Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was, as expected, elected Zanu-PF president at the party’s congress which ended on Saturday night but he immediately violated the party constitution which empowers him to appoint politburo members and members of the presidium during the sitting of congress, by failing to do so.
It was however a family affair as Mugabe appointed his wife Grace, to head the women’s league, giving her an automatic ticket in the powerful Zanu-PF politburo.
As things stand, only Mugabe and his wife are guaranteed seats in the politburo. Mugabe announced he would make other appointments by Thursday.
Article 8 section 40 of the Zanu-PF constitution, which deals with the appointment of politburo members reads: “Soon after the election of the president and the first secretary and members of the central committee, the president and first secretary of the party shall, during the sitting of congress, appoint from the newly elected central committee, two vice presidents and second secretaries, the national chairperson, the heads of departments of the politburo, the committee members of the politburo and the deputies to the heads of department”.
Previously Mugabe’s deputies, who are also State deputy presidents, were elected upon nomination by six of the country’s ten provinces.
Amending the constitution
Congress however approved recommendations by the politburo to amend the constitution to give Mugabe power to make all appointments, but Mugabe said he needed more time.
“I could not rush to choose people. I would want time to look at the new names, new people that have come into the central committee and see which hands we could put to the politburo,” he told delegates.
“…I haven’t seen what the provinces gave us. I don’t want to rush it, so be patient. By mid next week, by Wednesday or Thursday, we will make an announcement. We will let you know because we cannot go far. We will have to choose the two vice presidents and the chairman, and the secretary, one who is in charge of our secretariat, the job (Didymus) Mutasa was doing.”
Mugabe, who turns 91 in February, was elected despite age evidently taking its toll on him. He shocked the 12 000 delegates when he unwittingly denounced his party through sloganeering “Pasi neZanu PF (Down with Zanu-PF)” while giving a speech.
Mugabe also got carried away when he took to the stage to dissolve the old central committee and instead started lecturing delegates about the liberation struggle. Grace intervened by writing a note advising him to take his seat, but after reading the note, he announced to delegates that his wife had advised to stop talking, leaving her embarrassed.
“My wife has written a note; she says I’m talking too much. That’s how I am treated even at home, so I must listen,” he said.
As was also expected, Mugabe dumped Joice Mujuru and her close allies effectively ending her presidential ambitions. Some delegates however felt that the party was weaker after Mugabe sidelined the vice president and some influential members of the party.
After failing to make the central committee, Mujuru’s fate was in Mugabe’s hands as he has the privilege of naming ten people of his choice into the body, from where politburo members and members of the presidium are chosen.
He however chose to dump Mujuru and her key allies such as presidential affairs minister, Didymus Mutasa, labor minister Nicholas Goche, energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, information communication technology minister Wester Shamu, education minister, Lazarus Dokora, indigenisation minister Francis Nhema and ministers of state Sylvester Nguni and Flora Bhuka.
He surprised many by extending an olive branch to tourism minister Walter Mzembi, foreign affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, deputy information minister Supa Mandiwanzira and politburo members Sikhanyiso Ndlovu and Abasalom Sikhosana who were in the Mujuru camp. They were among Mugabe’s ten central committee nominees.
Mujuru, Mutasa, and Goche did not attend the congress.
Mugabe appeared angry that Mujuru and her closest allies boycotted the congress and said they had expelled themselves from the central committee and politburo because of their no show.
“Some have already chosen, through their own irregular acts, to bid us farewell. Those who are not here have said goodbye to us. I don’t see us having them back in the central committee,” he said.
Mugabe said Mujuru and other senior officials who fell at congress would be ordinary members of the party. He said they should use their time on the sidelines to learn what Zanu-PF is about.
“We are not sending them away, no, except for those we expelled. But the others, if you don’t expel them and thus get them out of the central committee, get them out of the management of the provinces etcetera and say you can be an ordinary member. They will never be dismissed or expelled so they will become ordinary members,” he said.
“They will have more time to do their farming, to grow maize and potatoes. But if they seek to be members of the party, they must start to learn what Zanu-PF is, what to be a member of Zanu-PF means, (and know) what does Zanu-PF stands for.”
With Mujuru falling, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is now a firm favourite to land the first vice president’s position, although Zanu-PF officials say Mugabe could spring a surprise.
Grace, who took it upon herself to call for Mujuru’s ouster in the run up to the congress, has openly announced she prefers Mnangagwa to take over, which is a big boost for him.
The First Lady was accompanied by officials aligned to Mnangagwa during her countrywide tours where she decampaigned Mujuru, accusing her of being incompetent and corrupt among other things.
Zimbabwe’s former ambassador to South Africa Phelekezela Mphoko is the favourite to land the second vice president’s post although Simon Khaya Moyo, who was a favourite before Mujuru’s ouster is still in the running.
Speaker of the national assembly Jacob Mudenda is tipped to land the national chairperson’s position but some officials believe Oppah Muchinguri could be rewarded for campaigning for Grace by landing the secretary for administration’s position or one of the top posts.