President Robert Mugabe has always been a controversial figure in which many external political forces have attempted to oust him but to no avail. The most recent claim by the Zimbabwean president was at the opening address of the ZANU-PF’s congress where he accused senior members within the party, most notably vice president Joice Mujuru, of treacherously colluding with the United States Embassy and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to remove him. This delivered a clear message not only to the ZANU-PF but also to the country and the world. However these allegations are rather set to re-shift the power dynamics within ZANU-PF and in turn Zimbabwe’s political structure. As a result of the congress the 90 year old Robert Mugabe was once again re-elected as the president of ZANU-PF.
The most fervent loyalists surround Mugabe now that the congress has come to a close. However, prior to the congress this was already put into motion when a couple of senior ZANU-PF members were suspended and one dismissed. The result of this action saw vice president Joice Mujuru and her allies responding with absence from the party’s congress. In the interim of her allegations she has been removed as ZANU-PF’s vice president but still remains the vice president of the country.
Mujuru, at age 25, became the youngest cabinet minister after Zimbabwe’s independence. She was a rebel commander during the war and earned the nickname “Spill Blood”. In 2004 she became the first female vice president of ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe. At the time Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa was denied the position of vice president, even though he won eight provincial nominations. Earlier in the year Mujuru was quite confident of her position as her faction always had the numbers to withstand a vote against Mnangagwa. Now with Mujuru’s unfavourable position Mnangagwa has become the new vice president of ZANU-PF and in time he will be vice president of Zimbabwe.
Mujuru’s ousting provided Mnangagwa the space to move in but it was his relationship with China that granted him the position. Inside sources informed The Zimbabwean months before of China influencing Mugabe to appoint Mnangagwa as his successor. Mugabe was known to favour Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi as his successor because there were no indications that he belonged to any faction. However Mugabe’s decision was reconfigured after his August visit to China with leader Xi Jinping where he sought an economic bailout for Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa received military training in China during 1963 and it was since then that he established his links to the economic powerhouse. Over the years he focused much attention on gaining support from financial institutions, which is evident in the country’s 2003 Look East policy. These linkages were his political investment while he remained the close rival of Mujuru. The future successor of Zimbabwe must be a candidate that will not hinder China’s financial interests in the country. Thus not only was Mnangagwa chosen for vice presidency but also legislative changes in the party were amended to suit China’s business interests.
Under these and other conditions China provided a one billion US dollar loan facility to revive Zimbabwe’s economy. Most of the deals discussed in August’s meeting can only be implemented in the next few years and therefore Zimbabwe needs government’s leadership to reflect the close ties to China. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa was influential in Mnangagwa gaining his current post. Chinamasa promoted China as economic financiers to Mnangagwa’s faction whereby the Look East policy then shifted its focus from Malaysia to China. In future we may see Chinamasa becoming the Minister of Foreign Affairs under Mnangagwa’s leadership.
The other notable person at the ZANU-PF congress was Grace Mugabe, the wife of the president. She is rumoured to have devised Mujuru’s exclusion from ZANU-PF to fit with China’s demands. Earnest Mudzengi, a political analyst, states that her popularity within the party is overcast and that she was handpicked to become the head of ZANU-PF’s women’s league. It was not too long ago that we saw the same nepotism towards her when she was granted an honorary PhD by a university where her beloved husband is the chancellor. She does not have the political experience or the innate finesse required for the post. Perhaps she might surprise all and change her expertise of lavish shopping to governance.
Opposition member Simba Makoni fears that Grace Mugabe is likely to become the next president. This might be a possibility if Mnangagwa does not mind carrying the duties of president whilst only being labelled as vice president. Robert Mugabe has shown the intellectual capacity for politics as well as Mnangagwa. If Grace becomes president it would most likely be to extend the Mugabe dynasty whereby presidency is shifted along bloodlines. However, China’s influence is still a major factor in Zimbabwe’s political succession and will not be silent in this regard. China is known for its lack of morality and ethics in its business interests. Thus as long as China’s business interests are protected then there will not be any need for their intervention.
In 2008 ZANU-PF lost the elections but managed to retain power through violence. The outcome of that election saw a power-sharing agreement come to the fore, but the 2014 election was overwhelmingly won by the ZANU-PF. The violence that was used before could not be used again as Zimbabwe became a concern for SADC. Hence Mugabe’s election campaign began way in advance devising strategies that took into account the increase of mobile usage and the previous elections errors.
The 2014 election saw Mugabe announcing the election date without any consultation with the other political parties, as well as shortened the duration of voter registration. This violated the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The election process was further manipulated by avoiding any implementation of the various agreed GPA articles. ZANU-PF regulated the media to report negative coverage on other political parties and to heroically portray the ZANU-PF.
Some critics state that elections were rigged to indicate a voter percentage that concluded ZANU-PF as victorious but low enough not to arouse any suspicion. In order to avoid the repeated violence of the 2008 election Mugabe restrained any fervent members and supporters from using violence. After the 2008 victory government officials appointed by the MDC under the power-sharing agreement were removed. This history teaches us the ZANU-PF’s intelligence capability and their ability to implement its strategies effectively. Thus any action that might seem as sporadic changes for the ZANU-PF have deeper implications that all centre on the security of Robert Mugabe’s dynasty. The rule of thumb for Zimbabwe’s politics is predetermined by the ZANU-PF.