ZANU-PF succession scorecard


Former Defence Forces chief Vitalis Zvinavashe and Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa are reported to have discussed an exit strategy for President Robert Mugabe with the opposition in 2002 but surprisingly Zvinavashe was tipped as Mugabe’s possible successor when he retired from the army a year later, a cable released by Wikileaks says.

According to the cable both Zvinavashe and Mnangagwa denied any involvement in such talks when the plan faced vocal criticism from the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front hard-liners.

Ironically Zvinavashe had made world headlines before the 2002 presidential elections when he said the defence forces would not salute any political leader without liberation credentials, a clear slap at Tsvangirai.

The cable also listed who was who in the succession game.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2003-12-05 10:20

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 002359










E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013






B. HARARE 1446



Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer under Section 1.5(b)(d)


1. (C) SUMMARY: The retirement of Vitalis Zvinavashe as

commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) and his

emergence on the national political scene underscore

uncertainties surrounding the ruling party’s contortions over

prospective leadership succession. His possible appointment

as Vice-President could mute disappointment among competing

aspirants and facilitate the ruling party’s management of

political-military relations, but he reportedly is unpopular

among military officers, and his entrance into politics could

bolster Parliamentary Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa’s efforts to

consolidate power and succeed President Mugabe. For his

part, Mugabe gives no indication of planning to hand over the

reins of power any time soon. END SUMMARY.


2. (C) The announcement in early November that Zvinavashe

was retiring effective December 31 had been rumored for some

time. President Mugabe’s remarks at his retirement party,

commentary in the government media, and Zvinavashe’s own

reported comments indicate that he will play a role in ruling

party politics, although precisely what role remains to be



Old Soldier Not Ready To Fade Away



3. (C) Although the ZDF brass generally has eschewed public

involvement in politics, Zvinavashe’s name has been featured

in well-publicized political circumstances on several

occasions. In late 2002, Zvinavashe and Parliamentary

Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa reportedly sent an emissary to

opposition leaders to discuss a Mugabe exit strategy. In the

face of vocal criticism by party hard-liners, each denied

involvement in such talks. Last year Zvinavashe also was

reported to have urged the formation of a national task force

to address the nation’s economic situation, which he

attributed to bad economic policy. Earlier, he created a

stir in the run-up to national elections of March 2002 by

stating publicly that the defense forces would not salute any

political leader without liberation credentials, a clear slap

at Tsvangirai. Notwithstanding his somewhat checkered public

past, Zvinavashe’s retention of the top military slot

suggests the depth of Mugabe’s reliance on him.


4. (C) Upon announcement of his retirement, Zvinavashe

publicly proclaimed his availability for national office and

dismissed suggestions that he would take a “district”

position. Early speculation on his likely political role

revolved around the Masvingo provincial party chair or

governorship; however, both of those slots were recently

filled. That would appear to leave the Vice-Presidency or a

slot in a rumored upcoming cabinet reshuffle. According to a

family friend of Minister of Justice, Legal, and

Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Chinamasa, Chinamasa’s wife

(who is the older sister of Zvinavashe’s wife) said the late

Vice President Simon Muzenda on his deathbed told Mugabe that

he wanted Zvinavashe to succeed him as MP for Gutu North and

as Vice-President. While Mugabe will not be bound by the

dying wish of his trusted Vice-President, chief party

strategist Muzenda’s faith in Zvinavashe testifies to the

defense chief’s party loyalty and reliability and reflects

positively on his standing for the Vice-Presidency in the

President’s eyes.


5. (C) Complicating Zvinavashe’s path to national office is

that he must hold an MP slot in order to fill a

vice-presidential or cabinet slot for more than three months.

A constituency MP position might be of interest to

Zvinavashe as a means to the vice-presidency. One open

non-constituency MP slot reportedly is slated for another

individual, but presumably could be made available to

accommodate Zvinavashe should party priorities dictate.

Indeed, more non-constituency slots could open should a

rumored cabinet reshuffle take place.


Zvinavashe’s Cache: Military Credentials…



6. (C) Sporting strong liberation credentials, the 60-year

old Zvinavashe joined the Zimbabwe African National

Liberation Army (ZANLA) in 1968 and has held his current

position since 1994. With the MDC distracted and lying low,

and the ruling party having steeled itself to international

pressure and economic collapse, an increasingly disaffected

military may pose the biggest threat to the ruling party’s

firm control. Mugabe and others in the party may calculate

that Vice-President (or President) Zvinavashe would enhance

ZANU-PF’s management of a potentially restive and financially

pinched military. It is not clear that it would, however.

The cold and impersonal Zvinavashe is reputed to be unpopular

among military colleagues, many of whom chafed at the lack of

opportunity in a military that ossified at the top under his



… and Ethnic Ties



7. (C) To strengthen party unity and enhance party prospects

in a national election, conventional wisdom dictates that the

party’s next leader should come from the Karanga ethnic

subgroup, the largest within the dominant Shona tribe (Mugabe

is from the Zezuru subgroup). A Karanga, Zvinavashe may be

expected to help subdue the historical split that has

re-emerged within an important Masvingo-based Karanga

subgroup with the death of Vice-President Muzenda. Muzenda,

the elder statesman in one of the Karanga subgroups, served

to quell rivalry with the other subgroup. Other key members

of the Muzenda Karanga subgroup are Mnangagwa, Minister of

Foreign Affairs Stan Mudenge, and the presidentially

appointed Governor of Masvingo province Josaya Hungwe. Party

strategists reportedly hope that a relatively apolitical

figure of Zvinavashe’s stature would help to keep a lid on

simmering rivalries in the key ZANU-PF heartland of Masvingo.

But there are doubts that he alone could unify ZANU-PF in

the province, much less stand up to the MDC in Masvingo were

he to run. Indeed, some senior party officials reportedly

already are trying to undermine Zvinavashe’s position,

stressing his lack of position/background in the party.


8. (C) The other Karanga subgroup is headed by ZANU-PF MP

for Masvingo South and intellectual elder statesman Eddison

Zvobgo, and also includes former Air Marshal Josaya

Tungamirayi. In 1995 Tungamirayi challenged Muzenda for the

ZANU-PF nomination for Gutu North, and he has publicly

declared his intention to run for the seat now that it is

vacant, placing himself as a potential rival to Zvinavashe

were he to run. Tungamirayi is a relatively popular and

potentially formidable political force in his own right. The

power of this subgroup is unclear, though, as Zvobgo has been

in a South African hospital since October 2003 when he was

operated on for an undisclosed ailment.


9. (C) For now, the Muzenda Karanga subgroup appears to be

in ascendancy, notwithstanding the death of its leader.

Mnangagwa continues to be regarded by most as Mugabe’s chosen

successor. He remains the point person for ZANU-PF’s empire

of companies with special government privileges. The

November 2003 ZANU-PF provincial elections resulted in

Mnangagwa faithfuls Mutumwa Mawere and Daniel Shumba being

elected as party provincial chairman and the newly created

secretary for economic affairs respectively in Masvingo.



Mawere and Shumba are both businesspeople with financial ties

to Mnangagwa.


10. (C) As required in advance of the December 2003 ZANU-PF

conference, the party has gone through a provincial

restructuring exercise over the past few months. This

exercise has resulted in officials reportedly friendly with,

aligned with, or at least acceptable to Mnangagwa to be

re-confirmed or substituted into party structures throughout

the country, particularly in Midlands, Masvingo, and

Manicaland. The restructuring exercise has not only been

important on a backroom lobbying level, but per the ZANU-PF

constitution provincial councils propose nominees for all of

the national party positions, including President and

Chairman of the party, at the party congress (to be held next

in 2005). Some observers have suggested that Mnangagwa might

take over from Mugabe as President of ZANU-PF sometime

between December 2003 and the party congress in 2005, and

that this would be a clear message to the broader party

membership that Mnangagwa is the best candidate for the next

head of state. With some Mnangagwa-friendly provincial

structures in place already, Mnangagwa may already be

engineering this scenario.

11. (C) As for Zvinavashe, he reportedly gets along well

with Mnangagwa and shares business relationships with him

through their companies. He presumably would prosper under a

Mnangagwa presidency. Mnangagwa would not feel politically

threatened by a Vice-President Zvinavashe, who could be

counted on to yield to the Speaker at the appropriate time.

Indeed, one scenario has Zvinavashe taking Muzenda’s

vice-presidential slot as a stalking horse for Mnangagwa.


Succession Scorecard



— Zvinavashe


12. (C) As a relative party outsider and newcomer to the

political arena, Zvinavashe has not been subjected to the

kind of political scrutiny that has taken a toll on other

ostensible candidates to succeed Mugabe. Although

unquestionably loyal to Mugabe (probably the most important

eligibility criterion), Zvinavashe seems to lack charisma and

broad support from within the party. In spite of his

military credentials, the military hierarchy would likely be

ambivalent to him as a presidential candidate. Rather than

being a serious successor in his own right, more significant

is the contribution he could make to Mnangagwa’s position.


— Mnangagwa


13. (C) Speaker of the Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa remains

the favorite and is reputed still to have the nod from Mugabe

himself. He has been on the hustings more than anybody, and

Zvinavashe’s elevation probably buttresses rather than rivals

Mnangagwa’s relatively weak support in the party. But

Mnangagwa is not without significant liabilities: most

notably his lack of broad party support, his record of

ruthlessness in the Matabeleland massacres, and a label as

unelectable in a free and fair election. Despite his

ruthlessness and the fact that Mugabe elevated him through

various Ministerial roles up to Speaker of Parliament, he is

resented in quarters of the ZANU-PF hierarchy, most

importantly Solomon Mujuru (Ref B). Additionally, his

bungled approach through Colonel Dyke and Zvinavashe to MDC

leader Morgan Tsvangirai in late 2002 chafed Mugabe.


— Simba Makoni


14. (C) A Mass Public Opinion Institute poll conducted in

October demonstrated that “dissident” ex-Finance Minister

Simba Makoni was the only party luminary who commanded broad

national support without regard to provincial lines. This

should weigh heavily for those in the party who want to

compete realistically in a democratic process. Nonetheless,

Makoni’s lack of a strong political base in ZANU-PF and his

liberal economic views, which are anathema to Mugabe, make

him an unlikely choice. The introduction of hard-liner old

guard politburo member Didymus Mutasa as a vice-presidential

candidate reportedly was apparently designed to undercut

emerging support for Makoni’s candidacy within their home

province of Manicaland.


— Solomon Mujuru


15. (C) Notwithstanding the fact that retired

Lieutenant-General Solomon Tapfumanei Mujuru, (nom de guerre

Rex Nhongo) was named in a 2001 Zambian government report as

having played a role in the 1975 assassination of then ZANU

Chairman Herbert Chitepo, Mujuru reportedly enjoys

significant support within the ZDF and the Central

Intelligence Organization (CIO). Considered too rough-edged,

uneducated and more of a kingmaker than a candidate, in 2002

he advanced Simba Makoni’s name in succession discussions,

and has consistently opposed Mnangagwa. After the March 2002

elections, and responding to assessments that the outcome was

flawed he reportedly asked Mugabe when he intended to retire.

More recent reports suggest he himself might want the job,

or that he would support Secretary of Defense Sydney

Sekeramayi in the race.


— Sydney Sekeramayi

16. (C) If Sekeramayi’s name is raised in succession

discussions, it is usually in connection with Mujuru.

Sekeramayi reportedly has played a low profile but respected

role in the cabinet. However, he reportedly advocated

economic reforms within the cabinet, which may have dropped

him a peg in Mugabe’s eyes and prejudiced his prospects. His

credentials have not been extensively debated or discussed in

public, and he may offer the appeal of not having as

significantly negative a public image as others. A Zezuru,

Sekeramayi has broad experience, having held various

ministerial roles within ZANU-PF since independence, and has

been active in ZANU since 1963.


— Charles Utete


17. (C) Charles Utete, Cabinet Secretary since independence,

is a dark horse candidate whose name emerges periodically. A

Zezuru, he is deeply loyal to Mugabe and does not appear to

have strong enemies. Utete generally has a reputation for

integrity, although this has suffered outside the party with

the release of his commission’s report on land reform, which

avoided most difficult issues and drew careful “political”



— Others


18. (C) Several other names raised in succession debates

months ago — Party Chairman John Nkomo, Information Minister

Jonathan Moyo, and Dumiso Dabengwa (Ref B) — have received

little serious public speculation as of late. Their Ndebele

ethnicity makes Nkomo and Moyo unlikely candidates. The

party’s prominent hardline faction, including Moyo, Justice

Minister Chinamasa, and Agriculture Minister Made, lack

significant geographic constituencies, making them unlikely

candidates. Nonetheless, through their control of key party

levers of power (information, judicial administration, and

land reform, respectively), they could exert meaningful

influence on candidate selection.





19. (C) That Zvinavashe is being touted in official circles

as potential vice-presidential (and by implication

presidential) material underscores how murky the succession

picture remains. None of the candidates stand above the

rest, though Zvinavashe’s entrance into politics tends to

bolster Mnangagwa’s ongoing — and of late somewhat

successful — efforts to consolidate his position.

Mnangagwa’s evident liabilities, however, make his candidacy

far from a foregone conclusion. The key variable for

succession is Mugabe’s intent, which remains unknown. While

the international press has speculated that Mugabe might

reveal his successor or a timeline for stepping down at the

party conference this week in Masvingo, Party Spokesman

Nathan Shamuyarira recently publicly declared what party

members have been telling us in private: succession is not on

the conference agenda. We are inclined to think that because

Mugabe has not yet decided, a clear announcement is unlikely

for some time.



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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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