new Zanu-PF-only cabinet to his vice-president, Joice Mujuru, according to Zanu-PF insiders. Though that is officially part of her job, Zanu-PF watchers are wondering whether the decision has given her an edge in the struggle to succeed the ageing Mugabe, which is bound to hot up now.

Mugabe’s swearing-in as president after his 61 percent to 34 percent victory over Tsvangirai in the July 31 presidential election was postponed on Friday when the MDC lodged a challenge to the presidential and parliamentary election results at the Constitutional Court.

The court has 14 days to hear the MDC’s complaint that Mugabe and Zanu-PF rigged their victories in both elections.

But neither the MDC nor anyone else expect the court to take long to reject the challenge, and they believe Mugabe will be sworn in well before the 14-day deadline.

Zanu-PF converted its slim minority position in parliament into a plus-two-thirds majority over Tsvangirai’s MDC-T. Welshman Ncube’s smaller MDC was also eliminated, losing its seats.

Mujuru has had a heavy schedule of meetings over the past week as Zanu-PF’s old guard and a new group of younger MPs began calling her, angling for positions in the new cabinet.

Mujuru represents the kinder, gentler face of Zanu-PF and many moderate Zimbabweans are pinning their hopes on her now that the party is back in full control of the government.

Because the 89-year-old Mugabe’s eyesight is failing along with his concentration, Mujuru has effectively been running the cabinet for the past four months.

Her main difficulty will to be to find talent in the new cabinet to replace and continue the work of the MDC ministers who inherited a paralysed, bankrupt state when they joined the unity government in 2009. They managed to move the country far enough down the hard road to recovery before the power-sharing deal ended.

Mujuru’s task will be aggravated by the fact that the older Zanu-PF leaders seem likely to dominate the next cabinet, as they did past ones, according to veteran economist John Robertson and many business leaders.

They say they are resigned to more of the same in the next cabinet, as it was the old guard – veterans of the wartime Zanla high command – who delivered the election victory, one way or another, and therefore they would be rewarded with the top positions.

“We hoped there would be a breakthrough in Zanu-PF this time, with such a huge win, but at present it looks like the old guard will be back and Zimbabwe will be stuck again,” said one businessman who has been pleading with Mujuru to look around for new talent.

“We are still relieved Zanu-PF won because if MDC had won, the generals would not have allowed it, and there would be violence. And there is little of that at the moment.”

Some insiders believe the finance minister to replace the MDC’s Tendai Biti will be Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was defence minister in the unity government. He ran Zanu-PF’s finances for years and, somehow, the party survived this, probably because some of its revenues were filched from the state fiscus.

Zimbabwe has little money in its banks, especially “indigenous” banks, no new investment coming in and continuous shrinkage in manufacturing. As things stand, it probably cannot pay civil servants beyond a month or two… at most.

Mnangagwa, so his supporters claim, has the clout and inside information to grab some diamond money, bang it into the Treasury to pay civil servants and keep the show on the road – and also do the same with informal gold production, with which he is familiar.

But analysts believe Mujuru is unlikely to allow her chief rival in the “contest” to succeed Mugabe.

They believe she will feel safer if the post goes to Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister in the unity government who is a good, smart lawyer.

However, his record does not aid him – he was finance minister when Zimbabwe was reduced to astronomical inflation and deflation leading to empty supermarket shelves before 2009’s inclusive government.

Whoever becomes finance minister will inherit the reform plan agreed by Biti and the International Monetary Fund, which includes public sector reform (deleting ghost workers from the pay roll), strengthening the wobbly banks, of which there are too many, and measures to ringfence the payment of social services.

If that plan holds, the next step will be to settle Zimbabwe’s R120 billion foreign debt which was run up by the Zanu-PF administration before 2009.

MDC’s Elton Mangoma, a chartered accountant, was energy minister in the unity government and apparently did a fair job. Electricity supply is more reliable than it was five years ago and there are plans to increase power generation via expansion of existing facilities.

Though where the money will come from is uncertain. It did not help that Mujuru confirmed on Thursday what her colleague in the local government portfolio, Ignatius Chombo, had said before the elections: that no one has to pay their outstanding electricity bills.

However, economist Erich Bloch believes this remains a pure election promise. “What they say is not necessarily what they will do,” he said.

Even Mugabe respected MDC education minister David Coltart’s contribution during the unity government to rebuilding education which had begun falling apart about 20 years ago, especially in rural schools. Who will Mujuru find to replace him? It is a ministry Mugabe particularly wants to be run well.

And health? Perhaps David Parirenyatwa again. He was accused of human rights abuses in the last elections but denies the accusations.

Sunday Independent

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