LITTLE contest is expected in the appointment of the late Vice President John Landa Nkomo's successor amid indications that Simon Khaya Moyo, ZANU-PF's national chairperson, would land the post unchallenged, Ray Ndlovu explains.
FOLLOWING the death of Vice President Nkomo last month after a long battle with cancer, the question on the lips of many observers is; who is likely to fill the vacant post in the presidium.
Little contest is expected in the appointment of Nkomo's successor amid indications that Simon Khaya Moyo, ZANU-PF's national chairperson, would land the post unchallenged.
Critics say it is in ZANU-PF's interest to have a smooth transition to avoid rocking the boat ahead of elections that are likely to be a-winner-take-all affair.
Synchronised polls are likely to be held in June this year and the party needs to master all the unity it can to wage a spirited fight against a stubborn Movement for Democratic Change led by Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai.
The forthcoming harmonised polls would effectively end the four-year-old unity government formed between President Robert Mugabe and PM Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2009.
Taken to task over preparations to replace the late VP, ZANU-PF heavyweights have hid behind the pretext that it was "too soon" to go down that road immediately after the death of Nkomo.
"We can't be in discussion over a replacement just now...there are many political processes that ZANU-PF is concerned with", said Didymus Mutasa, the ZANU-PF secretary for administration.
If anything, the intimations coming from the party indicate that Moyo would only rise to power after ZANU-PF has occupied itself with winning the elections.
Going into the issue of a replacement now may do more harm than good. ZANU-PF has traditionally never been able to tackle head-on its succession question without weakening itself through bickering, with the issue hanging like a dark cloud over the past 50 years of the party's existence.
The revolutionary party has found itself between a rock and a hard place, whenever the succession question pops up.
Perhaps the intensity of the contest between the two foremost political contenders; Vice President Joice Mujuru and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa makes the party opt to simply turn a blind eye to the need to groom a successor.
Or perhaps the unwillingness of the liberation struggle icon personified in President Mugabe who does not want to forego control of the party and hand it over to someone else, makes it near-impossible to bring up the issue for discussion.
President Mugabe's perceived political shrewdness was exemplified in the full-scale witch-hunt unleashed on the ZANU-PF officials linked to the "Tsholotsho debacle" in 2004 that tried to influence the make-up of the presidium.
The heavy-handedness displayed by President Mugabe was a show of strength and a warning to party officials to toe the line when it comes to succession matters.
Political analyst, Trevor Maisiri, suggested that Moyo was unlikely to lose any sleep over the matter and had numerous factors in his favour that make him the preferred candidate to rise up to become the next VP.
The Unity Accord of 1987 is the central-plank in Moyo's push for high office. He occupies the most senior position in ZANU-PF after President Mugabe and VP Mujuru.
Moyo has also had a hand at diplomacy, having served as Harare's ambassador to Pretoria until 2008. In the Matabeleland province where he hails from, he remains a highly respected political figure.
"Definitely, ZANU-PF will be careful not to want to tamper around with any arrangements of the Unity Accord especially as we head towards elections", said Maisiri.
"I think Moyo would be appointed VP without any major challenges. I am sure ZANU-PF has done all the background lobbying, negotiations and power plays. It's a settled case for now".
In some quarters, Obert Mpofu, the Mines and Mining Development Minister is seen as a dark horse, but political observers rule out his chances of causing an upset which they say remain slim and far apart.
"ZANU-PF follows hierarchy and it is unlikely to skip its hierarchy for Mpofu; for now he will just have to sit still and keep whatever ambitions he holds towards the presidium to himself", said Rashweat Mukundu, director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute.
Mpofu openly sought to challenge the late Nkomo for the post following the death of former Vice President Joseph Msika.
ZANU-PF heavyweights allegedly remonstrated Mpofu and cautioned him to observe seniority leading to his pull-out from the race.
Notwithstanding his rebuke, Mpofu has grown his clout and support base in the Matabeleland provinces significantly in the past four years.
Widespread allegations are that his wealth could have been a catalyst of his political ambitions.
Mpofu has boasted on several occasions that he is the "king of the region".
Another repeat of his open challenge for the post in the presidium, this time against Moyo may prove costly for Mpofu as he would project himself as a power-hungry individual -- flagrantly ignoring ZANU-PF systems and hierarchy -- further ammunition for his political rivals who want his wings clipped.