PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is expected to pick his deputies at the Zanu PF congress, a likely indication of who he prefers to succeed him, but analysts have cast doubt on whether the veteran ruler would be willing to let his protégé take charge of the party.
Justice minister Emmerson Mnangwagwa seems to be leading the race to succeed Mugabe following public crushing of Vice-President Joice Mujuru who was previously thought to be the chosen one.
Analysts said while Mnangagwa could appear to be a front-runner, Mugabe felt insecure with having a clear successor judging from the way he dealt with party members who dared question his hold on power.
South Africa-based media scholar Trust Matsilele said this explained Mugabe’s divide-and-rule politics.
“Having a clear successor would weaken his leverage of keeping a hold on power while playing two factions against each other,” he said.
“That would immediately shift the power dynamics in his party and he is uncertain as to what will happen should that happen.
“He is unsure of anyone surrounding him and the best way for him is to play his cards close to his chest.”
Mugabe, observers say, has been playing factions in his party against each other, having done so in 2004, where he blocked Mnangagwa and cleared the path for Mujuru’s ascendancy to the vice-presidency.
Ten years later, the roles have been reversed.
Another media scholar based in SA, Khanyile Mlotshwa, added that even if Mugabe named a successor now, that would not guarantee the person to eventually take over due to the fluid nature of Zanu PF politics.
“The reasoning is that whoever is appointed as vice-president by Mugabe is his choice of successor,” he said.
“However, if that person will go on to succeed Mugabe is something else, because politics does not work in such neat ways, especially if we look at the way things are done in Zanu PF.”
Godwin Phiri, a Bulawayo-based activist, indicated that time did not allow Mugabe to continue playing party factions against each other in view of his advanced age, “unless he never wanted a successor in his lifetime”.
“The 2019 congress has to deal with the leadership of the party and the president might not be in a position to influence much then, this is his last realistic chance,” Phiri said.
“He has to address the succession issue at some point.
“Mugabe has little choice, but to lay his cards on the table now.”