President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday appointed army generals to the Zanu PF politburo at the party’s special congress. The congress came a month after a military intervention forced former president Robert Mugabe out of power. The Standard Senior Reporter Xolisani Ncube (XN) caught up with Zanu PF secretary for Legal Affairs, Paul Mangwana (PM) to discuss the legality of the move by Mnangagwa to appoint serving generals and its implications on the forthcoming general elections, among other issues. Below are excerpts from the interview.
By Xolisani Ncube
XN: A special Zanu PF central committee meeting on November 19 resolved to end the one centre of power which gave former president Robert Mugabe sweeping powers. Did Friday’s congress adopt this resolution?
PM: We removed that, just that you did not hear it being announced but the bottom line and crucial point is that it should not have even been there in the first place. The issue of a one centre of power is a promotion of dictatorship which generally I don’t subscribe to. Power is derived from the people and exercised through the same way. Those people who were pushing for one centre of power did not want democracy in Zanu PF.
XN: But we saw the president appointing his politburo and said he would soon be appointing his deputies. The assumption is that in a democracy, people would be elected into these positions by Zanu PF structures.
PM: He [the president] is constitutionally empowered to appoint his management team which would help him deliver on his mandate. You don’t expect him to deliver with a team that does not share his vision. He has to appoint his management. Zanu PF structures elect members of the central committee, which at law is the highest decision-making body between congresses and it is from that pool that the president picks his appointments to make his management team — the politburo. What was said yesterday [Friday] is that the executive power of the party rests with the president and the central committee.
XN: What about the issue of electing VPs as was the norm before?
PM: No, it’s no longer there in practice and was not even in the constitution. It was being practised illegally. If you were to allow the president to appoint VPs for government, why not allow the same to happen at party level? The fundamental thing here is that he appoints from the elected central committee members and these people represent the Zanu PF membership.
XN: Mnangagwa spoke about free and fair elections but many people are sceptical given the military element in the party and government. How feasible is a free and fair election under such an arrangement?
PM: Very feasible my brother and we are going to achieve it. People need not worry about violence or anything. We shall have free and fair elections next year.
XN: We have seen generals getting key positions in the party, a move that makes it appear as the militarisation of the party. Is Zanu PF being militarised now?
PM: Being a soldier is employment and you are paid for that but your political affiliation is a conscious decision which one makes based on various reasons and aspirations. When one joins the military, it does not mean they no longer have a political conscience. In America they had Collin Powell as secretary for state, a former military person and people glorify that. When it is done in Zimbabwe it’s an issue, come on guys, we have better things to do. Besides, those guys are not life soldiers but are Zanu PF members who were just in the military and they have decided to join civilian politics.
XN: Mnangagwa’s advisor, Chris Mutsvangwa told the extraordinary congress that Zanu PF would use the army to campaign for them in next year’s elections. What is that supposed to mean? Could that be the explanation behind the appointment of senior military personnel in the party?
PM: I personally don’t subscribe to that notion of having or using the military in the forthcoming elections. Zanu PF has the capacity to win the elections without the military. We don’t have an opposition to talk about in any case, so why use the military?
XN: But Mutsvangwa said it in broad daylight, everyone heard it that next year, war veterans and the army will be together campaigning for Zanu PF.
PM: I did not hear that part but in any case, it would be unnecessary to use the army.
XN: You did not hear it or you are choosing to act as if you did not hear what Mutsvangwa said? Anyway let’s move on…
PM: I am being honest. I did not hear that, and as I said, we will win the election without the use of the army. We have the capacity to campaign and win as Zanu PF through its civilian structures.
XN: The Zanu PF women’s league had resolved that one of the VPs should be a woman and this resolution seemed to have gained support. Are we still likely to see that happening? Was the resolution adopted by congress or did it die with the former regime?
PM: I don’t want to talk about appointments of VPs but what I know is we have made strides in uplifting women in the presidium. The president has made strides which are welcome and would help grow the party. As you are aware, one of the top party members is now a woman, we have a woman as national chairperson of the party. The presidium is made up of the president, his two deputies and the national chair and there we have a woman. I think this is a positive move which will certainly bring stability and growth in the party.
XN: The resolution was to have a VP who is a woman, not just in the presidium.
PM: As I said, I can’t talk of appointments that have not yet been made, but what is critical is that Zanu PF values the involvement of women, hence we have Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri up there assisting the president.
XN: Some people are saying Zanu PF is slowly sliding back towards exclusion of the younger generation by giving key posts to army personnel and war veterans without taking into account the issue of “born-frees” or the future generations. Are you not destroying the party by neglecting the future?
PM: I am not an old guard and I represent the future. Zanu PF is integrating the past with the future, the past is talking to the future. In short, we are taking history to the younger generation and not what was happening where veterans were being sidelined. No one can live a tomorrow without a history. You don’t talk of tomorrow without yesterday and that is what we are doing.
XN: The president spoke about bygones being bygones and opening of a new chapter, but we are seeing people being arrested daily with some being charged for wearing caps inscribed ED. is this the new era which Zanu PF is promising Zimbabweans?
PM: Criminals have to be arrested, that is non-negotiable. We can’t have corrupt people in our communities just because we have said let bygones be bygones, no. when someone puts on regalia of a party he does not belong to, it is fraud my brother.
They want to cause confusion among our people and they must be arrested. Imagine if I was to wear an MDC-T T-shirt, what would Morgan Tsvangirai do? What message would I be trying to send to the outside world? I think it is high time people accepted reality and stopped masquerading.
XN: We have seen a good number of people being arrested for corruption by the new administration but many believe the arrested or those targeted for arrests are those who opposed Cde Mnangagwa and those who supported him remain free although they have corruption cases or are accused of corruption. How does this happen?
PM: The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) is doing its work and no one is going to be spared. This Zanu PF government will not tolerate corruption. We don’t care who and what position you hold in life — corruption will be dealt with. If you know anyone who is corrupt and is not being arrested, go to Zacc and give them evidence to that effect, they will act on it. We don’t want people who make allegations without evidence.
XN: What is your assessment of the extraordinary congress? Did the party meet its expectations or was it just a talk show and speechifying gala?
PM: This was the best congress so far held in the history of Zanu PF. We came back rejuvenated with a clear vision of where we want to go. We have destroyed negative perceptions that many had of Zanu PF and a new narrative is being created. Everyone was happy and optimistic. Not only with hope, but with a clear vision for a better Zimbabwe.
XN: Thank you Cde Mangwana and enjoy your weekend.
PM: Indeed, same to you. Kindly join us on this promising journey to a new Zimbabwe. don’t be left behind or stay away from it.