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Opinion / Columnist

Why choosing Mugabe successor is a difficult job

10 Aug 2017 at 09:11hrs | Views
As President Robert Mugabe begins to look for a possible successor from among his subordinates, Zimbabweans are anxious to know who will eventually be picked to become the country's second executive president.

Decision making in succession issues has always been a problem among africans; resulting in civil wars, repetitive coups and economic turmoil.

In Lybia for example, Muammar Gaddafi was killed after more than 42 years in power and with no clear successor named.

In Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo was defeated in a civil war and jailed overseas while his wife was also prosecuted and jailed for 20 years for aiding her husband in his efforts to retain power at all cost.

In Uganda, President Milton Obote was in 1971 overthrown by Idi Amin, the Commander of the Defence Forces after the later suspected the president was about to retire him and sent him to jail for embezzling army funds.

In Bakina Faso, President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida were overthrown just three weeks before general elections by General Gilbert Diendere who immediately took over power.

Between 1966 and 1999, the army held power in Nigeria without interruption apart from a short-lived return to democracy between 1979-1983.

There are more than 200 successful and unsuccessful coups that have occurred in Africa since 1960, prompting scholars like Folly Bah Thibault to investigate why coups are part and parcel of political change in Africa.

Unwillingness to peacefully handover power, failure to name a successor, ruthless crushing of dissent, economic mismanagement and state capture by those close to the incumbent are among the reasons why coups are rampant in Africa.

African leaders are to a large extent obsessed with power, do not know when to stop, commit countless crimes while in office and delegate power to their family members much to the disappointment of the military.

While a military takeover maybe far fetched in Zimbabwe, it is important for President Mugabe to be careful in naming his successor.

Any suspicion of unfairness or discrimination on account of tribalism or factionalism may backfire.

The President needs a maximax approach in arriving at the solution. (Refer to article titled: "Zim future gloomy as politicians take too much risk", posted here on 14 February 2016).

There are key stakeholders that need to be consulted among them the military and the whole security establishment called the Joint Operations Command that is chaired by Vice President Mnangagwa.

Although Professor Moyo and his associates may suggest that the President has no business consulting the army, it is impossible to contemplate that ZANU PF can exist without the army collaborating its efforts to retain power.

It can only be naive for anyone to believe that the President has been in power for 37 years without the army giving him crucial support.

Several army chiefs have been quoted in the media saying that they would not permit anyone without liberation war credentials to lead the country.

Several times, the opposition has complained of intimidation of its supporters by the CIO and army officials such as 'champion farmers' who maintain a heavy presence in constituencies during election time.

Furthermore, the 2008 electoral defeat of the party for the first time in its history and the subsequent violent runoff clearly demonstrated how the army is key in determining who leads the country.

It is therefore an empty talk that the gun does not lead the pen in Zimbabwean politics.

The role the Zimbabwean army has played in nurturing President Mugabe's rule can therefore not be overemphasized.

Any successor without the backing of the army will therefore be rejected, irrespective whether they have liberation war credentials or not.

Another critical block to consult is the ZANU PF membership itself, mainly the provincial executives that have been directly elected by the people.

It is an unfortunate situation that most provincial executives have been imposed by the politburo, making them unable to control their provinces.

This is the cause for the votes of no confidences that have characterized the party recently.

Probabilistically, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has a high chance to become the next President,having gained support from businesspeople, students, party activists and the international community.

His only major set back is his karanga origin, that President Mugabe's close relatives and friends hate with a passion.

It is true that tribalism has played a major role in determining crucial appointments in both the party and government.

A zezuru unconquerable team is itching to have another one of their own replace President Mugabe at all cost.

They have suggested Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi as the successor.

This is stubborn behaviour to say the least.

While President Mugabe has condemned tribalism several times even during youth interface rallies, he has failed to rein in his subjects who continue to hate each other on tribal basis.

It is difficult to accuse the President himself of tribalism although the on-going succession debate presents him with a very tricky temptation that could permanently harm his legacy.

Often you hear people say people from this tribe will not rule while some tribal extremists believe a karanga is unelectable.

This is despite the fact that the people of Zimbabwe have given President Mugabe overwhelming support without considering whether he was born in the north, east, west or the south.

Tribal conflicts can not be underestimated as they account for civil wars in Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria and in Sudan where the country was split into two halves; North and South Sudan.

The liberation struggle that was waged against the Smith regime united all Zimbabweans irrespective of their language diversity and origins, making the ideals of the struggle paramount in guiding the nation.

Zimbabweans therefore need to rise above tribalism if the next President is to be accepted by all.

Other factors to consider include gender issues, particularly considering if a woman can lead the country at this point in time and if yes which woman?

First Lady Grace Mugabe can be a potential successor to President Mugabe if she successfully lands the third Vice President slot that has been suggested recently.

However, elsewhere where First Ladies have succeeded their husbands, the situation has been disastrous.

(Energy Mutodi is a Doctoral Degree candidate at the University of Cape Town. Currently a student of Law, he holds a Bachelor of War Studies and Geography from the University of Zimbabwe Centre for Defence Studies and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the UZ Graduate School of Management. He is a member of ZANU PF).

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