Zimbabwe: Understanding the Zanu-PF Succession - Mugabe's Choice Likely to Be Decisive

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analysis

Mujuru's group is also internally vulnerable. Unlike Mnangagwa's faction, the cohesiveness of her group is questionable.

Indeed, the vice president is at the helm of an assortment of different small groups within ZANU-PF. Mujuru has managed to forge a consensus of grassroots activists, young politicians clamouring for a new kind of politics, those who regard themselves as 'moderates', and the 'pragmatic' old guard, who do not agree with the hard-line politics of Mnangagwa (led by the current defence minister, Sydney Sekeramayi).

The vice president will need to maintain this consensus amongst these more or less autonomous groups until December 2014.

Time will tell whether she has the fortitude to ward off inevitable aggressive overtures by Mnangagwa's group to pressure or persuade less committed loyalists to defect.

Second, the understanding also assumes that Mnangagwa's group has thrown in the towel and accepted that it will play second fiddle in ZANU-PF politics. This is not the case.

Jonathan Moyo, a senior ZANU-PF operative aligned to the Mnangagwa camp, warned that important battles lie ahead, telling the media that 'provincial elections do not lead to presidential elections, and those who believe so will do it at their own peril'. For the hardliners the battle has barely begun.

There is also the possibility that if Mnangagwa becomes convinced that he is likely to be defeated, his plan to succeed Mugabe might be predicated on unpleasant tactics.

The 2004 Tsholotsho declaration, in which his group attempted to use subversive means to derail Mujuru's ascendancy to the vice presidency, provides a template of the methods that he might resort to.

Third, this understanding also assumes that succession is exclusively predicated on electoral success. This logic badly misreads ZANU-PF succession politics.

In ZANU-PF, popularity does not add up to real political gains - there are other more important forces that shape the leadership contest. Some of Mujuru's allies seem to understand this and have tempered their initial euphoria accordingly.

The assumption of party leadership, and ultimately presidency of the country, will be predicated on highly complex and carefully calibrated manoeuvres that include enlisting the endorsement of the securocrats, and most importantly, securing the blessing of Mugabe.

Securocrats

Why is it that Mnangagwa's faction does not appear to be rattled despite 'the moderates" seemingly unbreakable majority in the provincial elections? The answer lies in the unspoken centrality of the security sector, that ancient sinful fulcrum of ZANU-PF party politics.

Historically, ZANU-PF's relationship with the security sector has been seen as symbiotic, but sometime after 2000 power started to shift gradually from the party to the securocrats.

Today, the securocrats are seen as controlling much of the political system in Mugabe's party making the ascent to power incomplete without the military's endorsement. The securocrats might not have a vote, but it appears they have a candidate.

Why Mnangagwa?

The securocrats are likely to choose a leader who will protect or enhance their narrow interests. In this case, Mnangagwa who has cultivated a much 'healthier' relationship with the intelligence community and the military through his leadership of the ministris of defence and state security has the upper hand.

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