Mnangagwa, locked in a shock cut-throat electoral battle with youthful rival MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, and 21 others, needs to snatch a 50% plus one vote from about 5,7 million registered voters.
One vote makes a difference between victory and a run-off. Latest polls show the two candidates are in a dead heat in the effective two-horse race. Last week’s Afrobarometer election survey revealed a slim 3% margin between them, with 20% undecided voters. Mnangagwa was at 40%, while Chamisa was hot on his heels at 37%.
Although Mnangagwa has a powerful military-driven state machinery behind him, experience and a huge war chest, sources say he is vulnerable on many fronts: bhora musango (electoral sabotage), internal strife, brinkmanship with his deputy; impeachment and de-legitimisation plots.
Senior Zanu-PF officials and state security agents told the Zimbabwe Independent this week in off-the-record briefings there is a deadly bhora musango campaign being spearheaded by former cabinet ministers, politburo members and disgruntled party masses in the three Mashonaland provinces, which have the capacity to decide the winner.
The Mnangagwa administration’s fears seem to be mounting that some in Zanu-PF and state security circles are working with Mugabe to sabotage him.
Intelligence sources say Tadzingaira Tachiveyi, former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) deputy Counter Intelligence director, was recently picked up by police and had his properties ransacked. He was interrogated for hours and released, but the captors had let the cat out of the bag: “You are frequenting Blue Roof to brief Mugabe on what is happening,” they told him, sources say. They recovered some guns at his properties, but they were all licenced, weakening their case.
Sources say Tachiveyi had recently travelled to South Africa the same day as former Zanu-PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere who has once again been forced to flee due to attempts by the security to link him to the Bulawayo explosion at Mnangagwa’s rally last month which killed two security aides and injured scores. Police raided Kasukuwere’s mansion in Harare even though he had only returned home in May as he had fled the military coup last November, after surviving a hail of gunfire shots at his house.
The explosion incident exposed intensifying infighting between the military, police and CIO. Their wrangling reflects internal strife and divisions within the security system which sustained Mugabe and brought Mnangagwa to power. It also shows the deadly brinkmanship between Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga.
This comes as it emerges government has now hired seven Belarusian ballistics experts to assist in the multi-agency security team investigating the deadly Bulawayo grenade attack which Mnangagwa believes was an attempt on his life.
The number of foreign investigators complementing the local contingent is now 11 after government earlier engaged four Russian experts earlier this month.
Sidelined Zanu-PF heavyweights this week said the elections could largely be decided by the three Mashonaland provinces where there is an escalating whispering campaign against Mnangagwa by angry Mugabe residual supporters. Mugabe is secretly pushing for Chamisa’s win.
Politicians from Mashonaland region interviewed this week said they feared Mugabe’s loyalists might spoil the party for Mnangagwa.
In the 2013 presidential poll, the three provinces contributed 925 486 of Zanu-PF’s total votes of 2 110 434, translating to an incredible 44%. This also constitutes 27% of the total votes.
“Bhora musango is real. The only notable people from there are (Vice-President Constantino) Chiwenga and Agriculture minister (Perrence) Shiri, but they are not very popular in these three provinces and they have not been able to build their own support base given that they are new on the political field.
“The issue is people think Mnangagwa has alienated huge and powerful blocs in his party through his regional and ethnic appointments of senior government and party positions. Mugabe still has some support base and most of his supporters are in those provinces; it’s both a political and an ethnic issue.”
Bhora musango is a protest election strategy ironically first used against Mugabe in 2008 which resulted in his defeat in the first round of polling by the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai. It was employed by the late retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru who wanted to oust Mugabe.
The campaign, sources said, is being led by former cabinet ministers, politburo members, aspiring party MPs and those who lost their positions after the November coup. Mugabe only paradoxically retained power in 2008 helped by Mnangagwa and his military allies who were to remove him through a coup almost a decade later.
The Independent understands the situation is grave in Mashonaland West and Central, which have a great number of bitter removed Zanu-PF bigwigs.
Apart from Kasukuwere, who was said to have cut a deal with authorities to return, although events have disproved this, there other former heavyweights in Mashonaland region who could sway the vote against Mnanagwga. These include Joice Mujuru, Sydney Sekeramayi, Nicholas Goche, Ignatius Chombo, Walter Chidhakwa, Douglas Mombeshora and Beatrice Nyamupinga.
There is also Ray Kaukonde, Edgar Mbwembwe and Ambrose Mutinhiri, among many others. Kaukonde met Mugabe at his mansion in Harare last week on Wednesday. Mugabe has repeatedly met his loyalists for strategising.
Former Zanu-PF G40 faction members such as Godfrey Gandawa, Sarah Mahoka and Shadreck Mashayamombe are fearlessly campaigning against Mnanagagwa.
“People are climbing on podiums by day to declare their support for Mnangagwa, but during the night they are plotting his downfall. We have witnessed some aspiring MPs telling the people that they should vote for them, but are free to elect a president of their choice which is not specifically Mnangagwa. We are seeing a repeat of the 2008 bhora musango campaign, only that the political conditions and circumstances are now different. They have launched a wide whispering campaign and the president is aware of this.”
The stakes are extremely high in Monday’s critical and potentially realigning elections.
The polls bear strong similarities to those of 1980: the promise of a new beginning after almost two decades of political strife and illegitimacy, economic crisis and social decay; the numerical dominance of youthful voters, a large proportion of whom are voting for the first time; and the level of international engagement and scrutiny the likes of which have not been experienced since 1980, represented as it is by almost 50 international observer missions, scores of journalists, spooks and fortune-hunters.
This is the first post-Mugabe poll in which the youths and women hold the key to the outcome. Unlike past elections, these polls are being held under circumstances where more than 60% of registered voters are 40 years and below, meaning the youth vote, a large proportion of whom are voting for the first time, could also play a decisive role in the poll outcomes. Registered women constitute around 54% of the total 5 695 746 registered voters.
While Britain is firmly behind Mnangagwa, the United States is pulling in a different direction. The US Senate and Congress yesterday passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act sanctions amendment Bill as President Donald Trump’s administration tightens the screws around Harare.