ON DECEMBER 2, Zanu PF will start a make or break congress that will have a bearing towards the future of the country.
REPORT BY MOSES MATENGA
Observers say the congress was important as it would probably be the last with President Robert Mugabe as leader hence the need for rivals to correctly position themselves to succeed the 90-year-old leader who has been at the helm for 34 years.
The real fight is between Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa whose camps have rolled up sleeves ready for the biggest fight of their lifetime to eventually become Zimbabwe’s number one.
While the fight has been on, it was First Lady Grace Mugabe’s position on Mnangagwa last week that has left many almost convinced that the Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs could be finally rewarded for loyalty and respect for Mugabe.
Since Grace claimed that she was the one who pushed for Mujuru’s elevation to the position of VP in 2004, observers questioned whether her naming of Mnangagwa meant that she was about to do the same on the Zanu PF strongman, slyly referred to as “Ngwena” in political circles.
The intense fighting between Ngwena and Mujuru has sharply divided the party’s internal structures from the grassroots, MPs, Cabinet ministers, Politubro members, war veterans and ordinary supporters with all indicative of a party swimming in a deep-rooted and untenable crisis.
Grace told thousands of war veterans and collaborators at the Mazowe Children’s Home on Thursday that Mnangagwa deserved to be respected for being man enough to pave way for Mujuru to become VP despite having eight provinces nominating him for the top post.
“People should respect Mnangagwa, he was voted by eight provinces to be VP, but he did the honourable thing and let Mai Mujuru take the post,” Grace said.
Grace’s utterances were questioned by many who said Mnangagwa’s allies had mobilised provincial chairpersons to meet in Tsholotsho to defy Mugabe’s decision. The infamous Tsholotsho meeting claimed the scalps of several Zanu PF bigwigs who included Daniel Shumba, Jacob Mudenda, Mike Madiro, to name just a few.
Mnangagwa himself was demoted to become the Minister of Social Amenities after the debacle.
War veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda yesterday questioned Grace’s utterances describing them as lies that could not be authenticated.
“It’s a lie because that never happened. It is President Mugabe who chairs meetings and do you mean the President robbed,” Sibanda said.
He also said he would not attend any rallies to attack a Vice-President as was being done by the pro-Mnangagwa allies.
While Mnangagwa has not been vocal in pushing to take up the VP’s post, loyalists have been pushing his name into the ring with his wife on Saturday saying it was time for him to take the post.
“He is a very soft man even at home he does not shout, he is calculative and at times he can let you jump around or go forward, but he will finally get to the point,” she said.
She is reported to have said that Mujuru got the post with only two nominations compared to Mnangagwa’s eight hence it was now time for her to leave and for Mnangagwa to take the post.
Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena said that Mnangagwa was head of government business in Parliament and leading in so many ways, an indication of trust the President has in him.
Wadyajena said Mnangagwa was loyal to the party and the President hence deserved to be respected as was said by Grace.
“Next week, we will have a special visitor. He is running the government because it has three arms of which all are under him. He is the Justice minister and heads the Judiciary for advising government and advises government on all legal matters. In Parliament he is the leader and everyone is under him.
“Everyone who is an MP reports to him from the VP downwards. He is head of government business in the House,” Wadyajena said.
“He is secretary for legal affairs meaning any law has to pass through him at party level and it shows President has so much confidence in him considering praises heaped by the First Lady on him,” he said.
Wadyajena added that Mnangagwa was a man of integrity and unquestionable loyalty to the Party and the President, but was quick to accuse some people who take advantage of his generosity by abusing his name for selfish gains.
Commenting on the Constitution and succession in the event of a President leaving office either by death, resignation or removal in a monograph entitled, The Making of the New Zimbabwe Constitution, former advisor to former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Alex Magaisa said: “Under the running mates system of Presidential election, Section 101 provides that if the President dies, resigns or is removed from office then the first VP takes over until the expiry of that term of office.
The second VP becomes the first VP and the new President must appoint a new person as the second VP. However, like the running mates clause, these provisions were also suspended for the first 10 years.”
But, Magaisa added that Section 14 (4)(b) of the Sixth Schedule provides that if the President dies, resigns or is removed from office, the vacancy is filled by a nominee of the political party which was represented by the President when he stood for election.
“This means that if any of the three possible scenarios happened during the current term, Zanu PF would nominate a person to take over and complete the Presidential term.
“The critical point to note here is that it is not automatic that Vice-President Joice Mujuru would take over as President which would have been the case had Section 101 been applicable.
Instead, it is up to Zanu PF to sit down as a party and select a candidate using their own processes and this person is then nominated to become the President for the remainder of the current term of office.”
“This explains the tussle now because it is clear that Mugabe might want to rest anytime and these people want to position themselves,” said Tendai Mupamhanga, a political commentator.
Analyst Blessing Vava said: “It’s clear the First Lady belongs to the Mnangagwa faction and she is being used by that faction.”
“People attending her functions are known Mnangagwa allies, but it’s early for us to say that her statement on Mnangagwa meant he was automatically going to take the post,” Vava said.
Zanu PF insiders, however, said Mnangagwa now had an edge against Mujuru given the Vice-President’s alleged close links with the West as exposed by whistleblower website Wikileaks where she is said to have met former United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray under the cover of darkness at a secluded place out of Harare to discuss party and government business.
“There are two VP vacant posts as we speak. We will know the way forward after this week’s politburo meeting,” a senior government official said last week.
“Where do you think all the people in Zanu PF who are attacking Mujuru are getting all that power from? It is clear that with her, the country is at risk, we don’t want to go back to the pre-1980 era and there is a feeling that she can take us there as it seems like she has a soft spot for the West.”
The source added: “Zimbabwe cannot go back to that era before 1980. We want someone who will protect the revolution of the country, but with her, we can’t trust.”
Though Mnangagwa and Mujuru both had respect in the party, it was Mnangagwa’s loyalty to Mugabe that his loyalists say would make him Mugabe’s favourite.
He, like Mujuru has served in government since 1980 previously as Minister of Security, Justice, Defence, Housing and Social Amenities and Speaker of Parliament even after losing his seat in Kwekwe in 2000.
The Chirumanzi–Zibagwe MP, observers say played a critical role in ensuring Mugabe’s victory in the last harmonised elections and surprised many when he sat next to the veteran leader at a rare Press briefing arranged on the eve of the polls.
Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s chief election agent during the 2008 presidential election, and it was reported that he headed Mugabe’s campaign behind the scenes.
While Mujuru’s alleged links with the West could deal her a blow, Mnangagwa is said not to have a “social base” unlike Mujuru since he was knocked out of his Kwekwe base by MDC-T’s Blessing Chebundo in 2000.
Though he is perceived as ruthless by many, Mnangagwa, in an interview with a foreign publication, Mnangagwa said: “I don’t know where all this ‘hardman’ stuff comes from at all, and I keep having to tell my children that it’s all nonsense.”
Whether Grace’s statement on Mnangagwa meant anything, only time will tell.