Even Talking About Mugabe’s Successor Can Get You In Trouble In Zimbabwe

Written by Staff

From Mail&GuardianAfrica. Story by Dumisani Muleya, editor of The Independent; and Trevor Ncube, executive chairman of Mail & Guardian Media, South Africa, and chairman of Alpha Media Holdings in Zimbabwe.

Who will succeed President Robert Mugabe?

This has been the most important question confronting the ruling Zanu PF and in Zimbabwe over the past few years, but has assumed urgency as even those who were unwilling to confront the 91-year-old’s departure, are now coming to terms with the reality that the curtains must soon come down on his rule.

Zimbabwe, which used to be most industrialized sub-Saharan African country outside South Africa before its decline, has attracted regional and global attention over the years not only because of Mugabe’s toxic rule, but also due to its huge resources.

It has vast tracts of fertile land, gold, chrome, platinum, diamonds and natural gas, and holds the world’s second largest platinum reserves between South Africa and Russia.

With a literacy rate of nearly 90 percent — one of the highest in the world — there are strategic imperatives for Zimbabwe to stand tall again.

However, the project to rebuild a future Zimbabwe has been imperiled by the maneuvering over who will replace Mugabe that has paralyzed the once-monolithic Zanu PF.

Consider this outburst from Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, a deputy head of department in Zanu PF’s decision-making politburo, who recently said talk of his uncle’s succession was “divisive, counter-revolutionary, regressive and contrary to Zimbabwe’s developmental and transformational aspirations.”

This may sound irrational in connection with a 91-year-old leader who has been in power for nearly four decades, but what it does is help stall transition planning further.

Transitions the world over are often messy affairs, but this one has the potential to spin out of control and plunge an already-shell shocked country further into chaos.

It seems quite likely that the Zanu PF power struggle could even turn bloody, as the stakes are high and the contenders will stop at nothing to secure the keys to State House.

The optimistic view in all this is that Mugabe, on his last lap, will finally think of his legacy, provide direction, divide the spoils smartly among rivals, and leave with the party in harmony.

But there has been no sign at all that Mugabe is preparing to step aside, or that he is keen to salvage his place in history by shepherding a smooth transition.

Politics in Zimbabwe over the past 35 years has been about Mugabe and it appears it will remain so till he bows out.

He has executed a complex – and admittedly very effective – strategy of divide and rule over the past three and a half decades.

Read more at Mail&GuardianAfrica.