Ignatius Chombo, ZANU PF Secretary for administration is making the case for a special congress citing in the main administrative reasons for calling the big ‘indaba’. He dismisses the narrative that has gained traction on social media, that Mugabe will seek to appoint or have a successor elected. Robert Mugabe centralised power on himself by amending the party constitution under the ‘one centre of power principle’ he can dismiss and appoint his entire team, including the vice presidents.
By Lloyd Msipa
There is no compelling argument for ZANU PF to hold an elective congress to discuss administrative issues like the voter’s registration or endorsing a person already endorsed as presidential candidate, that can still be done at a conference. Perhaps we need ask, whose ideas was it. Is this another example of Mugabe’s unilateral decision making in ZANUPF? As early as last week, the idea of a congress was not on the cards. Five days later we have a special congress in place, fast on the heels of a cabinet reshuffle. This elective congress has something to do with succession and security for the first family.
Let me hazard an explanation.
Firstly, congress is allowed to amend the party constitution and elect. The women’s league has since the arrival of ‘Dr Amai’ (Grace Mugabe) on the scene been agitating for a women Vice President, the constitution has to be amended for that to happen.
Secondly, the people who attend congress and make decisions must have the full mandate of their provinces. Most of the provincial leaders, except for Masvingo and the Midlands are not elected and are in an acting capacity, since the substantive provincial leaders were fired following the expulsion of Joyce Mujuru. Whilst ZANU PF would generally ignore its own constitution, the election of substantive provincial chairpersons is an issue they can’t ignore. So, it may well just be the case, that a decision to have a congress should trigger provincial elections.
ZANU PF factions, who benefits from provincial elections
It is on record that Robert Mugabe has adamantly despite pressure from all angles, including his wife refused to name a successor. He has argued that the person who succeeds him must come from the people, which means an elective congress. Grace Mugabe is scared to death of the prospects of anything happening to Robert Mugabe before ‘a first family friendly successor’ is in place. She fears the worst following the recent fall out with Emmerson Mnangagwa ‘Lacoste faction’
The recent Cabinet reshuffle side-lined all of Mnangagwa’s allies, whilst it elevated what most of us perceived to be G-40 functionaries. But that is not strictly true. This reshuffle saw the return of key Joyce Mujuru ‘Gamatox’ allies, Webster Shamu, as Minister of State for Mashonaland west and Dr Albert Chimedza, Minister of State for Masvingo province. This is a telling development. It muddies the succession matrix. They are told their demise is because of the ‘Lacoste’ onslaught that toppled Joyce Mujuru. However, they may not necessarily be sympathetic to the G40 case.
So, there are tensions in the party. There is great fear gripping the first family in terms of the implications of these tensions. ‘Bhora Musango’ cannot be ruled out and hence a special congress may be required to put the ducks in line ahead of the elections. So, it seems the winds of change are in the air. The cabinet reshuffle was the beginning, and they will be a series of changes by Mugabe from now on to align his personal strategic interests in ZANU PF
Emmerson Mnangagwa, down, but not out
Professor Jonathan Moyo likes to give the impression he is Mugabe’s trusted soldier. He is not as trusted as he lets us believe. I believe he needs to careful especially after Mugabe said, “we have judases amongst us”. Emmerson Mnangagwa’s politburo presentation exposed some of Professor Jonathan Moyo’s skeletons and it tells us there is a lot happening in the G40 camp. Some of it unorthodox and it leaves Mugabe vulnerable and if he is not careful it may “end in tears” as George Charamba once warned “kumagumo kwazvo pane nyaya’.
Of the ten ZANU PF provinces, only two have substantive provincial chairpersons. These are Masvingo and Midlands. They had their elections and pro ‘Lacoste’ chairpersons were elected. This leaves us with eight provinces. Let us also remember that the commissar Saviour Kasukuwere is not very popular with the structures. The demonstrations against Kasukuwere were real and the vote of no confidence came from decisions made at the provinces. Mugabe is aware of the contradictions in the provinces and hence the need to create certainty. The elective congress should trigger provincial elections in outstanding provinces.
The outcome of these provincial elections will fundamentally inform the succession matrix. It is these ten chairpersons that will largely influence the succession race and ultimately who gets chosen. The majority of acting chairpersons have in the past snubbed meetings called by Saviour Kasukuwere despite the fact that he put them there. Whilst this doesn’t translate into support for Emmerson Mnangagwa, it is instructive.
Women’s and Youth League in the front seat
When we speak of the shifting sands of the Zimbabwean political scene, ‘Dr Amai’ and youth leader Kudzanai Chipanga have been primary drivers. If we look back at the last couple of elections, it was the war veterans that played this role. They were the heartbeat of the party. They were the king makers and were largely responsible for the positive outcome of the elections. It is not a secret that Saviour Kasukuwere will face stiff resistance as he seeks to re-endear himself with the provinces following the past fall out.
For the ‘G40’ faction, it is important that the remaining eight provinces are under their control. The role of the youth league and ‘Dr Amai’ will be more visible as a frail Robert Mugabe slowly disappears into the background. The old man is not well and he is clearly tired, election campaigns are gruelling and there is a real risk of him collapsing on stage. This elective congress may well be used to put in place a ‘first family friendly’ running mate should the worst happen.
As the economy takes a down turn with bond note losing value against major currencies, coupled with foreign currency shortages and high unemployment, fertile grounds for ‘Bhora Musango’ exist. When you also consider that with the tensions in ZANU PF one can see the special congress as a defining moment for ZANU PF. The outcome will decide whether ZANU PF enters into the next election as one or not. Tied with that is Mugabe’s legacy and he knows it.
Lloyd Msipa is the Co-founder of Africa Public Policy Research Institute (APPRI). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org