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Chiwenga to tackle Mnangagwa


Chiwenga down but not out —VP allies



ALLIES of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who was brought to his knees by President Emmerson Mnangagwa — literally and metaphorically — at the crucial Zanu PF congress last weekend, say the former military commander is down but not out.


 It is a strategic retreat after losing some ground in processes culminating in congress, they argue. Chiwenga’s allies and independent sources say the vice-president retreated on his mission to seize party structures and control at the congress after some reversals in internal district and provincial elections to re-strategise and fight back.

 In separate briefings with The NewsHawks, various sources said Mnangagwa used congress to consolidate and retain power, but Chiwenga still has several options to turn the tables, including: The general elections, impeachment and a palace coup.

A well-placed source said: “After losing ground during congress, the VP (Chiwenga) has several options to recover. One of them is bhora musango [internal sabotage]. Chiwenga and his allies in the party can and will sabotage Mnangagwa who is already unpopular as aptly shown by the 2018 general elections. Chiwenga will do a Mujuru on Mnangagwa [the late former army commander Solomon Mujuru in 2008 sabotaged ex-president Robert Mugabe who died in 2019] through bhora musango.

 “There is also an impeachment option which Mnangagwa feared in 2018, and said so publicly. If Chiwenga’s faction wins a majority in Parliament in the 2023 general elections, they can impeach Mnangagwa.

“Chiwenga can also leverage the military to stage a palace coup, that is a situation in which Mnangagwa gets removed from power by people who have worked with him. The military can be used — without resorting to a hard coup like they did in 2017 — to pressure leadership for internal change.”

A Chiwenga ally said given the role of the military, which the former commander still largely controls, in the elections, the vice-president is still a major factor in Zanu PF and national politics.

“Mnangagwa might have won at congress, but Chiwenga still remains important and influential in the party and national politics, especially in the upcoming general elections. So to say that Mnangagwa has completely overwhelmed Chiwenga and to imply he no longer needs him is incorrect, particularly given the role of the military in elections. We need to look into this issue more profoundly and objectively before concluding that Chiwenga was crushed at congress. He may be down, but certainly not out. In fact, his role in the party and national affairs won’t change much. In any case, congress did not change internal Zanu PF politics; the same leadership was retained, meaning that nothing much would be different. It’s too early to write off Chiwenga in this long haul political power struggle for the party leadership in the post-Mugabe era.”

After a brutal political battle following the 2017 military coup which propelled Mnangagwa to power, characterised by plotting, internal strife, purges, poisoning and a grenade attack amid dead bodies, Chiwenga was subdued at congress.

 His surrender — at least for now — was symbolised by his kneeling before Mnangagwa before the 4 000 delegates. Delegates, foreign fraternal party representatives, diplomats, observers and journalists witnessed the kowtowing spectacle. Those who spoke to The NewsHawks found the kneeling symbolic of defeat.

“That summarised the key outcome of the congress; Mnangagwa emerged triumphant and Chiwenga defeated, given their power relations in 2017 and the power shift now,” one delegate said.

 “This is not to say Chiwenga is down and out. This means he is down, but not out. The fact of the matter is simply that he was routed at congress and needs to retreat and regroup.”

Chiwenga himself accepted the trouncing, going as far as claiming leaders are ordained by God. He implied Mnangagwa, whom he once claimed was the great Munhumutapa [historical Shona-speaking people’s monarch], had the divine right to rule.

 Said Chiwenga: “The party membership through its structures and leagues has already clearly and thunderously endorsed Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa as the president and first secretary, and as the sole presidential candidate for the ruling party, Zanu PF, in the 2023 harmonised elections. People have thus spoken.”

Singing praises of Mnangagwa, he added: “He is the one and only candidate that we know.”

This was a far cry from his plan in 2017 during the coup when he called the shots. Chiwenga’s strategy was to install Mnangagwa as president for five years, and then take over in 2023.

 This was part of the military plan to then keep power within their structures and among themselves.

In 2017, Chiwenga practically installed himself vice-president when he exchanged military fatigues for a civilian suit, blocking Mnangagwa’s bid to appoint Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri co-deputy leader with Kembo Mohadi.

He also took over the defence and war veterans portfolios that Mnangagwa had initially given to Mohadi who was briefly put in charge of security. Muchinguri-Kashiri was later appeased through an appointment as party chair, a position she retained at congress.

Zanu PF’s top positions have remained unchanged after congress: Mnangagwa (president), Chiwenga (deputy president), Mohadi (deputy president), Muchinguri-Kashiri (chairperson), Obert Mpofu (secretary for administration), Patrick Chinamasa (finance), national political commissar Mike Bimha and secretary for security Lovemore Matuke.

 Except Chiwenga and Mpofu, the rest of these appointed top party officials support Mnangagwa, insiders say.

 Mohadi, who helped checkmate Chiwenga during the bruising power struggle, threw his weight behind Mnangagwa in his congress address. Mnangagwa lightheartedly described Mohadi as “naughty” — a reference to his sex scandals — but said he is dependable and useful.

He said Mohadi is also an honest leader as he is the only one who has repeatedly told him in his face that he wants to be president.

Good-homouredly, Mnangagwa said if Mohadi wants to be president he must first survive a sustained campaign of vilification and threats, poisoning, expulsion, walking 40 kilometres and then a dramatic recovery from that, which was a description of his own rise to power under the late former president Robert Mugabe’s last days.

Said a source: “Congress left Mnangagwa stronger, but that doesn’t mean that Chiwenga has been overwhelmed. He suffered a setback and to retreat, but he still has capacity to fight back and achieve his objectives.”

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