Succession: ZANU-PF’s hot potato

Source: Succession: ZANU-PF’s hot potato | The Financial Gazette February 2, 2017

FIVE years ago, the Research Advocacy Unit (RAU) — a non-governmental organisation that researches on human rights and governance issues — produced a penetrative report titled Succession and the ZANU-PF Party Constitution that highlighted the difficulties around the succession question in the ruling party.
In that report, RAU observed in its preamble that the theme of succession, both of the State presidency and the leadership of ZANU-PF, was affecting all matters relating to the political stability of Zimbabwe and any form of transition to democracy.
At the time of releasing the report in 2013, President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since April 1980 — when the country attained its independence from Britain — was about to turn 89.
A few months after the report was released, he stood in synchronised elections as ZANU-PF’s presidential candidate, thumping his main rival — Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change — by a wide margin.
On February 21, Mugabe will be turning 93 — having already secured a ticket to stand as ZANU-PF’s presidential candidate in the 2018 polls, at the party’s congress held in December 2014.
Notwithstanding, succession plots and sub-plots are thickening fast in his party as rival factions ponder their next move in the event that the veteran nationalist exits the grand political stage.
The party has always been torn between two factions.
Until December 2014, it was split between the retired general Solomon Mujuru (now late) and Emmerson Mnangagwa factions.
Following the demise of the decorated liberation war icon in a suspicious inferno in August 2011 at his farmhouse in Beatrice, his wife, Joice, became the face of the Mujuru faction.
Going into the ZANU-PF congress in 2014, the Mujuru faction was vanquished, with its leader getting her marching orders from the ruling party and government.
Thereafter, another faction — Generation 40 (G40) — emerged, with the Mnangagwa camp morphing into what is now called Team Lacoste.
Of the two camps, Team Lacoste is much clearer on what it thinks should be done to resolve the succession conundrum.
The faction is betting on Mnangagwa to climb up the political ladder, with many of its backers eager to see President Mugabe’s back.
War veterans, under Christopher Mutsvangwa, have also made their preference for Mnangagwa clear, amid fierce resistance from their rivals in G40.
Ever since his appointment as Vice President in December 2014, taking over from Mujuru, Mnangagwa has been under attack for coveting the high-pressure job.
Twice last year, he was forced to speak out publicly, in order to rebut the notion that he harbours presidential ambitions.
Despite the denials, G40 has been unrelenting in its attacks, with its mandarins insisting that the wily ZANU-PF leader should rule until he dies.
But what would happen after President Mugabe’s political sunset?
G40 thinks it is unAfrican to debate around his successor when “there is no vacancy at the top”.
Those perceived as gunning for the top office in ZANU-PF have previously met their political waterloos, making the succession debate a hot potato in the party.

Mujuru became the most high-profile casualty after she was accused of scheming to unseat her boss, unconstitutionally.
In the process of uprooting Mujuru, hundreds of her acolytes also got the boot and are currently wallowing in the political wilderness.
Edgar Tekere was also dismissed from ZANU-PF in around 1988 for being too critical of President Mugabe’s leadership.
Other political figures that had to go separate ways with President Mugabe over his succession include Simba Makoni who went on to challenge him in the 2008 polls as leader of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party and Dumiso Dabengwa, who now leads the revived ZAPU.
Analysts this week said ZANU-PF lacked a clear succession plan, which breeds divisions.
The party operates a dual vice presidency with both of President Mugabe’s deputies being at par.
The party’s constitution is also vague on the issue, hence the intense squabbling among the warring factions.
In light of the serious infighting over President Mugabe’s succession, one therefore shudders to imagine what would happen in the event that the incumbent decides to step down from active politics.
Ibbo Mandaza, a political analyst, opined this week that the country could head for serious problems in the event that President Mugabe decides to leave the political arena without solving the succession issue.
He said: “He has to solve it (succession) before he goes and I am afraid if he doesn’t solve it we are in trouble …it will be hell.”
President Mugabe has always insisted that his successor would come from the people.
What it means, in terms of ZANU’s constitution, is that his party’s congress would have to choose his successor.
With President Mugabe now in the twilight of his political career, it is only natural for ambitions to run wild as party heavyweights are scheme under the cover of darkness to take-over from him.
Consequently, government business has suffered as factions sabotage each other in a bid to undermine their rivals.
Even at the grassroots level, communities have become polarised along factional lines, impeding development.
It is the ordinary people who are paying a heavy price for the infighting as unemployment has zoomed out of control, with poverty levels getting worse.
To all intents and purposes, asking President Mugabe to rule till the Almighty God calls him as is being suggested by G40 is merely ducking the question: Who will lead Zimbabwe thereafter?
Trying to sweep the succession question under the carpet is also like wishing for the sun not to rise tomorrow, analysts said this week.
Political commentator, Alois Masepe, however, believes that the succession fights are normal and should be expected in politics because every politician is power hungry.
He said politics is about power and politicians are driven and motivated by the yearning for power.
“Any politician who tells you that he is not power hungry is a hopeless liar,” said Masepe.
He said what is not normal in ZANU-PF is the absence of a coherent and transparent leadership succession framework, and the criminalisation of the natural yearning for more power ingrained in the DNA of every leading politician.
According to Masepe, it is not normal for a political party to come up with a structure that deliberately stifles the ambition to acquire power at the apex level while promoting normal political competition for power at all lower levels – from the cell structure to the province.
“It is a paradox. This in-built contradiction is the fly in the ointment and it has bred leadership tension and, if not dealt with urgently, will cause the implosion of the organisation,” he said.
“The tension is a result of failure by ZANU-PF to formulate a clear and unambiguous leadership career-path. If there was a political heir-apparent, the current tussling for power would be low key and manageable. The only way of dealing with the issue decisively is for ZANU-PF to anoint a political heir-apparent. Once that is done, the current feverish competition will cease or, at least, will decrease and normalcy will prevail in the party,” said Masepe.
The boisterous fighters of the Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle insisted this week that someone else will definitely takeover in the absence of the incumbent and once that person has been installed all this fighting would cease to exist.
Victor Matemadanda, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veteran Association (ZNLWVA) said it was quite normal for people to fight over the issue for as long as a replacement has not been identified.
Matemadanda, along with Mutsvangwa and other key members of the ZNLWVA executive were booted out of ZANU-PF last year for disrespecting President Mugabe in what many thought was linked to the succession debate because of their close association with Mnangagwa.
But like Matemadanda said, eventually, the succession question will get an answer. It is just that between now and then, many would have burnt their fingers for trying to deal with this hot political potato.

What the constitution says …
Part 2 Section 101 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that: “If the President dies, resigns or is removed from office — (a) the first Vice President assumes office as President until the expiry of the former President’s term of office; (b) the second Vice President assume as first Vice President until the expiry of the former President’s term of office; and upon assuming office as President, the former first vice president must appoint a qualified person to be second Vice President until the expiry of the former president’s term of office.”
ZANU-PF constitution
Article 5 Section 26 (2) of the ruling party’s constitution states that: “An extraordinary session of congress may be convened in the event of a vacancy occurring in the office of the national President requiring the party to nominate a successor, at the instance of the secretary for administration.”