The two major contenders in the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front succession battle, Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa, could both be president, though the odds seem to favour Mujuru.
What would happen is that Mujuru would take over and complete Mugabe’s current term which ends in 2018 while Mnangagwa would take over after that.
At least this was the scenario eight years ago according to the then National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku.
Madhuku told United States embassy officials on 13 March 2006 that though Mujuru and Mnangagwa were said to be the two leading contenders to succeed Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa was not in a hurry.
Though Mnangagwa wanted to be president, he was playing for time and would let Mujuru succeed Mugabe to inherit the main crises in the hope that she would not prove up to the task. Mnangagwa would then use her failure to turn around the economy to supplant her.
At the time, there was talk that ZANU-PF might push the presidential elections due in 2008 to 2010 to allow for harmonisation with the parliamentary elections due in 2010. The ZANU-PF congress was due in 2009 and it was hoped that was when Mnangagwa would upstage Mujuru.
The scenario has changed but the economy is currently in distress. Both Mujuru and Mnangagwa are still leading contenders though Mnangagwa has been playing a low profile claiming he is not in the running because he is not in the party hierarchy.
There also appears to be some urgency in Mujuru’s bid to take over and she has made some serious judgmental errors in her quest to upstage her rivals.
Besides, when Madhuku put forward this scenario, Mujuru was 51 and Mnangagwa 58. Now time is running out for both with Mujuru now 59 and Mnangagwa 68.
If Mnangagwa were to allow Mujuru to take over from Mugabe, to complete his current term, this would mean that Mnangagwa would be 72 by the time of the next elections in2018. But more importantly Mnangagwa would have to move up in the party hierarchy at this year’s congress. The next congress is in 2019, a year after the elections.
But then anything can happen. Joice Mujuru’s husband, Solomon, forced a special congress in 2007 in a bid to stop Mugabe from contesting the 2008 elections but he was thwarted. It is widely believed that Mnangagwa engineered the defeat.
Mujuru and Mnangagwa know what is at stake. They can both play and win and save Mugabe the blushes of having to choose between the two- or even forcing him to make the difficult decision to ditch the two because they are dividing the party.