Mnangagwa playing chase-games on third-term move

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IN a calculated power retention move, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, still toying with the possibility of a third-term presidential bid, has given the nod to a Zanu PF restructuring exercise of cell and village organs, which will likely be stuffed with his loyalists.

The grassroots structures are expected to trigger calls for the Zanu PF leader to stay in power beyond the Constitutional term limit, and force changes to the country’s supreme law.

An internal memorandum from national political commissar Mike Bimha dated April 16, 2024, and addressed to provincial chairpersons and commissars, spells out the roadmap to the eventual voting for the party’s primary organs across the country.

“Provinces are now instructed to commence restructuring of party cells and villages beginning with the convening of PCC (provincial coordinating committee) meetings during the weekend of May 4 and 5, 2024.

“The Commissariat Department shall deploy Politburo members to address these PCC meetings on how the restructuring programme shall be conducted,” said Bimha.

Following the scheduled PCC meetings, provinces are expected to call for inter-district indabas at all district coordinating committee (DCC) centres on May 11 and 12, 2024.

Nationwide inter-branch meetings will then be held the next weekend while the actual restructuring should effectively be done on May 20.

“The inter-branch meetings are very important in this whole programme since it is the branch executive committees that are finally going to physically carry out the actual restructuring of the cells and villages under their jurisdiction with supervision from the district, DCC and provincial leadership,” the commissar further stated.

Bimha reiterated that the polls shall be by way of secret ballot.

He added that newly-elected officebearers should be accorded the opportunity to conduct verification of members of their respective organs to flush out imposters.

Insinuating that his office will have the final say in who occupies the cell and village posts, Bimha said the Commissariat Department must be satisfied with how “meticulously” the programme is undertaken in each area.

Restructuring of cells and villages is preceding hotly-contested DCC elections, in which structures determine the Zanu PF provincial, and subsequently the national power matrix.

Mnangagwa has cautiously delayed the holding of DCC polls despite the expiry of the organs’ three-year term last year.

The political gamesmanship within Zanu PF is boiling under amid manoeuvering by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and his military backers to block Mnangagwa’s third-term ambition.

Chiwenga is said to harbour ambition to succeed Mnangagwa, who has lately recoiled and denied speculation he intends to extend his presidency.

During the 2023 elections, Mnangagwa sidelined the army and deployed the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO)-run Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ), to win the polls, fearing internal sabotage.

According to media reports, Chiwenga recently influenced key military appointments, including that of his closest ally Lieutenant-General Anselem Sanyatwe as Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) commander.

Mnangagwa had in 2019 removed Sanyatwe and posted him to Tanzania as ambassador amid purges of the military in the aftermath of the 2017 coup, which first brought him to power.

With Chiwenga on the political rise, scaffolded by the army, Mnangagwa is strategically denying he has intentions of running for a third term, but pointers are that he has a fantasy of extending his stay.

It remains a conundrum how Mnangagwa will stitch his plan without violating a constitutional provision which disqualifies a person “for election as President or appointment as Vice-President if he or she has already held office as President for two terms, whether continuous or not, and for the purpose of this subsection three or more years’ service is deemed to be a full term.”

Amending the Constitution requires a two-thirds parliamentary majority, which Zanu-PF now enjoys in Parliament.

However, section 328 (7) bars an incumbent from benefiting from such a constitutional change.

It says: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, an amendment to a term-limit provision the effect of which is to extend the length of time that a person may hold or occupy any public office, does not apply in relation to any person who held or occupied that office, or an equivalent office, at any time before the amendment.”

This means such a change can only benefit future Presidents. Besides, section 328 (7) can only be amended through a referendum as set out under section 328 (9) of the Constitution.