THE ZANU-PF Women’s League will ratchet up pressure on President Robert Mugabe upon his return from the Middle East, where he is on his traditional annual holiday, to expedite the appointment of a female vice president — setting the stage for a nail-biting race to succeed the incumbent in the event that he decides on quitting active politics, the Financial Gazette can exclusively report.
The veteran ZANU-PF leader is expected back home next week.
At the party’s national people’s conference held in the resort town of Victoria Falls last month, the Women’s League — chaperoned by First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe — agitated for the return of the quota system to allow one of its members to sit in the presidium — consisting of the President and his two deputies.
In the resolutions announced by the wing’s deputy, Eunice Sandi-Moyo, the organ wants the male-dominated top hierarchy of ZANU-PF to observe gender parity in line with both the national Charter and international best practices.
The resolutions were neither adopted nor debated at conference as President Mugabe tactfully avoided potentially divisive agendas that could have further weakened his fractious party.
The adoption of the resolution would be a game-changer in the race to succeed President Mugabe.
It would mean that either Emmerson Mnangagwa or Phelekezela Mphoko would have to be withdrawn from the presidium to create space for a female vice president.
As the sole appointing authority in ZANU-PF, President Mugabe is the only person with the pieces for the jig-saw puzzle.
This week, the Women’s League claimed to have settled for a candidate already, although it could not disclose her name.
Sarah Mahoka, the organ’s secretary for finance, said they will present their case to President Mugabe as soon as he sets foot in the country.
“There is no turning back on that issue,” said Mahoka.
“We have already given conference feedbacks to our respective provinces and everyone is excited about the idea that we are once again going to have women at the top. Everything is set. Conference adopted it and what remains is its implementation,” she added.
The league was last represented at presidium level by former vice president Joice Mujuru, who became the first beneficiary of the quota system in 2004.
Ironically, Mujuru’s ascendancy was at the expense of Mnangagwa, whose game plan went off rails after the adoption of the quota system in 2004.
And when Mujuru fell-out with her former colleagues in ZANU-PF months before the December 2014 congress, the system was discarded in the rush to banish her from the party.
Mujuru, along with her acolytes, were given their marching orders late 2014 for plotting to unseat President Mugabe, who has been at the helm of ZANU-PF since 1975.
Up to today many more alleged Mujuru loyalists face the boot as the unending purge continues.
With Mujuru out of the picture, Mnangagwa had the last laugh when he was elevated by President Mugabe from the position of secretary for legal affairs to Vice President.
A few months into his position, he is facing possibly the sternest test in his political career.
For the women’s demands to succeed, ZANU-PF’s legal department, headed by Patrick Chinamasa, himself a lawyer, would have to amend the party’s constitution to bring back the clause.
A group of young Turks in the party, code-named Generation 40, or simply G40, have rallied behind the Women’s League in order to derail Mnangagwa’s chances of succeeding the incumbent.
Prior to the Victoria Falls conference, a total of five provinces, out of the country’s 10, had endorsed the move.
But information reaching the Financial Gazette suggests that far from Mahoka’s declarations, ZANU-PF has no official position on the issue yet.
In fact, the party is still to instruct its legal department to effect the amendments to its constitution.
ZANU-PF deputy secretary for legal affairs, Paul Mangwana, this week said the legal department has not made any move, in so far as the amendment of the constitution that would restore the enabling clause.
He said there was no such resolution at present.
“The legal department will only act once it has been given an instruction by the party. That (restoration of the women’s quota), is still a just a proposal by the Women’s League, which is still not yet a resolution,” he said.
ZANU-PF insiders said the resolution will face hurdles in the legal department, where Mnangagwa, a lawyer by training, wields enormous influence as the most senior legal mind in the party.
Mnangagwa’s allies plainly believe that it should be his equal, Mphoko, who should give way instead.
They are premising their argument on the basis that the 1987 Unity Accord, which brought together ZANU and ZAPU parties and created the dual vice presidency, should take effect and since the former ZANU side has already supplied a female vice president in Mujuru, before, it is the turn of the former ZAPU side to return the gesture.
Only on such terms are they willing to accept the move, but whether or not that intellectual argument will succeed is for time to tell.
Mahoka hit back this week saying that women were being irritated by the department’s slow pace.
“We won’t wait for Chinamasa, zvedu ndezve action ka baba (we believe in action). Like I said, vaMugabe heard us and nothing will stop us. Everyone in the party wants a woman in the presidium,” she charged, adding: “Even the female animals want that. Were you not there (at conference) when all the VPs (Vice Presidents) shouted and danced in praise when this resolution was read at the conference?
“Even if they say give us that woman you want to occupy the position of VP in one hour, we will gladly supply her. We already have that candidate and she already has accepted it,” she said, flatly refusing to reveal the identity of the woman.
Speculation has, however, been that the First Lady is the one poised to take over although some have also suggested Senate President, Edna Madzongwe.
In that respect, Mahoka only said: “We want a peace-loving woman who has demonstrated great care for women and who understands women’s issues beyond reproach.”
She also denied reports that the women were particularly targeting Mnangagwa.
“We have no leverage on that. The President is the sole appointing authority. Our job is only to call on him to appoint a woman in that position. At whose expense, we do not care,” she stated, a point, however, no Mnangagwa ally is prepared to buy as his camp readies for such a possible eventuality.
Contacted for comment, party spokesman, Simon Khaya-Moyo, said the conference resolution will be tabled at the next Politburo meeting.
The Politburo formulates and decides policy for ZANU-PF.
Its members are appointed by the President.
Asked to explain the delays, Khaya-Moyo said: “The committee responsible for compilation of the resolutions was not ready at the time, so they were given more time to do that.” -Fingaz