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Zimbabwe – Mnangagwa cements his position as Mugabe’s successor

It has been a long and winding political road for Justice Minister Emmerson ‘The Crocodile’ Mnangagwa. But he now stands on the brink of succeeding President Robert Mugabe, following his naming as first Vice President (VP) on Wednesday, December 10. The move – expected since the vilification campaign against former VP Joice Mujuru began some two months ago and her dismissal earlier this week – elevates Mr Mnangagwa to the brink of the presidency, a position he feels he deserves and has earned after decades of service to Mr Mugabe. His ascension to the presidency is not automatic, not even in the event of Mr Mugabe’s death in office, but he has consolidated his power base inside and outside of ZANU-PF to such an extent that he is unlikely to be challenged.

Section 101 of Zimbabwe’s new constitution (enacted last year) provides that if the president dies, resigns or is removed from office then the first VP takes over until the expiry of that term of office. The second VP becomes the first VP and the new president must appoint a new person as the second VP. But these provisions were subsequently suspended for the first 10 years – mainly due to the influence of Mr Mnangagwa, who was the second VP at the time. As things stand and until the year 2023, Section 14 (4)(b) of the Sixth Schedule (of the new constitution) provides that if the president dies, resigns or is removed from office, the vacancy is filled by a nominee of the political party which was represented by the president when he stood for election. So until the provisions of Section 101 kick in, ZANU-PF will nominate a successor to complete the presidential term and the first VP would not have an automatic promotion.

Given the above it is clear why Mr Mnangagwa and his support crew – including First ‘Lady’ Grace Mugabe and political hit man Jonathan Moyo – had to remove any vestige of support for former VP Mujuru. Now, as first VP, Mr Mnangagwa remains the proverbial heartbeat away from the presidency and would face no serious challenge. This Mr Mugabe made sure of when he dismissed eight cabinet members on December 9, including state security minister and long-time ally, Didymus Mutasa. The president is expected to announce replacements for the ministers and deputies that he dismissed this week on December 11 or 12.

Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment Francis Nhema was also sacked. This has implications for Zimbabwe’s performance under the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Staff-Monitored Programme (SMP). This scheme is an important step towards obtaining external debt relief and questions need to be raised about what the new cabinet will do with the undertaking. One of the benchmarks set by the Fund for mid-2015 is the publication in the Government Gazette of a clarification on the country’s indigenisation and economic empowerment policies. The firing of Mr Nthema and a move late in November to remove indigenisation compliance monitoring from his former ministry is of great concern from an SMP perspective.

WHY DO WE CARE? Power in ZANU-PF has shifted decisively in favour of the hardline Mnangagwa faction, and this cements the indigenisation, nationalisation, and empowerment policies championed by The Crocodile and his supporters in ZANU-PF. The Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset) has, according to Mnangagwa supporters, been “taken back” from the clutches of Ms Mujuru and her allies in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Western governments. Taken back to what? Given those sentiments, the continuing view of Zimbabwe’s opposition parties as the enemy and Western governments as conspirators, and uncertainty over success under the SMP, economic recovery prospects look bleak.

Analysts: Gary van Staden & Christie Viljoen
gary@nkc.co.za and christie@nkc.co.za

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