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Moyo, the unlikely kingmaker

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From right Information minister Jonathan Moyo briefs the two Vice-Presidents and Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere at Mbiriya Primary School in Tsholotsho on Sunday
From right Information minister Jonathan Moyo briefs the two Vice-Presidents and Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere at Mbiriya Primary School in Tsholotsho on Sunday

When Zanu PF Tsholotsho North candidate Jonathan Moyo held Vice-Presidents Phelekezela Mphoko and Emmerson Mnangagwa’s hands aloft, he stood there like a boxing referee, declaring a draw after two pugilists had punched the stuffing out of each other and could not go on — except this fight is only just beginning.

By Staff Reporter

For the first time in Zimbabwe, two Vice-Presidents made their way to a campaign rally and it was no coincidence that it was to Moyo’s do, a subtle but important acknowledgement of his role as an unlikely kingmaker in Zimbabwe’s politics.

A few weeks after President Robert Mugabe’s contested victory in the 2013 elections, he conceded that Zanu PF’s win may not have been so emphatic had it not been for Moyo, and maybe both Vice-Presidents may want him in their respective corners, as the home stretch to succeed the veteran ruler begins.

It was telling that the Vice-Presidents made a beeline for Tsholotsho, which has now become synonymous with Zanu PF succession politics.

Moyo’s first foray into Zanu PF’s succession politics ended with him on the canvass, a bloodied nose and later tossed out of the ruling party’s political ring.

It was his nadir in politics. He was later to rise again, outside the ruling party and he conceded “it was cold outside Zanu PF”.

Never too far from Zanu PF’s succession politics, Moyo was in 2004 accused of leading a number of chairpersons in plotting Mugabe’s ouster and Mnangagwa’s elevation in what is infamously known as the Tsholotsho Declaration.

Ironically, eight years earlier he had disaffectedly written off Mnangagwa’s chances of succeeding Mugabe, saying while people may have forgiven him for his role in Gukurahundi, they may not necessarily have forgotten.

But being the wily wordsmith that he is, Moyo recently said “only a donkey does not change its mind”.

So it was only befiting that Moyo returned to the scene of his most stunning loss, but this time he returned triumphantly, as he begins conceptualising his latest masterpiece — reconfiguring Zanu PF’s succession matrix.

It was telling that this rally came a few weeks after Moyo seemed to pour cold water on Mnangagwa’s chances of succeeding Mugabe, but instead of the expected backlash from the Vice-President, he has cozied up to Moyo, probably an indicator of the former political science lecturer’s growing influence as a power player.

It was also interesting that Mphoko made the short trip to Tsholotsho, weeks after he refused to be called “second Vice-President”, a sign that he believes he too has a shot at the presidency, and he may need Moyo in his corner.

The two may have watched in awe as Moyo sat in First Lady Grace Mugabe’s corner, strategising the decimation of axed Vice-President Joice Mujuru and they thought they may rather have him in their corner rather than be against him.

As Moyo’s short history in Zanu PF will show, you would rather have him on your side rather than against, as the tale of axed party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa shows.

Mutasa thought he had Moyo, a weevil, against the ropes, but the Information minister wriggled himself out of the cul de sac and engineered a damaging knock-out punch that saw Mutasa fly out of the ring, never to return.

While Mnangagwa arguably remains the frontrunner to succeed Mugabe, Zanu PF politics has in the past 10 years served up surprises and there might be twists and turns in the race to the Presidency.

But whatever happens, Moyo will continue playing a central role in the succession issue and last weekend’s rally may be an affirmation of his growing stock in Zanu PF.

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