President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, already harassed by persistent speculation over the failing health of its 87-year-old leader, and reports of party infighting, could be plunged into further disarray in an unfolding succession race.
According to recent reports Dr Sydney Sekeramayi, the state security minister, is being touted within Zanu-PF as a frontrunner to succeed Mugabe for the country’s top job.
A revelation that is certain to rattle Zanu-PF’s two longtime factions led by retired army general, Solomon Mujuru and defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
This is not the first time Sekeramayi’s name has come up in talks about Zanu-PF’s succession.
In 2002, South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies also mentioned Sekeremayi as a likely Mugabe successor ahead of Mujuru and Mnangagwa.
A medical doctor by profession, the 67-year-old has served as a cabinet minister since 1980, which makes him fully conversant with government structures.
The “Spymaster” also enjoys close ties with the military and security forces, having served as defence minister in 2001.
Increasingly, Zimbabwe’s military has openly embedded itself in Zanu-PF’s succession politics and intimated that it would not support a candidate who would not protect their interests.
Sekeramayi is a Zezuru, a Shona-speaking tribe that dominates Zanu-PF and is the same tribe that Mugabe and Mujuru come from, another factor in his favour.
He is also seen as a compromise candidate should Joyce Mujuru, the openly favoured choice in the faction led by her husband Mujuru, fail to take over from Mugabe.
Mnangagwa, the other party heavyweight, comes from the Karanga group, a minority Shona-speaking tribe in Zanu-PF. He only recently emerged as a favourite to succeed Mugabe.
However, Mnangagwa’s political fortunes are tainted by his involvement in the 1980’s Gukurahundi massacres in which 20 000 people were killed by Mugabe’s 5th Brigade.