The death of former air force chief and black empowerment minister Josiah Tungamirai in South Africa on August 25 was a big blow to the Karanga who still harbour presidential ambitions. They argue it is now their turn since the Zezuru led by Robert Mugabe have had theirs.
Demographically the Karanga are the largest Shona sub-group but they have been overshadowed by the Zezuru largely because of divisions among themselves, which some believe were fanned by the Zezuru.
The Karanga have been divided into two distinct factions; one led by former vice-President Simon Muzenda and the other by former Justice Minister Eddison Zvobgo.
Zvobgo, who did not hide his presidential ambitions, was the Masvingo boss until 1995 when Muzenda, who had represented the Midlands capital, Gweru, since independence, decided to stand in Gutu North.
Though this was his home area, most people felt that Muzenda had been deployed to Gutu to water down Zvobgo’s influence because there were increasing calls from his supporters and lieutenants that Mugabe should go- his time was up.
Both Muzenda and Zvobgo are now dead but they did not leave clear-cut successors. Tungamirai, who was the highest-ranking ZANU-PF official from Masvingo, belonged to the Zvobgo faction, and was viewed with a lot of suspicion.
He was forced to retire from the air force, when Solomon Mujuru, then commander of the army, retired because he would have become the first defence forces commander, a powerful post that most people felt Tungamirai could take advantage of, even by staging a coup, if things went wrong as they inevitably did.
His stubbornness was demonstrated by the fact that he challenged Muzenda for the Gutu North seat and only stepped down when Mugabe, who he regarded his commander-in-chief, stepped in.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Stan Mudenge, who is now minister of Higher Education, belonged to the Muzenda faction and is now the most senior party official in that faction but he is now too sick to be a serious contender. Besides, he has always been regarded as a diplomat than a serious politician.
With Tungamirai gone, former defence forces chief, Vitalis Zvinavashe, is the only logical successor to become Masvingo boss. Zvinavashe could bridge the gap between the two factions. But more importantly he could prop presidential aspirant Emmerson Mnangagwa who has been his close political and business associate for years.
The death of Muzenda, Zvobgo and now Tungamirai has in a way cleared the way for Mnangagwa to lead the Karanga who occupy the whole of Masvingo and most of the Midlands province.
Mnangagwa, who had garnered enough support to become vice-president in the run-up to the party congress last year before his plans were scuttled by his own mentor, Robert Mugabe, when ZANU-PF arbitrarily amended the party constitution to insist that one of the vice-presidents should be a woman, has kept a low profile since the so-called Tsholotsho Declaration which saw the six provincial chairmen who were behind him being suspended from the party.
Though he was demoted from Speaker of Parliament to Rural Housing minister, sources say Mnangagwa has been too quiet for his opponents’ comfort. While most people have tried to paint a picture that Mnangagwa is hated by the people because of his role in the Matabeleland massacres in the 1980s, people now feel Mugabe has to go and he is the best candidate among the non-Zezurus.
His opponents especially those who sidelined him through the party constitution, are now said to be scared that they have failed to break him. He has kept his cool so much that they now believe he must be up to something.
Mnangagwa, like Mugabe, is a political schemer. It is not clear whether Mnangagwa is part of the Third-force that former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, who was accused of organising the Tsholotsho meeting and was expelled from the party, is spearheading. But everyone agrees that Moyo is too small to head the force.
Senior ZANU-PF officials, aided by the state-controlled media, have tried to brush off the third-force as a non-starter. However, those in the know are scared to hell because it is probably the most viable alternative to both ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change.
With the constitution now amended to allow the creation of a senate, there are fears that Mugabe could amend it to postpone presidential elections in 2008 to allow his anointed successor Joyce Mujuru to establish her own power base until 2010 when the next parliamentary elections are due.
But the Karanga are fed up with being led by the Zezuru. They also claim the Zezuru are siphoning all the national resources to develop their area, while they continue to lag behind.
The only hurdle to the Karanga ambitions could be that the Ndebele also feel that they should be next in the presidency because the unity accord of 1987 left ZANU-PF in power. The next president should therefore come from ZAPU.
The Karanga prefer power sharing with the Ndebele in what has been widely dubbed south-south cooperation, and that’s where Jonathan Moyo comes in. He believes that with the third force, he could outwit the ZAPU old guard as they are now a spent force.
Posted -9 September 2005