The leader of the opposition Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu) party, Dumiso Dabengwa, says President Robert Mugabe has a chosen successor he is likely to unveil soon but warned if the plan is not handled properly it might lead to civil conflict.
Many analysts have for years said President Mugabe’s failure to resolve the succession issue has caused factional fights in his ruling Zanu-PF party. But Dabengwa has a different opinion. “There is a program. It will unveil soon. But there is a program. His own (Mr. Mugabe) program not the party’s program.”
Studio 7 pressed Dabengwa and asked if President Mugabe’s increasingly powerful wife Grace Mugabe is the chosen successor.
He was non-committal. “I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess, but there is a candidate in mind and all that is being done (the succession wars) is in order to clear the way for the preferred succession candidate."
VOA pressed him further and asked if it’s Vice President Emmerson Mnagagwa and Dabengwa simply said, “I do not think so.”
Dabengwa though warned that the succession if not well handled will lead to some internal strife. “If that succession is not done properly it could create more chaos in the country and lead to violence … which can plunge the country into conflict.”
But what role can the military play in all this? Dabengwa had a chilling warning. “The military if not well-handled could play a role. They are poised at the moment and being strategically prepared to be able to deal with, like what somebody said, civil disturbances which is in the event that things break out … and when they are used they will be indiscriminate in dealing with those that they would want to punish.”
Some political analysts and military strategists say Zimbabwe’s military is divided into factions. Dabengwa though had a different take. “The military is a machine my friend. Sometimes when orders are given from above they will carry out those orders.”
Studio 7 asked Dabengwa if Mr. Mugabe is still in full control of the army and if they will endorse his preferred candidate and Dabengwa responded by saying, “They do not have to, but they will find themselves in a situation where they are merely being issued orders which they have to carry out and it is not easy for the military to defy those orders at that stage.”
The Russian-trained Dabengwa was the intelligence supremo of Zapu’s armed wing, the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army, during the liberation struggle of the 1970s and a former cabinet minister.
He was once jailed by Mr. Mugabe’s government together with the late ZIPRA commander, Lookout Masuku, for allegedly cashing arms soon after Zimbabwe attained independence from British rule. The two were acquitted by the Zimbabwean courts.