HARARE – Months of ructions in the ruling ZANU-PF party could culminate in the wobbly ruling party appointing a national chairman at its National People’s Conference, currently underway in the resort town of Victoria Falls — a position which had been left vacant for the past 11 months.
Indications are that ZANU-PF could be forced to revert back to its original structure, when it used to have a national chairman in the mix in order to calm pesky members of the Women’s League who, rightfully, are calling for gender equity in the male-dominated party.
A total of five provinces, out of the country’s 10, are agitating for the return of the women’s quota system, discarded in the rush to obliterate former vice president Joice Mujuru’s influence in the party.
Mujuru, along with her acolytes, were given their marching orders from the party between late last year and early this year for allegedly plotting to unseat President Robert Mugabe, who has been at the helm of ZANU-PF since 1975.
Notwithstanding their expulsion from the party for pursuing a factional agenda, the party has hit turbulence, as ZANU-PF bigwigs strategically position themselves to succeed President Mugabe in the event that he retires from active politics.
The battle of the titans is essentially between Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa — touted as the incumbent’s heir apparent — and a faction that goes by the name Generation 40 (G4), which thrives on smoke-and-mirror tactics.
Going into the conference, members of G40 have thrown their full weight behind the ZANU-PF Women’s League attempts to recover the lost ground. So far, five provinces namely Harare, Bulawayo, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central have thrown down the gauntlet – demanding that the party invokes the quota system.
Influential figures in the Women’s League seem, along with their G40 backers, seem to have struck an agreement that instead of gunning for one of the offices of Second Secretary and Vice President of the party, their best bet would be to lobby for the national chairmanship, which is currently vacant.
Simon Khaya-Moyo, the party’s spokesperson, was the last to occupy the party’s chairmanship before he was demoted for wining and dining with Mujuru. Before his demotion, the party’s presidium comprised the President of the party, his two deputies and the national chairman.
But unlike Mujuru and her underlings who were kicked out of ZANU-PF, Khaya-Moyo survived the boot following his “repentance”. Instead of replacing him, President Robert Mugabe opted to have his two deputies – Vice Presidents Phelekezela Mphoko and Mnangagwa – to assume the duties of the national chairman on a rotational basis.
Since 1987, when ZANU and ZAPU inked the Unity Accord, the chairmanship has been a preserve for former ZAPU cadres. Upon the signing of the Unity Accord, Joseph Msika became ZANU-PF’s new chairman.
And when he was elevated to the vice presidency, following the passing on of Joshua Nkomo in 1999, he was succeeded by John Landa Nkomo. And when Nkomo rose to the vice presidency to take up Msika’s position, following his death in 2009, Khaya-Moyo replaced him.
While this has been the case, it was really based on a gentlemen’s agreement as there are no constitutional provisions to support this. With the party’s Women League pushing for the observance of the quota system in the presidium, the adoption of their resolution would mean three possibilities. The first one would be to defer debate on the resolution to the party’s elective congress, due in 2019.
This appears to be President Mugabe’s preferred position.
At this week’s Politburo meeting, the ZANU-PF leader is said to have ruled out making any appointments at conference, despite the canvassing for positions that preceded the indaba.
Khaya Moyo this week appeared to be speaking the President’s mind when he reiterated the point that conference was not an elective congress.
He said: “I want to emphasise that this is not an elective conference. It is only congress which is elective. The President is the only one after the constitutional amendments last year who is elected and indeed we elected him. All of us are appointees whom he appoints at his pleasure”.
But being a master tactician that he is, it is difficult to tell with certainty if President Mugabe will stick to his word. In the past, there have been incidents when the ZANU-PF leader has gone with the flow, which means he may go back on his word if there is sufficient gravitas to sway him.
In the event that the first possibility fails, President Mugabe, who is the sole appointing authority in ZANU-PF, might appoint one of the Women’s league’s members as the national chairman so that he doesn’t divide his party further.
In doing this, he might choose to consult with the Women’s League leadership, headed by his wife, Grace Mugabe, or make a unilateral appointment. Whichever way, as the secretary for Women’s Affairs, the First Lady would be a shoo-in for the position unless she recommends a trusted lieutenant like Eunice Sandi Moyo, to take up the post.
Yet another option available to President Mugabe would be to demote one of his deputies to the national chairmanship to make way for woman vice president.
Given the fluid situation in ZANU-PF, this would be a risky adventure, fraught with intended and unintended consequences. While this might kill the vestiges of factionalism in the aftermath of Mujuru’s ouster, this option would see ZANU-PF losing the support of those who were rooting for one of the deputies to succeed President Mugabe.
In our previous reports, it had been speculated that Mphoko would be safe should this be the case. This was based on the fact that his elevation to the presidium was based on the Unity Accord, which stipulates that one of the vice presidents be a former ZAPU cadre.
This week, ZANU-PF insiders said none of the two Vice Presidents would be safe in the event that this option becomes untenable. In Mpoko’s case, President Mugabe would simply handpick a woman replacement from the former ZAPU slate.
Should he decide on sidelining Mnangagwa, all he would need to do is to find a replacement that maintains his delicate tribal balancing act. As of this week, there were frantic efforts by G40 to have the position of national chairperson revived. Contacted for comment on Tuesday, Khaya Moyo said the party would stick to an already laid out programme.
“We have said that the conference will be strictly about economic revival. There will be no room for any politicking at the conference. Even the Politburo emphasised that on its meeting on Monday and I have appraised the Press already to that effect,” he said.
The women’s quota system was dealt away with at last year’s congress when Mnangagwa and Mphoko were appointed into the presidium following Mujuru’s dismissal. Mujuru had been the only beneficiary of the quota system when she was appointed vice president in 2004 ahead of Mnangagwa, who was her fiercest rival.
Political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, is also on his tenterhooks.
War veterans, led by Christopher Mutsvangwa, are viciously lobbying for his ouster, and his replacement by a cadre with liberation war credentials. While ZANU-PF youths in the Midlands province are with the war veterans on this one, their resolution has suffered a stillbirth after it was thrown out by their national leadership, which is pro-Kasukuwere.
From the look of it, Kasukuwere is likely to survive another day.
Another interesting thing to watch at conference, which opened on Tuesday and is due to close on Sunday, is how the party would deal with its unfinished business.
At its sixth congress in December 2014, ZANU-PF passed a resolution to amend its constitution to provide for representatives from the war veterans, war collaborators, ex-detainees and ex-restrictees in all party structures.
To date, this has not been effected.
Former liberation war fighters are therefore pushing hard to have all party structures, including the powerful governing organ, the Politburo, reconfigured. Financial Gazette