Zanu PF Succession battles: Mnangagwa in hospital after suspected poisoning at Gwanda rally

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GWANDA – Zanu PF succession battles on Saturday took a dramatic twist as Vice President Mnangagwa was allegedly poisoned at a rally in Gwanda and he was whisked by a helicopter for treatment at a medical facility in Gweru, sources said.

An eye witness said Mnangagwa started complaining of massive chest pains, while sitting at the high table, shortly after having a meal with other high level government delegates.

The beleaguered Vice-President’s lieutenants confirmed to The Zimbabwe Mail that an attempt on his life was carried out in a suspected poisoning during the rally in the presence of President Mugabe and key faction members including chief strategist Higher Education Minister Prof. Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere and a few cabinet ministers.

Mnangagwa last week offered to resign from his government and ruling party posts, saying he could not stand the ongoing public flogging and humiliation by Zanu PF’s Young Turks coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe.

A military helicopter left the rally that was also attended by Barcelona football club ex-players who are on a bizarre tour of the country to prop-up the ageing Zimbabwean tyrant.

If true Mnangagwa would be the second Zanu PF official to be a victim of food poisoning after Samuel Undenge an ally of First Lady Grace Mugabe’s spent some time in a South African hospital recently, in another suspected case of food poisoning.

Although its not clear what type of food he ate, a close ally of the Vice President told that Mnangagwa had ice cream (for dessert) from Gushungo Dairy which is owned by President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace and supplies the Alpha Omega dairy range.

However several senior aides are disputing the “ice cream version” and saying it was food served at the high table that triggered the “massive chest pains.”

One of his aides confirmed to that Mnangagwa began vomiting blood and lost consciousness. He was first taken to a Gwanda Hospital for treatment but aides insist “it was clear there was no motivation to treat to him properly” and army general Constantine Chiwenga intervened by directing that an airforce helicopter take him to Claybank Hospital in Gweru.

“He is fine. He walked from the helicopter into the hospital,” another source told us.

There is a suggestion he might be flown to South Africa for further treatment as a precaution.

According to Research & Advocacy Unit report Zanu PF “succession” crisis is generating considerably more heat than light in the eyes of the media, and there remains ignorance about all the legal niceties that surround the issue of what happens when President Robert Mugabe dies, becomes too infirm to govern, or even decides to retire.

As sketchy details come through; some sources said the long-time favoured heir apparent Vice President Mnangagwa started vomitting heavily with coughs of blood minutes after eating an ice-cream from First Lady Grace Mugabe’s dairy factory.

First Lady Grace Mugabe who is leading rival faction did not attend the youth rally in Matebeleland South on Saturday, hardly two weeks after she raffled feathers with senior party officials including Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and her husband’s spokesman George Charamba.

According to President Robert Mugabe, the First Lady is in South Africa to have her foot examined following a freak accident at the Harare international airport a few weeks ago.

The First Lady’s remarks at the Chinhoyi youth rally are said to have upset a lot of senior ZANU-PF officials and are reported to have sparked the clashes between the army and the police though officially they are said to have erupted after police spiked a car belonging to a military official.

The mystery deaths have generally occurred at times when Zanu-PF has been torn by factional conflict.

Attempts on Mnangagwa’s life evokes memories of the baffling deaths of other liberation war icons, including Zanu chairperson Herbert Chitepo, Zanla commander Josiah Tongogara, Zipra commander Alfred Nikita Mangena, Zapu second vice-president Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo, Zanu-PF rising star Zororo Duri and Brigadier General Paul Gunda.

Since independence, rumour and speculation have swirled around the “accidental” deaths of former defence minister Moven Mahachi, former industry and commerce minister Chris Ushewokunze, army captain Edwin Nleya, former Zanu-PF political commissars Border Gezi and Elliot Manyika and retired army general and Zanu-PF heavyweight Solomon Majuru.

Controversial
Among the most controversial deaths are those of:

  • Hebert Chitepo, who was killed in March 1975 by a car bomb in Lusaka. Several investigations have been hampered by lack of evidence, and theories about the motive and perpetrator abound. Former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda instituted an inquiry which made damning findings about infighting in Zanu-PF in exile. The inquiry also fingered Josiah Tongogara, the commander of Zanu’s guerrilla army.
  • Tongogara himself was killed in a car crash in Mozambique in 1979 while on his way to Zimbabwe, six days after the Lancaster House agreement was concluded. His vehicle rammed an army truck parked on the side of the road. The charismatic Zanla commander had clashed with Mugabe over the need for a government of national unity with Joshua Nkomo and speculation was also highlighted by his “ambition, popularity and decisive style”.

This year it was reported that his wife, Angeline Tongogara, had demanded to be driven to the scene of her husband’s fatal accident, saying she felt bitter about the way Mugabe and Zanu-PF had handled the death. The party released a statement by an undertaker that Tongagara’s injuries were consistent with a car accident, but no autopsy results have ever been released.

  • Chris Ushewokunze, a former ministry of industry and commerce, died at the age of 49 after a mysterious car accident at Suri Suri, about 110km from Bulawayo, on the road to Harare, in 1994. He had differed with Mugabe on economic policy.
  • Zororo Duri was rising rapidly through Zanu-PF ranks as one of the young technocrats seen as poised to take over the party in the mid-1990s. Party bosses had told him not to contest the chair of Manicaland province against Kumbirai Kangai, but he went ahead and won. Appointed ambassador to Cuba, he was killed in a car accident on the Mutare-Harare road in 1996.
  • Moven Mahachi was minister of defence at the time of his death in a car accident in 2001 on the Mutare-Nyanga road after attending a Zanu-PF Manicaland meeting as national political commissar. In 2009 Enos Nkala, one of Zanu’s founders, claimed that Mahachi was eliminated because of his robust opposition to Zanu-PF’s looting of diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Paul Armstrong Gunda, a brigadier general and hero of the liberation war, died after his car allegedly collided with a train on the Harare-Marondera road in 2007.

Before his death, regarded as suspicious by many Zimbabweans, there were persistent allegations that the 1 Brigade commander was among the military officers involved in a failed plot to topple Mugabe.

Tatenda Gunda, his widow, published advertisements insinuating that he had died in suspicious circumstances. In an interview this week she said the damage to the car was not serious enough to have been caused by a train and Gunda had had a mysterious back injury.

No foul play
A board of inquiry set up under the defence force’s disciplinary regulations found no foul play.

  • Eliot Manyika, former youth minister, died in a road accident on the Zvishavane-Mbalabala road in 2008. In his capacity as national commissar he was travelling from Mutare to Gwanda on a Zanu-PF restructuring mission that could have upset the leadership ambitions of some top party officials.Manyika’s family asked police to investigate, claiming that his injuries were inconsistent with a road accident. A close relative also claimed that he had received anonymous death threats. A tyre from his official Mercedes-Benz was sent to South Africa for forensic analysis, but the inquest found his death was consistent with a traffic accident.
  • Border Gezi was killed when his car careered out of control after it had a blow-out on the Harare-Masvingo road. Gezi was travelling to Masvingo to address party supporters and reshuffle the political leadership in the province. Some theorists hold that he had decided to speak out against the seizure of white-owned farms. It is also believed that the Zanu-PF old guard was unhappy with his meteoric rise through the party’s ranks.
  • Solomon Mujuru  died, allegedly in a fire, at his farm in Beatrice in 2011. Many politically neutral Zimbabweans, and even some Zanu-PF supporters, believe Mujuru was murdered, and the speculation became so intense that his widow, Vice-President Joice Mujuru, had to appeal for calm. His family’s request to have his remains exhumed and re-examined in a second postmortem by a South African pathologist were turned down. In his report,  the director of Zimbabwe’s forensic science laboratory, Birthwell Mutandiro, said there were indications that Mujuru had died before the fire spread to the room in which his remains were found.

All of these eventualities have been covered in detail, even beginning prior to the 2013 election and Zanu PF’s “surprising” victory. The unfortunate concatenation between the national constitution and the Zanu PF constitution have been analysed in considerable detail, but, as always in Zimbabwe, the legal will run second to the political reality, and succession to the presidency is increasingly complex, beginning with the purge of former vice-president Joice Mujuru and eight cabinet ministers in 2014.

This began a bitter struggle between two so-called Zanu PF factions, Team Lacoste and the G40, and has led to the interminable discussion about who is in which faction; who is moving from one faction to the other; which faction has the ear of the President and his wife the First Lady Grace; and so on and so on. However, it cannot be denied that there is huge acrimony between the two alleged factions as evidenced by Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo’s address recently to Sapes Trust, and the sustained fallout that has followed this.

While there is considerable evidence to suggest that there is indeed a factional fight going on within the party, an alternative construction might suggest that this has been rather a slow purge of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his backers.

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This too is difficult to verify, but the rationale is that, rather than the blunt expulsion that was the mode for removing Mujuru and associates, this has been a sustained attempt at weakening the Mnangagwa faction prior to a planned resolution of the succession problem.

Whichever construction is correct, it is obvious that the effect has been to split the party in perhaps a terminal fashion, and has sucked in all manner of other players, and fractured other groupings allied to Zanu PF.

For example, a faction of the war veterans has all but split from Zanu PF, albeit ambiguously, and the battle for control of the provincial party structures has become increasingly acrimonious and violent.

There are now suggestions that the ambiguous allegiance of the war veterans might be clarified by their forming a political party of their own, which would further worsen splits within Zanu PF.

It has been evident for some time that, as far as the presidential election is concerned, there are only two plausible candidates, Mugabe and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Although there are many political parties with their own leaders, the only other name mentioned with regards to the presidency is Nkosana Moyo, but he is regarded similarly to Simba Makoni in 2008, as a rank outsider. While both Mugabe and Tsvangirai have reputedly serious health problems, we will concern ourselves with the former and the risks inherent in having a very elderly candidate who might not make it all the way to the poll.

Assuming Tsvangirai is still a contender for 2018, and Mugabe not, how can Zanu PF find a candidate, notwithstanding all the speculation that the election could be rigged for this candidate, that can meet the test of political plausibility and viability?

It is difficult to believe that a party as generally organised about elections as Zanu PF would not have an alternative strategy, and this is submitted as the core of the succession dilemma.

Here a number of scenarios seem plausible if elections are Zanu PF’s central strategy, each with inherent risk for the party.

First, and the most serious, with the comments advised earlier about the intrusion of the security into the actual political arena, there are indications that a “silent coup” is being prepared. According to Ibbo Mandaza, serving soldiers have been deployed in order to influence the structure of the Provincial Co-ordinating Committees (PCCs). The problem here is that any such attempt at re-arranging the current government will require a constitutional lever, such as the death or infirmity of the president, and this seems unlikely at present. Given the second construction of the nature of the factional fight, this “silent coup” may represent a defensive manoeuvre against a possible purge rather than the confidence to take over the state with strong party support.

The second scenario is the one that will certainly occur, whether or not Robert Mugabe does remain able to contest an election in 2018: mortality will have its day, and then the complications attendant of the conflation between the two constitutions, national and Zanu PF, will come into play.

As pointed out above, this option has been explained in detail by Derek Matyszak in Succession and the Zanu PF Body Politic. Since the replacement of the president lies within the party and not the parliament, those that control the party will control the succession.

This might be termed the “uncontrolled” succession, and is fraught with danger and a high probability of political violence, albeit intra-party violence.

However, there must be concerns here about the possibility for violence and disturbances escalating as suggested by the research on state instability mentioned earlier and, although this is discounted by authors as a risk factor, the “youth bulge” may also predispose towards serious instability, as other research has suggested.

Thirdly, there is the option of calling an early election and hence pre-empting the difficulties of an aged and frail candidate.

This has recently been suggested by Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo, but it is not evident that this view emerges from the heart of the state. This might forestall all the factional fighting temporarily, but still suffers the danger that the party might not have Mugabe as a candidate.

However, it must be said in all fairness that there is no credible evidence about the state of Mugabe’s health, and the health issues may well be a ploy: equally it is undoubted that age remains a risk factor.

Other commentators have suggested the possibility of an early election, with a variant on the “controlled” succession theory.

Finally, there can be a “controlled” succession, through the president pre-emptively calling an elective congress and electing his successor, something he has alluded to on several occasions. Grace has waded in the succession battle, first saying that there is no need for a successor, as Mugabe will rule from a wheelbarrow or as a corpse from the grave to her most recent statement, where she is calling the President to appoint his successor and that his word will be final.

She said this will end all the clandestine discussions about succession and factionalism. The First Lady’s call for appointment of a successor could be an admission of failing health of the President and positioning herself for appointment.

The successor, whoever he or she might be, would then be the candidate of choice for the 2018 poll. There are suggestions from Zanu PF sources that this is the preference for at least one faction in the party, and, while it would seem that it might be risky to allow the party to vote for the candidate of their choice(s), and that this may well be a reason for all the conflict over the composition of the PCC’s, it also is the case that the party has stage-managed intra-party elections and constitutional changes very successfully over the years.

It may be assumed that such a scenario is a preliminary to elections in 2018, but an alternative construction is that it would rather be a preliminary to avoid this: It is not so clear that this approach to succession necessarily aims at fighting an election: it can also be argued that it is a preliminary to setting up a government of national unity.

A possible modification here is that the arrangement may also create a Government of National Unity, with an arrangement similar to that of the 2009 Global Political Agreement, except with a titular presidency and an executive prime minister, a reversal in roles from the previous inclusive government. This, it can be plausibly suggested, is the alternative strategy and one that seems too easily dismissed by most commentators and observers, especially among opposition political parties.

This is an abridged version of the latest report by the Research & Advocacy Unit titled Zimbabwe since the elections in July 2013: The View from 2017.