THIS week Matyszak looks at the Tsholotsho Declaration and how it consequentially changed Zanu PF politics as part of a series of articles from his report titled The Mortal Remains: Succession and the Zanu PF Body Politic, which was produced by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Research Advocacy Unit (Rau).
The report unpacks the unfolding Zanu PF power struggle and President Robert Mugabe’s succession drama, focusing on the national and party constitutions, the movers and shakers and the internal dynamics attendant to the process.
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. Mugabe and Zanu PF were, however, seemingly content to await the Zanu PF congress of December 2004 before filling the vacancy. A bruising battle took place between the late General Solomon Mujuru and Zanu PF secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa camps in the intervening period, from which the Mujuru camp emerged the stronger.
Before then, the grouping around Mnangagwa appears to have been in the ascendency in the provinces for several years prior to vice-president Simon Muzenda’s death and seemed likely to be able 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 turncoat 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 should 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 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 an Ndebele co-vice-president, and a “young Turk” and legal advisor to Zanu PF, Patrick Chinamasa (Manyika), as national chairman.
The declaration threw down the gauntlet to those who believed that the top three positions in the presidency were inviolable until a vacancy occurred (other than through an expiry of a term of office) 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, presided over by the national political commissar, it was clear that 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.
Ironically, given subsequent events and that she is now regarded as being very firmly on the Mnangagwa side of the fence, Oppah Muchinguri as deputy secretary of the Women’s League, reportedly played a key role in driving the proposal.
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 that he supported this demand.
The Mnangagwa faction was unimpressed.
The date for nominations to the posts in the presidium from the provinces was set for November 21, 2004. Under the 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, 2004, where, not coincidently, chairpersons of the provinces would be present to hear his speech.
The Tsholotsho meeting could not be seen as anything other than a direct challenge to Mugabe’s authority. It was clear that Mugabe’s intention was that the vacancy left by Muzenda was to be filled by Mujuru. The Tsholotsho gathering appeared to be intended to counter this by advancing the Tsholotsho principles.
Mugabe called an emergency politburo meeting for the same day, November 18, 2004. The result of the meeting was that the politburo declared that 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 the provincial electoral colleges would no longer be the 44-member provincial executive councils (Pecs), but the much larger provincial co-ordinating committees (PCCs).
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 Pecs in seven provinces.
Perversely, 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, perhaps 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.
Aware that the knives were being sharpened in Harare, and with Mnangagwa literally, and metaphorically, distancing himself from events, most of those meeting in Tsholotsho made a belated and feeble attempt to be seen as compliant with Mugabe’s wishes.
Purporting to obey the directive that resulted from the politburo meeting earlier in the day, and hoping for some success in repeating Mugabe’s preference at the 1999 congress, they changed their original line-up for the presidium to the extent only that Thenjiwe Lesabe, a Ndebele woman, be a second vice-president. This proposal was still unprecedented.
It would require the removal of an incumbent, Joseph Msika, from the vice-presidency.
The directive from the politburo — and thus from Mugabe — had made it clear that nominations from the provinces were expected only with regard to the single vacant post of vice-president.
The Women’s League duly met on November 22, 2004, and formally declared Joice Mujuru to be their choice as the woman to succeed Muzenda, in accordance with the instruction from the politburo. The direction of the wind was clear. Six out of the 10 provinces thereafter duly nominated Mujuru as their candidate. And on December 6, congress “elected” Mujuru as vice-president. Mugabe, apparently euphoric at his successful exercise of political muscle, imprudently stated to the gathering: “When you choose her as a Vice-President, you don’t want her to remain in that chair, do you?”
Given what had transpired, the suggestion that Mujuru had been “chosen” by congress was hardly accurate.
Mugabe moved swiftly against those who had sought to defy his choice of anointed appointee. The Tuesday before the weekend congress, the politburo “suspended” the six provincial chairpersons and Jabulani Sibanda, head of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association, who had been present in Tsholotsho. It was the first of several axings.
On December 17, 2004, Mugabe announced a new and expanded politburo of 51 members. Jonathan Moyo was removed from the politburo (and subsequently the party, and also as Minister of Information).
Mnangagwa was deposed as secretary for administration — effectively the party’s secretary-general and fifth in the party hierarchy — and replaced by Didymus Mutasa. He was given the post of secretary for legal affairs (12th in the politburo hierarchy) displacing Chinamasa who was to deputise him thereby becoming a junior member without voting rights.
The President explained the measures as follows: “Those who were suspended will remain suspended and will be disciplined by the national chairman, while their vacancies will be filled in the future … There is everything wrong when chairpersons of the party go and meet secretly without the knowledge of the leadership of the party, and worse still, what would they be discussing there?
“There is no party run like that … When the war was fought, we fought as one on all fronts. We didn’t ask guerrillas where they came from, asi vana mafikizolo ndovaakuti uyu anobva kwakati. Uyu anobva kwakati (but the newcomers are now saying this one comes from that region and that one from that ethnic group) and so on.
They should know we are non-tribalists and non-regionalists.”
The earlier caveat that this narrative of events is drawn largely from the account of Jonathan Moyo is worth repeating.
The Mujuru camp certainly had a different view of events. Far from seeing the proposal, that one a vice-president be a woman, as being a “sudden” sensitivity to gender issues, they pointed to the fact that the proposal had been made ahead of the congress in 1999 and that they had gone to the extent of threatening to boycott that congress if their demand was not met.
Having seemingly belatedly achieved their objective ahead of the 2004 congress, intensive lobbying then took place to ensure that Mujuru assumed this reserved post, which would be confirmed as such at the 2004 congress.
The elevation of Mujuru thus merely required formal endorsement at congress and was not a late and hastily conceived ploy to undermine the Tsholotsho plotters. Indeed, the contrary is advanced as the case — the Tsholotsho Declaration was a ploy to undermine Mujuru’s almost certain ascendency and compelled the precipitate change to the party constitution.
The Tsholotsho saga continues to reverberate through Zanu PF’s succession and internal politics. Several issues arising from the saga require comment for present purposes.
Dissolution of DCCs
The disbanding of district co-ordinating committees (DCCs) may also be viewed as part of the Tsholotsho leitmotif. Several analysts have suggested that the dissolution was at the instigation of the Mujuru faction, who once again used the ruse of a constitutional amendment to undermine the Mnangagwa faction, whose supporters had won the majority of places on these committees.
Power of the politburo
Although Zanu PF has been structured in a manner which allows the choice of successors to the presidium to be extremely democratic, the actual process is best described as “guided democracy”, with Mugabe at the tiller and the politburo as the crew. The politburo had no power to amend the Zanu PF constitution to mandate a female vice-president or to change the composition of the provincial electoral colleges.
That power lies with the central committee (subject to ratification by congress) and the congress itself.
The congress, nonetheless, ratified the changes which had been unlawfully made by the politburo to accord with Mugabe’s intentions and strategy. The politburo also had no power to suspend provincial chairpersons and the national chairman has no power to discipline them.
In the role of implementer of the President’s policies, using procedures often outside the confines of the party constitution, the politburo has become enormously powerful since Tsholotsho. Rather than the congress controlling the central committee, the central committee controlling the politburo and the politburo directing the presidium, the flow of power is in precisely the opposite direction.
Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, has candidly stated that: “The politburo is the policy-making body outside congress.”
The politburo thus has arrogated a number of powers to itself:
to remove and replace provincial chairpersons; dismiss members of PCCs;
to reject nominees to the central committee by the PCCs;
bar individuals from contesting for the post of provincial chairperson;
cancel polls of party structures; and
even gone so far (as will be seen) as to claim the power to control and veto nominations for the presidium from the provinces.
None of these powers is vested in the politburo by the party’s constitution.