THE front runners in the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, are unfit for the top post as they are accomplices in the incumbent regime’s misrule while also lacking the ideological clarity and policy nous to turn around the economy, political analysts say.
In recent months, Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi have emerged as the top contenders in the succession race, with Sekeramayi’s candidature being supported by the G40 faction which has coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Bulawayo-based political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said although Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi have strong links with the security sector and tribal backing which they can leverage on to land the presidency, they were part and parcel of Mugabe’s failures and lacked capacity to govern.
“He (Mnangagwa) has been involved with security ministries since 1980, together with Sekeremayi, and may thus be seen as having access and influence over the securocratic hierarchy. This in itself is not necessarily good for the country, but bolsters his presidential ambitions,” said Nkomo.
“The ethnic factor could be a double-edged sword as many Karangas feel that it is time for one of them to take over the presidency. He thus has significant support in Masvingo, Midlands and parts of Harare.
“Sekeramayi stands a better chance in the succession matrix and his ethnic origins give him an advantage since he comes from the ruling Zezuru elite.”
Although describing them both as “cool and calculative” in realpolitic terms, Nkomo said Sekeramayi lacks the charisma and charm compared to his rival Mnangagwa who is a strong character.
“Mnangagwa may thus be open to measured reforms both politically and economically. He can also appeal to some Western countries and international investors who may be keen on a person who can protect their strategic interests,” Nkomo said.
“He is quite affable and endowed with charm and diplomatic skills in a way which may work to his advantage. This is, however, associated with a perception that he is crafty and ruthless.
“By contrast in Zanu-PF, Sekeramayi may be seen as being cold and isolated.”
Nkomo said the problem is that both Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi are tainted by their involvement in Gukurahundi in which an estimated 20 000 people in Matabeleland were massacred by the Fifth Brigade in a state-sanctioned genocide.
Mnangagwa was State Security minister during the Gukurahundi years, while Sekeramayi was Defence minister.
Kent University lecturer Alex Magaisa said neither Mnangagwa nor Sekeramayi will be able to solve the economic crisis Zimbabwe is mired in. He said they were active participants in the country’s economic failure.
“They have no independent ideology that they have demonstrated. They have been part of a weak and inept system for 37 years and I can’t see anything revolutionary about either’s ascendancy,” Magaisa said.
“The national crisis is bigger than Zanu-PF and it’s preposterous to imagine that authors of the crisis have a solution for it.”
Pedzisai Ruhanya, a Harare-based analyst, said both candidates lacked capacity.
“None of them is suitable to run a democratic polity. They have been part of the rot since 1980 and through acts of commission and omission are responsible for the political and economic crisis that confronts Zimbabwe. When Mugabe goes, so should both Mnangagwa and Sekeremayi.”
Oxford University-based political analyst Blessing Miles Tendi said assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the two senior Zanu-PF leaders is mission impossible in a political environment where personality politics and sloganeering precede ideology.
“For as long as serious political ideas and workable policy agendas are not made central in national politics, Zimbabwe will continue to experience the many political, economic and social negativities that plague it today, regardless of who is president.”
Political commentator Maxwell Saungweme described both as “tired old horses” with equally destructive qualities as Mugabe. He said, like Mugabe, Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi believe in the politics of patronage and mediocrity.
“Both men are quiet and use their surrogates to fight their wars,” said Saungweme, adding ascendancy by either of them would bring “another 10 or so years of same misrule, catastrophic economic policies, a reward system for the comrades and continued squeezing of poor Zimbabweans.”
Political commentator Gladys Hlatshwayo said the two contenders had no ideological differences as they are elements within an ideologically bankrupt Zanu-PF party, socialised to plunder and take part, in corruption and gross human rights abuses.
“It follows that there are no ideological differences between the two and any attempt to frame them as such is, in my view, wishful thinking,” said Hlatshwayo.
“In fact, the more they are cohesive, the more organised their looting is and more repressive they are. At least when they are divided we get to know what is happening in government. These people are all thoroughly discredited.”
However, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said although Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi’s political curriculum vitaes are identical, their characters speak to different leadership styles.
“As to who will make a better leader were they to succeed Mugabe, that’s extremely situational. For instance (Winston) Churchill, he was a brilliant wartime leader, but (was) rejected as a peacetime leader,” Masunungure said.
Masunungure argued that Mnangagwa would be very effective in restoring order and discipline in social and economic spheres.
“He can deliver economic goods, but I think it will be at the expense of human rights and good governance in the political sense. He will sacrifice those for the kind of Asian tigers’ type of developmental state. I know people can say ‘but he is also corrupt’. I am talking capacity,” he said.
“Sekeramayi is withdrawn, recoils like a tortoise and doesn’t reveal much on what he can do with power, but I think he would go for the incremental and pragmatic approach in changing the status quo. I don’t think he would go for rapture or a clear sharp break with the current policy direction which I expect with Mnangagwa in terms of economic governance.”
Masunungure said the transformation of the economy can only be guaranteed if the succession quagmire is resolved with “finality to end the succession-induced factionalism and resultant policy inconsistencies”.