The rabble rousing and thunderous cheer that Emmerson Mnangagwa received from ZANU PF supporters at a rally in Bulawayo on the 4th of November 2017, juxtaposed to first lady Grace Mugabe’s booing and heckling at the same occasion could certainly have been the last straw for Mnangagwa’s continued stay in the party.
All signs of a victory for him at the December elective congress, as he rode on an increasing sympathetic vote were there to be seen.
President Mugabe saw the signs, shouted all manner of expletives in a fit of rage in his speech and subsequently pre-empted this victory by promptly cutting short Mnangagwa’s political career in government.
For good measure, Mugabe swung the guillotine a few days later by expelling his former deputy from the party. For Mugabe, applause for his deputy was untenable and had to be swiftly dealt with.
It was also an opportunity to assert his authority and dominance as commander in chief of the Defence forces putting to rest claims that he was at the mercy of the service chiefs.
Late journalist, Heidi Holland in her psycho biography of Mugabe titled Dinner With Mugabe provided a compelling account of just how he plays his cards in Zimbabwe’s tumultuous political environment.
Loyal as Mnangagwa was, he could have taken leaf of advice from this riveting investigation.
“The succession struggle in the dying days of Mugabe’s presidency will never be resolved by him in the interests of party solidarity because apart from believing that he has the absolute right to rule until his death, he thrives on the tension of disputes and conspiracies among enemies,” wrote Holland.
Constantly jostling for ascendance, the Mujuru couple and Mnangagwa frequently rose and fell in Mugabe’s appraisal and consequently in proximity to the Presidency. He had been playing off one against the other for decades, as is his want.
The expulsion of former vice President Joyce Mujuru in 2014 certainly gave impetus to the ambitions of Mnangagwa.
Ever since his appointment, he knew very well how dangerous it was to reveal any Presidential ambitions, and therefore thought the best strategy would be to remain quiet in the face of vindictive attacks on his person by Grace Mugabe, and to keep everybody guessing what his thoughts were.
The first lady’s approach to elimination of enemies has always been clear from the days of Mujuru’s helm in Vice Presidency. Her language turned from the veiled “We know some of you are using witchcraft to take over the Presidency” to “It is you Mujuru!”
Had Mnangagwa read into her language, he could have anticipated her next move and taken action. He was always the next target.
Viewed as the architect of ZANU PF commercial activities according to a UN report in 2001, as party finance secretary for many years, Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s personal assistant for more than 30 years.
Today, Mnangagwa’s fate is sealed with the First family’s agenda of absolute obliteration of anything and anybody associated with him.
He enjoys the support of many of the war veterans who led the campaign of violence against whiter commercial farmers in 2000 and the opposition MDC. They remember him as one of the men who after military training in China and Egypt directed the 1970s fight for independence.
Following the firing of Mnangagwa from government and ZANU PF, the war veterans have since disowned Mugabe as their leader and patron, so everybody is waiting to see what form of action this group will take.
It will be interesting to see how this vital electioneering cog that Mugabe has regularly used at his whim will affect political processes in the coming months as Zimbabwe heads towards general elections.
Based on the generality of Zimbabwean citizens’ apathy towards political processes in the country, there will not be much social unrest in the aftermath of this scenario.
That is, unless the security forces, known to be sympathetic to Mnangagwa agitate for such unrest. There would have to be considerable and compelling push factors to drive the security forces onto the ground in protest against this unprecedented dismissal of Mnangagwa.
The army has remained mum with Defence forces commander Constantino Chiwenga pointing out that the situation in the country is under control, vowing that the security forces will uphold the country’s constitution.
Rumour is rife that Chiwenga could be next on the firing line as he is perceived to be a Mnangagwa ally.
It’s all targets set on Mnangagwa and anybody associated with him as seen by skirmishes at Forbes border post a few days ago when he tried to flee Zimbabwe for Mozambique.
His son was briefly detained before being released, so it seems that anybody associated with him is in trouble. Purges are on -going as 3 members of parliament and 5 Central Committee members have been barred from participating in party activities due to their allegiance to Mnangagwa.
The bloodbath to get rid of all perceived to be sympathetic to him will continue right up to the elective congress in December.
At a regional level, this tense situation which inadvertently warps in the military has the regional grouping SADC keeping a close tab on developments happening in the country.
Although it is literally inconceivable that SADC would directly intervene in this unfolding crisis, as the grouping has traditionally been known to revere Mugabe, the same group will certainly not sit back and watch Zimbabwe’s political problems degenerating into a civil war.
Lessons could be learnt from the manner in which the group has handled the perilous political crisis in Lesotho, which has claimed the lives of high ranking military staff.
Zimbabwe is a strategic conduit for inter-regional trade between SADC member countries, so a full scale civil disturbance would not be in their best interests.