If Mugabe is indeed making a political comeback, it’s still not clear what his intentions are, Reeler says.
“I would doubt that he is seeking a return to power as things have gone too far for this to happen.
“More than likely his goal is to prevent Mnangagwa from consolidating his power, but the question is whether this is to allow the opposition to win, or to push for some kind of transitional arrangement in which he might have a role.
“I doubt that the NPF will be able to win an election at this point, but it can be a very serious spoiler,” he added, citing the breakaway from ZANU-PF by Bhora Musango which cost the party dearly in the 2008 elections.
Reeler said it was also not clear what support Mugabe still had among the rural citizenry. He thought Mnangagwa might be reluctant to take away his privileges for fear of losing a large chunk of rural voters.
Other analysts have said Mnangagwa was always in danger of losing substantial support in the three Mashonaland provinces if there were a split in ZANU-PF. Some see the split in ethnic terms, between clans in the dominant Shona tribe. Mnangagwa is apparently a member of the Karanga clan while Mugabe is a member of the Zezuru clan.
Zimbabwean media owner Trevor Ncube yesterday tweeted a warning to the new party not to stir up ethnic hostilities, saying, “NPF aims to stop the perceived Karanga control of ZANU-PF. This is a very dangerous game” .
Reeler said it remained to be seen how NPF would play this year’s elections.
“Will the NPF operate as a spoiler as one ZANU-PF faction did in 2008? Will they try to be a real challenger by pulling in all the disaffected ZANU-PF people – including [former Deputy President Joice] Mujuru, etc? Or will they try to join a ‘grand coalition’?
“All of these are serious problems for Mnangagwa, who not only has to fight to keep his rump of ZANU-PF intact, but has to deliver something to the ordinary citizen that might attract votes.
“This latter looks increasingly difficult, and, even if he can keep his rump intact, he will face a very difficult election, especially for the presidency. I would guess, as things stand now, Mnangagwa is unlikely to get a clear majority on the first round, and could very easily lose the second round if all other parties throw their weight behind the second challenger, whoever that might be, but looks likely to be Chamisa.”
Nelson Chamisa is the new leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) faction which was led by its founder Morgan Tsvangirai, until his recent death from cancer. Several other opposition parties have nominated him as their joint presidential candidate.
Reeler concluded by saying; “In sum. I would say that Mugabe entering the fray has changed the terrain dramatically, and has given the NPF a credible political base, even if it a negative one based on those that were illegally removed from office. My guess is this is not only stirring up ZANU-PF, but causing no end of discomfort in the SADC and the international community.”
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