HARARE – In an intriguing turn to the factional wars ravaging Zanu PF, President Robert Mugabe now faces re-election at a special congress to be convened by the party in December at which new faces could emerge in the party’s top echelons, the Daily News can exclusively report.
The extraordinary congress, according to Zanu PF insiders, will replace the national people’s conference that had been scheduled for Gwanda, the capital for Matabeleland South, in the same month.
They said it has become necessary for the party to go back to its membership to select a leadership capable of work together harmoniously to deliver victory at the 2018 polls. This, they said, has been necessitated by the volatile situation obtaining in the party as a result of the factional fights between rival groups — Generation 40 (G40) and Team Lacoste.
In terms of its constitution, an extraordinary session of congress may be convened whenever it is deemed necessary and at the instance of the majority of the members of the central committee or the president and first secretary.
It can also be held at the instance of not less than one third of members of its policy-making organ — the central committee — or its president. Alternatively, it can be convened at the instance of at least five provincial executive councils by resolutions to that effect.
On receipt of a resolution requesting an extraordinary session of congress, Mugabe will have to forward the same to the secretary for administration who, in this case, is Ignatius Chombo — now the Finance minister.
Upon receipt of the said resolution, the secretary for administration shall give at least six weeks’ notice, convening an extraordinary session of congress. At this instance, the central committee will formulate the necessary procedures for the execution of the business of the special session of congress.
Three-quarters of the members of congress shall form a quorum for the convening of the session.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said the decision about the special congress could be made today by the politburo, which sits in Harare today.
“I am not sure whether the event has been moved from Gwanda but will wait to be told about any changes at the politburo meeting tomorrow (today),” said Khaya Moyo.
Zanu PF Matabeleland South chairperson Rabelani Chonei declined to comment over the phone.
He said: “I am afraid of commenting on the issue over the phone. I would rather we talk about it face to face. And I am afraid to comment about preparations for the conference”.
In terms of its current constitution, the only elected position in the governing party is that of president and first secretary: The rest are appointees, serving at the pleasure of the president.
Unless there are amendments to be passed at congress, only Mugabe’s position will be contested. The rest will be appointed by the elected president.
It has, however, become the tradition in Zanu PF that provinces queue up to endorse Mugabe, uncontested, well before congress. This has had the effect of reducing Zanu PF’s congresses to rubber-stamping events, accompanied by a lot of eating and dancing.
This was the case during the 2014 congress which gave Mugabe the authority to appoint his team through controversial amendments that were sponsored by rivals of former vice president Joyce Mujuru.
During that congress, Mujuru lost her position of 10 years to Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is one of the bigwigs in Zanu PF facing an uncertain future at the elective congress.
Analysts opined yesterday that the Cabinet reshuffle announced by Mugabe on Monday was a precursor to the elective congress where the likes of Mnangagwa could meet their waterloo.
On Monday, Mugabe promoted his perceived loyalists into influential positions while demoting and sidelining those suspected of siding with the vice president.
United Kingdom-based political expert Alex Magaisa said Mugabe likes to avoid the impression of being the hangman.
“He wants Mnangagwa’s demise to be administered by the organs of the party, even though by the time it happens it would be a fait accompli,” said Magaisa.
“He will argue that it is not his own doing, but that of the party. The Cabinet reshuffle will be used to prepare ground for the conference by ensuring that those appointed or retained are grateful for his benevolence. The payback will be to make sure they do his bidding,” he added.
Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst, said anything was possible with Mugabe.
“His wife staged a bedroom coup. It looks like everything is planned to boot out Ngwena (Mnangagwa) and have (Defence minister Sydney) Sekeramayi, Grace and (Vice President Phelekezela) Mphoko as VPs,” he said.
Zanu PF insiders told the Daily News that party structures had been directed to prepare for the congress in December which is seen putting into effect a quota system being lobbied for by the powerful women’s league.
In 2015, during the party’s annual conference held in Victoria Falls, the women’s league passed a resolution to the effect that a woman should be appointed to the post of vice president.
Two years down the line, that resolutions is still to be implemented thus putting pressure on Mugabe to grand the women’s league request.
Spokesperson of the league, Sarah Ncube, told the Daily News yesterday that they still stand by their 2015 resolutions.
Should that be the case, the women’s league will nominate someone from within its ranks for consideration by Mugabe. It would, however, remain to be seen if the league would settle on Mugabe’s wife, Grace, or another nominee.
Significantly, Grace was not given any ministerial post in the new Cabinet in a development that analysts said could be ominous.
The quota system has caused anxious moments to both serving vice presidents — Mnangagwa and Mphoko — in the sense that one of them might have to be jettisoned from his position.
Mphoko owes his position to the 1987 Unity Accord signed between Zanu and Zapu. It reserves one of the two vice presidency positions to a member of Zapu.
Mphoko can only be assured of retaining his position in the event that the women’s nominee is not from Zapu.
Similarly, Mnangagwa will have every reason to worry should it happen that the nominee is from the Zanu side of the Unity Accord.
There is, however, another school of thought in Zanu PF that says with elections in the horizon, Mugabe may not want to rock the boat.
He is therefore, seen expanding his deputies to three.
In July, he hinted at a party meeting that he was toying with the idea of appointing a third vice president after his wife challenged him to name a successor.
When he took to the podium, Mugabe vacillated, first telling his audience to follow procedures and write to the politburo so that the issue would be discussed at central committee level, before suggesting an amendment to the party’s rules to allow for three deputy presidents.
“We came here to listen and we have been good listeners,” he said, referring to himself in plural.
“We have heard your complaints and recommendations.
“We hope you will write to the politburo and allow this to be discussed at central committee level.
“As a party, we cannot afford to ignore your recommendations.
“We are sorry if the women’s league is offended (by the delay) and we shall stop it,” he said.