Zimbabwe: Mutasa Tipped for Zanu-PF Chairmanship

DIDYMUS Mutasa, the ZANU-PF secretary for administration and Minister of State for Presidential Affairs could write his own piece of history by upstaging former ZAPU cadres for the party's chairmanship position likely to be vacated by Simon Khaya-Moyo as he moves a rung up to succeed the late Vice President John Nkomo.

Mutasa, one of the longest serving Cabinet ministers, is emerging as a favourite to land the party's national chairmanship after it emerged this week that ZANU-PF was moving to do away with the tradition whereby the position had been reserved for former ZAPU cadres even though this was not part of the Unity Accord signed between the late Joshua Nkomo, and President Mugabe in 1987.

ZANU-PF insiders revealed this week that it would be a free-for-all situation for the chairmanship position, making Mutasa a frontrunner by virtue of his seniority in the party.

Moyo will have a safe landing on the Vice President's post due to his seniority in terms of party hierarchy, with Mutasa also riding on the same order of ascendancy within the united ZANU-PF to edge out the other contenders.

As secretary for administration, Mutasa, who in 2009 launched a failed vice presidential bid to replace the late Joseph Msika, is currently fifth in the party's hierarchy when the two posts of vice president are taken into consideration, with the other contenders occupying lower rungs than him.

This week, ZANU-PF secretary for information and publicity Rugare Gumbo, appeared to confirm this rethink on the gentlemen's agreement that favoured former ZAPU members for the chairmanship. Gumbo told The Financial Gazette that the position was not reserved for former ZAPU members even though, through coincidence, the previous successive members to occupy it -- Msika, Nkomo and Moyo -- belonged to that group.

"There has been a practice were Nkomo followed Msika and then SK but it was just practice and is not included in the Unity Accord. It only applies to the VP post where former ZAPU leaders decide in terms of their rankings as to who should take over," he said.

Gumbo said no timeframe had been set to fill in the vacant positions, adding that the party's presidium and not the Politburo, which is the party's supreme decision-making body in between congresses, was likely to decide the way forward.

President Mugabe is seen delaying a decision on the matter to avoid further infighting in ZANU-PF that might arise from the jostling for positions ahead of the elections.

While Mutasa is seen towering above all the other possible contenders, the race for the chairmanship is likely to be a crowded one.

Several names have been dropped into the hat for the position. They include former ZAPU members Kembo Mohadi, currently the co-Home Affairs Minister; Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu; former information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu; Naison Ndlovu and Ambrose Mutinhiri, the party's former chief of staff in its armed wing ZIPRA.

The Midlands and Mashonaland East provinces are said to be respectively rooting for Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi for the same job.

Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Saviour Kasukuwere is also said to be contemplating stepping forward to fill SK Moyo's shoes once he ascends.

Mutasa's backers are working flat out to ensure that in addition to his home province of Manicaland, all the other Mashonaland provinces are placed under his wings to realise his ambitions.

ZANU-PF insiders alleged that Mutasa had been approached by other factions within the party seeking to back him for the position in return for his support in the succession race in the event that President Mugabe, who is in the twilight of his political career, retires.

But Mutasa, in a recent interview with The Financial Gazette, dismissed claims that he had been approached for horse trading.

Mutasa was born in Rusape in 1935. Before independence he was chairperson of the Cold Comfort Farm society. Following independence, he became Zimbabwe's first Speaker of Parliament from 1980 to 1990. He was appointed as minister of special affairs in the President's Office in charge of the Anti-Corruption and Anti-Monopolies Programme in February 2004; he was then appointed as state security minister in mid-April 2005, later minister of state for national security, lands, land reform and resettlement in the President's Office.

After the 2008 elections he became Minister of State for Presidential Affairs.

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