Bitter factionalism inside the ruling Zanu-PF triggered a power reshuffle in early December which enforced President Mugabe’s centralised authority. The 90-year-old was re-elected as party head and could in theory lead Zanu-PF into the 2018 polls and serve another five-year term. Grace Mugabe – the President’s 49- year-old wife – made a stagy rise and was appointed chairwoman of the Zanu-PF Women’s League, which gave her a seat on the party’s politburo. Mrs Mugabe subsequently led a vicious campaign against Vice- President Joyce Mujuru, accusing her of corruption and of plotting to overthrow President Mugabe.
Consequently, Vice-President Mujuru was dismissed together with her key allies, including eight ministers. Days later, justice minister Mnangagwa (Mujuru’s arch rival and in cabinet since independence in 1980) was appointed the new Vice-President and therefore frontrunner to succeed Mugabe as head of state.

Impact on country risk

The appointment toned down speculations that Mugabe is grooming his wife as his successor. However, Mnangagwe’s promotion still does not ensure him of becoming president. In case of a managed succession before his death, Mugabe might still favour his wife in order to protect his family’s interests and guard them from prosecution. Regardless of this scenario, Mnangagwe’s increased influence on policy-making does augment the risk of expropriation without compensation to foreign investors, given that he is a key proponent of indigenisation policies. Moreover, as the party’s main industrial gatekeeper, he is expected to favour non- western investments and foster strong relations with Russia and China. Either way, the interparty factionalism has exacerbated political uncertainty in times of feeble growth prospects, weak investor confidence and widespread unemployment and poverty.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendogroup.com