Zanu-PF and Zimbabwe’s Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa wants President Robert Mugabe to step down ahead of the 2018 elections.

But the VP’s rivals in the party are planning to retain Mugabe, despite his advanced age, in order to thwart Mnangagwa’s chances of taking over the coveted post.

Senior party insiders told The Zimbabwean that even though nothing was being said in public, Mnangagwa was scheming with his loyalists to ensure that he takes the reins from Mugabe.

“ED (Mnangagwa) belongs to the group of Zanu (PF) heavyweights now referred to as the successionists.

Emmerson Mnangagwa
Emmerson Mnangagwa

They don’t want Mugabe to stand in 2018 and are plotting to position Mnangagwa as the next party leader and the 2018 presidential candidate,” said one of the sources.

On the other hand, the younger camp now popularly known as Generation 40 (G40) is insisting that Mugabe must remain as party leader and contest again in 2018.

The G40 group comprises the likes of Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwau and Walter Mzembi, all cabinet ministers. They are reportedly hanging on to Mugabe to ensure that Mnangagwa does not land the post.

Natural leader

“G40 currently does not have a natural leader who would fill the shoes left by Mugabe. But they hope that, with time, they will agree on one.

“The longer Mugabe rules, the older Mnangagwa gets and once he moves into his late 70s, the Young Turks will say he is too old and therefore cannot lead the party.

“Even if it means that Mugabe would rule from bed because of his age, they would rather have him there for as long as that stops Mnangagwa from taking over,” he added.

Mnangagwa is said to have been born in 1943, making him 72 now, even though some give his year of birth as 1946. The sources said he was in a dilemma because he could not come out in the open and declare his interest in succeeding Mugabe.

“This is the major quandary with the successionists. G40 can easily name and sustain Mugabe as the presidential candidate, but the Mnangagwa group cannot do so.

“In fact, the Young Turks have been moving around bragging that they have a clear candidate and have challenged the successionists to name one,” said the Zanu (PF) insider.

Grace in full support

Mugabe’s wife, Grace, had come out in full support of the G40 and against Mnangagwa, said the sources.

“She (Grace) has been convinced that Mnangagwa is dangerous to her once Mugabe is out of power. As a result, she has moved away from him and is doing all she can to ensure that her husband remains in power,” said another sources.

Recent reports indicate that Grace has also developed presidential ambitions, but she has dismissed them as untrue.

“It remains possible that Grace could be thrown in as the president’s replacement, but that hinges on his health and capacity to carry out the duties expected of a president.

“If he is severely incapacitated, Grace could then step in with the blessings of G40. In fact, even though G40 wants Mugabe in for as long as possible, his advanced age remains a problem to them. They are aware that his sudden incapacitation could pose headaches,” said the second source.

90th birthday

Mnangagwa, Grace and the G40 group fought from the same corner last year as they campaigned for Mujuru’s removal.

At one time, Grace was reported to have been working closely with Mnangagwa to ensure that Mugabe retired at his 90th birthday last year.

However, the two have since fallen out, with Grace publicly humiliating Mnangagwa and the other deputy, Phelekezela Mphoko, by declaring that they took notes from her.

She recently accused some party leaders of plotting against her, even though she subsequently tried to quash reports that she was referring to Mnangagwa and Mphoko.

Jonathan Moyo has already publicly dismissed speculation that Mnangagwa is Mugabe’s heir apparent and is said not to be seeing eye to eye with him.

In a wide-ranging interview with the New African recently he poured scorn on Mnangagwa’s remarks that people would miss Mugabe when he died.

He also used Twitter to attack Mnangagwa for labelling the late nationalist Joshua Nkomo a sell-out before independence that was attained in 1980.