How Mujuru camp won the battle for vice-presidency

IN this ninth instalment of his article on succession and the Zanu PF constitution, Derek Matyszak looks at how the Mujuru faction outfoxed the Mnangagwa camp in the battle to secure the post of vice-president.

The promotion of Joseph Msika to the vice-presidency left the position of national chairperson open, and Emmerson Mnangagwa threw his hat into the ring for this position. Had he succeeded in this quest, he would have been in pole position to succeed late Vice-President Simon Muzenda, also a Karanga, and within reach of the presidency after Mugabe’s departure.

 
It was apparently astute political manoeuvering by the late former army commander General Solomon Mujuru, however, that secured the nomination of John Nkomo, a Ndebele, from eight of the 10 provinces. As a Ndebele, Nkomo was an unlikely rival to Mujuru’s choice for the presidency when the opportunity arose — as it did with the death of Muzenda in September 2003.

 
The Tsholotsho saga

 
With the vacancy now occurring in the Zanu PF wing of the vice-presidency, the appointment of the replacement was never going to be smooth. The fractious nature of the process is indicated by the fact that the vacancy was not officially filled until 15 months had passed, at the Zanu PF congress of December 2004. A bruising battle took place between the Mujuru and Mnangagwa camps in the intervening period, from which Mujuru emerged winner.

 
Before then, the grouping around Mnangagwa appeared to have been on the ascendency in the provinces for several years prior to Muzenda’s death, and seemed likely to muster the support for nomination from the required six provinces for the vice-presidency. To further Mnangagwa’s chances, his supporters sought to advance the principles expounded in what became known as the “Tsholotsho Declaration”.

 
Jonathan Moyo, a prominent fickle politician, was a key player in the drama which unfolded. He has written in detail about the events. In his account, Moyo maintains that the Tsholotsho Declaration is made up of four principles:

 

 

  •  that all the country’s four major ethnic groups, Karanga, Manyika, Zezuru and Ndebele be represented in the presidium;

 

 

  •  that the position of president should not be monopolised by one ethnic group but rotate among the four major ethnic groupings;

 

  •  that the filling of positions in the presidium should not be by imposition by the party hierarchy, but through democratic elections done by secret balloting; and

 

 

  •  such positions must be filled in accordance with the party constitution.

 

 

Since the Mujuru aspirant to the position, Joice, is Zezuru, already represented in the presidium by President Robert Mugabe, support for the declaration was seen as support for Mnangagwa as vice-president. Those supporting these principles envisaged a presidium with Mugabe, a Zezuru, as president, Mnangagwa, a Karanga, as one vice-president with a Ndebele co-vice president, and “young Turk” legal advisor to Zanu PF Patrick Chinamasa (Manyika) as national chairperson.

 
The declaration threw down the gauntlet to those who believed the top three positions in the presidency were inviolable until a vacancy occurred and that two of the top four positions should be occupied by former PF Zapu members. Among them was Mugabe who did not intend to be hampered by the inconvenience that there was nothing in the Zanu PF constitution which supported his views.

 
After a series of meetings in August 2003, headed by provincial chairpersons and provincial governors and presided over by the national political commissar, it was clear Mnangagwa had the support for the vice-presidency from all except three provinces — Mashonaland Central, Harare and Mashonaland East.

 
The Mujuru alignment, which included elements from the three disaffected provinces, came together shortly after these meetings began. A strategy was devised whereby a sudden sensitivity to gender issues was to be used to undermine the Mnangagwa group. The Mujuru camp thus latched upon a resolution, first put forward by the women’s league at its August 1999 meeting in Victoria Falls, that one of the four members of the presidium must be a woman. The women’s league was prevailed upon to repeat its demand at its plenary meeting of September 2 2004.

 
Accompanied by his wife, Grace, Mugabe attended the meeting and announced he supported this demand. The Mnangagwa faction was unimpressed. The date for nominations to the posts in the presidium from the provinces was November 21 2004. Under cover of an invitation as guest of honour at Dinyane High School for a prize-giving ceremony, Mnangagwa prepared to go to Tsholotsho on November 18, where, not coincidentally, chairpersons of the provinces would be present to hear his speech.

 
Austin Zvoma, who would play a key role should the combined houses of parliament sit as an electoral college to determine Mugabe’s successors, facilitated the crafting of the speech for Mnangagwa by George Charamba. The Tsholotsho meeting could not be seen as anything other than a direct challenge to Mugabe’s authority.

 
It was clear Mugabe’s intention was that the vacancy left by Muzenda’s death be filled by Joice Mujuru. The Tsholotsho gathering appeared intended to counter this by advancing the Tsholotsho principles.

 
Mugabe called an emergency politburo meeting for the same day (November 18). The result of the meeting was that the politburo declared it had “amended” the party constitution to include the demand of the women’s league that one of the vice-presidents be a woman.

 
Less widely publicised, but of even more significance, was the amendment providing that provincial electoral colleges would no longer be the 44-member provincial executive councils, but the much larger provincial co-ordinating committees. The election would thus be conducted under the watchful eye of the central committee members from the province, some of whom would undoubtedly be politburo members who had agreed to the amendment. The latter amendment was clearly designed to neutralise the Mnangagwa faction’s control over the provincial executive councils in seven provinces.

 
With perverse cynicism, Mnangagwa, as secretary for legal affairs, was given the task of drafting the necessary amendments to the Zanu PF constitution. This required the alteration of only a few words, but, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, Mnangagwa pleaded this commitment to stay well away from the meeting in Tsholotsho. As Zanu PF secretary for administration in the politburo, and, in what was to be one of his last few acts as such, he was also given the task of writing to the provinces to explain the new nomination procedure.

 
— To be continued next week.

  • Matyszak is a former University of Zimbabwe law lecturer, constitutional expert and researcher with the Research and Advocacy Unit.
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