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A SURPRISE resolution by the ruling ZANU-PF party’s Mashonaland Central province is seen giving President Robert Mugabe the ammunition he has been desperately looking for to end factionalism, which has left his party extremely vulnerable with only less than two years before the make-or-break polls in 2018, the Financial Gazette can report.
President Mugabe will descend in Masvingo for the party’s 16th annual people’s conference as the only heavyweight in ZANU-PF’s presidium with a secure job, having received the thumbs up from the 10 political provinces to represent the party as their presidential candidate in the 2018 elections in which he is likely to face his long-time deputy-turned foe, Joice Mujuru, following their nasty fall out in 2014.
A resolution by Mashonaland Central — the bedrock of ZANU-PF’s support — pushing for the amendment of the party’s constitution to allow members to vote for President Mugabe’s two deputies in the same way they voted for the party leader, would mean that none of the bigwigs in the presidium, with the exception of the incumbent, is safe in the event that the resolution is adopted at the conference.
President Mugabe and his two deputies, Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, constitute the party’s presidium.
Before the 2014 congress, the national chairman of the party was part of the presidium, but the functions allocated to that position are now being exercised by the two Vice Presidents on a rotational basis in what was supposed to end the ugly factional fights that had broken out in ZANU-PF.
Political observers opined this week that the ball was now essentially in President Mugabe’s court who, as the party’s first secretary and president, has the discretion to determine what goes into the conference’s agenda. That in itself, according to observers, presents the ZANU-PF leader with a perfect opportunity to strike factionalism in the head by decisively dealing with the « mischief makers ».
ZANU-PF is currently torn between two factions that are embroiled in a bitter contestation to influence President Mugabe’s succession.
Before the 2014 congress, the two factions were led by Mujuru, the former vice president, and Mnangagwa who, at the time, was in charge of the party’s legal portfolio in the Politburo.
Mujuru could not survive a ruthless purge that uprooted her foot-soldiers across the party’s political provinces going into the congress. She, along with her key allies, were dismissed from ZANU-PF and government for plotting to unseat President Mugabe, unconstitutionally.
But that did not destroy factionalism in the party. Another faction, going by the moniker Generation 40 (G40) emerged immediately after the congress to frustrate Mnangagwa’s bid to replace President Mugabe whenever he so decides to retire.
None of the perceived faction leaders have admitted their role in the internecine infighting rocking ZANU-PF.
In July this year, Mnangagwa distanced himself from the so-called Team Lacoste, which is alleged to be propping up his interests.
A quartet comprising ZANU-PF Politburo members namely: Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere and Patrick Zhuwao, President Mugabe’s nephew, has also denied purported links to G40.
Nonetheless, the infighting has spiralled out of control to the point of paralysing both the party’s business and the workings of government at a time when the country is faced with an economic crisis of gigantic proportions.
Last week, the ZANU-PF leader acknowledged the existence of the two factions – Team Lacoste and G40.
He warned against successionist politics, saying those plotting to take-over from him should rather redirect their energies to working for development.
It now appears that the ZANU-PF leader could have the last laugh at the five-day conference to be held in Masvingo between December 13 and 17.
On Tuesday, Dickson Mafios, the Mashonaland Central provincial chairman, said the region had resolved to push for the amendment of the constitution to allow members to vote for vice presidents in the same way they voted for the President.
He said the current situation, created after the party expelled Mujuru, was not democratic, adding that Mashonaland Central felt the one-centre-of-power principle was not beneficial to anyone because those appointed by the party’s President under this concept were not protecting his integrity.
« The one centre of power concept came from us and we can have it altered. We are saying we want alterations. The President is an elected official, why not the vice presidents? It’s an appeal which we are putting before the party and we want the vice presidents to be elected with at least one of them being a woman, » said Mafios.
Mnangagwa and Mphoko were appointed into their current positions by President Mugabe in 2014.
Mphoko’s appointment was in line with the 1987 Unity Accord signed between President Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, now late, which obligates ZANU-PF to accommodate a former ZAPU cadre as one of the two Vice Presidents.
In terms of the ZANU-PF constitution, the power to amend the constitution rests with the Central Committee, subject to ratification by congress.
It is either that any member of the party supported by 50 other members or any organ of ZANU-PF may propose or move a motion for the amendment of the constitution provided they follow proper procedures.
It would appear that the resolution by Mashonaland Central is in sync with last year’s plans by the ZANU-PF Women’s League to remove one of the Vice Presidents and replace him with a woman.
Also, Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister, Mandi Chimene, demanded sometime this year that an extraordinary congress be convened to deal with Mnangagwa if President Mugabe was hesitant to fire him.
This was after the President had been fingered for stoking factional fires in the party.
It therefore appears that the proposal from Mashonaland Central fits into this plan notwithstanding the fact that President Mugabe has previously indicated that he has been with Mnangagwa for so many years that he would unlikely conspire against his deputy.
Perceived G40 members are also under pressure, especially in the wake of corruption allegations against Moyo and Kasukuwere, and allegations of incompetence against Zhuwao.
Team Lacoste wants the conference to flush out those fingered in acts of corruption in a bid to weaken G40.
Amid the conflicting pressures, it is now up to President Mugabe to decide in which direction the pendulum should swing.
There were indications that Mashonaland Central province’s resolution was unlikely to succeed given that there is insufficient time before the party conference to allow for constitutional amendments to effect the proposals. But precedent suggests that anything that has the backing of President Mugabe would find support from members and sail through regardless of constitutional provisions.
All the 10 provinces met to deliberate on their conference resolutions at the weekend, with Mashonaland Central providing the most contentious resolution after its inter-district meeting in Bindura.
G40 currently controls party structures after it successfully purged Mnangagwa’s allies this year. They could use that numerical advantage to spring surprises at the conference.
Team Lacoste members are accusing G40 of designing the latest scheme simply to target Mnangagwa, saying their rivals were seeking to challenge President Mugabe’s appointing authority. They accused Kasukuwere, who comes from Mashonaland Central, of orchestrating the resolution.
But Kasukuwere said he had nothing to do with the proposal.
« I have nothing to do with the resolution. (Yes), I come from the province (but) I do not meddle in provincial issues; I am a national leader. I do not make the resolutions; the resolutions are made by the people so it’s nonsense to believe I influence their decision, » he charged.
He also denied reports that the resolution was specifically targeted at Mnangagwa saying: « I thought it was a resolution by the province to conference. Let conference handle it. After all, we have not received resolutions from the provinces. We will receive them on Friday then we consolidate. »
Kasukuwere has come under fire from Team Lacoste functionaries, including war veterans, who want him fired.
They accuse him of orchestrating the purge of Mnangagwa’s allies from the party, among them the leadership of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association.
The entire leadership of the war veterans was shown the exit door by ZANU-PF in July this year after they questioned its leadership.
ZANU-PF’s deputy secretary for legal affairs, Paul Mangwana, who is believed to be a Mnangagwa ally, poured cold water on prospects of the resolution succeeding.
« The changes will have to go through the party’s legal machinery. So at the moment, we are simply hearing so many propositions being made, but we are not in any way tweaking with the existing party constitution, » said Mangwana.
He said ZANU-PF would need to convene a special congress to make constitutional changes required by Mashonaland Central’s resolution; this could not be done by the forthcoming conference.
Political scientist, Ibbo Mandaza, said Mashonaland Central’s overture was a direct challenge on Mnangagwa’s position in the party.
« They are targeting Emmerson. They are hoping that through elections they may be able to boot him out … It’s part of the succession fight, especially given that G40 has regrouped, » he said.
But another political scientist, Eldred Masunungure, said it was very curious that Mashonaland Central had only requested for the revision of the selection of the Vice Presidents only, leaving out other structures such as the Politburo whose members are also handpicked.
« It was very unwise and imprudent for Mashonaland Central to make that recommendation. It’s an extreme move… There might be undercurrents, although it can be read as a challenge to the President’s powers. If Mashonaland Central wanted to be taken seriously they should have challenged the whole constitution. For example, everyone in the Politburo must be elected rather than confine their resolution to one layer of the party structure… It doesn’t make sense. It should be applicable to all levels and not just the Vice Presidents. As it is, it is designed to affect one layer of the party structure. However, in the absence of explicit reference to those undercurrents it (resolution) represents a challenge to the President’s powers… but it’s a challenge that has not been made in good faith, » said Masunungure.