Gentlemen, let the lady speak

THE “I STAND here renewed, invigorated, rejuvenated, born again,” declared President Robert Mugabe at the close of his party’s Fourth National People’s Congress on Sunday.

“I feel pr

oud to lead a party of people who know what they want; people with a past, a revolutionary past; people who know how to defend their country, their sovereignty.”

One could not miss the jarring sense of incongruity in the president’s remarks considering the intrigues and scheming that preceded the five days of rubber-stamping of candidates.

But the deceit has gone on for so long in Zanu PF it has become a way of life. Joyce Mujuru was imposed on the party as a candidate to fulfil the so-called quota system suddenly recalled when a candidate was needed to block the ambitions of a powerful plotter.

That in itself limited the scope of debate and choice. She was chosen to fill the vacancy created by the death of Simon Muzenda who stood as a pillar for President Mugabe along with Joseph Msika. Together with party chairman John Nkomo the four constitute the party’s Soviet-era presidium.

We don’t wish to take away anything from Mujuru or Msika. What we don’t understand is why the appointment of a female Zanu PF vice-president should be turned into an occasion of national celebration when there are no demonstrable benefits accruing to the nation.

Apart from an anachronistic tribal balancing act, what is “revolutionary” about having two vice-presidents? If anything, it demonstrates that Zanu PF has been unable to restructure itself in any useful way since 1987.

President Mugabe himself has not given the presidium the dignity that it should have. At the height of the farm occupations in 2001 Vice-President Msika ordered that war veterans who had invaded a farm in Mazowe be evicted. He was acting president at the time.

When Mugabe returned he reversed that decision because it did not suit his revolutionary demagoguery. Msika must have felt thoroughly humiliated but didn’t have anything to say.

At the beginning of this year when the Zanu PF Young Turks decided to take over Kondozi Estate near Odzi in Manicaland, Msika once again tried to intervene. He was bluntly told by Information minister Jonathan Moyo that there would be “no going back on Kondozi”. He lost again. His claim that he had reached a compromise with President Mugabe on the future of the farm sounded unconvincing.

A few years ago when Mujuru was Information minister, she took a swipe at then Vice-President Joshua Nkomo for backing Econet boss Strive Masiyiwa’s bid for the first cellular phone licence. She said Nkomo had lost his mind because of old age.

Nothing happened to her. Not that anything should have. She did apologise. What we are asking is what changes can Mujuru’s appointment ring in either for the nation or the status of women? What is the point of having an acting president if his or her decisions can be challenged at will by war veterans and other lawless groups and Mugabe sides with them? What independent decisions can Mujuru make that would be any different from what Mugabe chooses to do?

We ask these questions because they go to the heart of the matter. How does singing Mujuru’s praises ameliorate the dictatorship that Zimbabwe has become since the inauguration of the executive presidency in 1987?

There was a huge irony in Mugabe saying he was “proud to lead a people who know what they want”. Those who know what they want must kowtow to Mugabe and remain silent. Those who dared raise objections in Tsholotsho against his chosen lady are licking their wounds. What happened to the open debate we were promised?

In Matabeleland South Zanu PF chair John Nkomo was told to go and teach the people the proper gwara and their nominations were reversed overnight. Sikhanyiso Ndlovu and Dumiso Dabengwa are in the central committee courtesy of presidential fiat. And so is Cain Mathema.

The long and short of it is that the presidency has remained immutable. Mugabe rules as he pleases although he wants to give the impression of collective responsibility. We therefore wonder what difference Amai Mujuru will make to the operations of the presidency and why there is so much fuss about her being the “first female vice-president in southern Africa” and the first woman to act as Minister of Defence.

We are raising these issues so that we move beyond the creeping suspicion that Mujuru was elevated to the vice-presidency to block the Emmerson Mnangagwa train. That would likely assure Mugabe that there is no threat to his office in the foreseeable future.

He has every reason to feel “born again” and “rejuvenated” after surrounding himself with paper tigers and ensuring his post is unassailable.

But does the lady herself have a mind of her own to rise beyond the rung where she has been suddenly placed?
Besides being a liberation-war combatant and now a mother figure, what are her views on the future of this country? Does anybody know? Does she know?

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