President Mnangagwa was once now not critically challenged on the ZANU-PF congress. But neither was once the robust Vice-President Chiwenga.

At ZANU-PF’s elective congress this October, delegates unanimously recommended Emmerson Mnangagwa to stay the ruling birthday celebration’s chief for the following 5 years. This manner the 80-12 months-previous president will keep in Zimbabwe’s best process a minimum of till nationwide elections scheduled for mid-2023.

Analysts had been fast to interpret Mnangagwa’s endorsement now not simplest as a political victory within the brief-time period however as successful future-proofing in opposition to the ambitions of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga. One common native observer suggested Chiwenga were “outmanoeuvred” and that his hopes of saying the presidency were “ruthlessly snuffed out”. Some of the vice-president’s personal supporters pilloried him for now not doing sufficient to save you what they noticed as a public humiliation.

However, a snappy have a look at ZANU-PF historical past tells us that congresses don’t seem to be a major affair within the birthday celebration’s politics. Even abnormal Zimbabweans have come to remember the fact that those reliable gatherings are little greater than a ripple at the floor of the liberation motion’s regularly brutal succession contests. The maximum consequential battles have a tendency to be performed out in a lot darker areas – in the back of the concrete partitions of birthday celebration headquarters, in army cantonments and spies’ bunkers – the place brass-knuckle ways akin to bribes, death threats, murder by poisoning and grenade attacks are deployed to override the rudiments of electoral birthday celebration politics.

In those extra unpredictable and perverse areas, little has modified for Chiwenga. Anchored by way of the army, the previous military leader nonetheless bestrides ZANU-PF and nationwide politics. The vice-president has hectored Mnangagwa into expanding investment for the army. He has effectively driven for army officers to fill key positions in government, state parastatals, and the ruling birthday celebration. He has abrasively appointed himself defence minister and, extra lately in August 2020, health minister.

Moreover, and opposite to won knowledge, Chiwenga possibly easiest demonstrated his ongoing relevance on the non-compulsory congress itself. For a while, President Mnangagwa has sought after to eliminate his deputy, forward of or throughout the ZANU-PF assembly, and hired two primary methods on this challenge. Firstly, he aggressively shook up the army management in 2019, retiring or reassigning Chiwenga’s allies. Secondly, he pressured a raft of constitutional changes thru parliament in 2021 that, amongst different issues, offers him the authority to appoint and hearth his vice-presidents.

These strikes had been supposed to weaken Chiwenga’s hand in ZANU-PF politics, culminating in his ouster as vice chairman at, or within the run-up to, the non-compulsory congress. But the operation failed. Mnangagwa had no selection however retain Chiwenga, who will stay his top profile place and get entry to to state patronage to parcel out to allies within the birthday celebration and army.

The president wanted to keep away from this situation by way of implementing a extra malleable 2d-in-command. His failure to achieve this makes any perception of a grand strategic victory hole.

Chiwenga’s grand plan

According to a few of Chiwenga’s allies, the retention of the vice-presidency does now not simply handle the established order for now however takes the previous military leader one step nearer to his lengthy-held ambition of ascending to the presidency. They counsel that Chiwenga’s plan to take energy continues to be in line with the settlement he made with Mnangagwa round 2014, when the latter turned into vice-president to Robert Mugabe. The alleged deal was once that Chiwenga, as head of the military, would support Mnangagwa’s upward thrust to the presidency; in go back, Mnangagwa would step down after one time period to pave the best way for a Chiwenga presidency.

If this nonetheless is the plan, because the vice-president’s allies declare, it stays on agenda. Chiwenga led the coup in opposition to Mugabe in 2017 that introduced Mnangagwa to energy and helped the brand new president win elections in 2018. According to the timeline, it could now be Mnangagwa’s flip to win elections in 2023 after which transfer over for Chiwenga. In different phrases, the 2022 congress – coming lower than a 12 months ahead of doubtlessly difficult nationwide elections – was once by no means the time or mechanism wherein energy was once to be transferred.

None of that is to say that Mnangagwa will surrender the presidency simply, deal or no deal. He shall be egged on by way of his allies, who’ve transform rich thru state patronage, to keep in energy. Furthermore, he’s going to be not going to consider Chiwenga to offer protection to him if he does step down. Mnangagwa could also be in particular apprehensive by way of Chiwenga’s obvious need to appoint Saviour Kasukuwere – the chief of the Generation 40 faction, which struggled in opposition to Mnangagwa between 2014 and 2017 – as his vice-president.