Zimbabwean Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has dismissed the long-held notion that he is among those in ZANU-PF positioning to succeed President Robert Mugabe, telling a British newspaper that he has no interest in the presidency.
Mnangagwa, known to some as "the Crocodile" for his aggressive style, told the Sunday Telegraph in an interview published Sunday that reports he is angling for the presidency of the former ruling ZANU-PF party and of the country are simply unfounded.
“I have no ambitions to be president. People speculate ... but we have a structure in our party with a president and two vice presidents," Mnangagwa told the newspaper. "The leadership has to come out of that group, and I am not part of it."
Mr. Mugabe’s succession is not openly discussed by ZANU-PF officials. He said recently that he feared factionalism might split the party should he step aside.
But observers say ZANU-PF is already divided into two camps, one led by Mnangagwa, the other by Joice Mujuru, wife of former army commander Solomon Mujuru.
But Mnangagwa told the Sunday Telegraph that besides his lack of interest in the top job, ZANU-PF’s constitution says that if the party leader can no longer continue, one of his deputies should take over until an elective congress is held.
ZANU-PF Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo echoed Mnangagwa's arguments, telling VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo the party's succession hierarchy is clear.
"We have a structure that is very clear in our constitution. If Mugabe leaves today, there are two vice presidents and they know who is senior and who is number two. That is the way we are structured," Gumbo said.
But political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said he does not doubt Mnangagwa has presidential ambitions. "It would be suicidal for him to declare his presidential ambitions at this stage. But politicians have a tradition of saying one thing when they mean the other."
The Zimbabwe High Court recently released six former army officers held since 2007 on charges they plotted a coup that would have replaced Mr. Mugabe with Mnangagwa.