THE influential Zanu PF Women’s League has entered the ruling party’s succession race and is now lobbying for politburo member Joyce Mujuru to be nominated as vice-president during the party’
s forthcoming December congress.
Official sources said the Women’s League, headed by Thenjiwe Lesabe, who is seen as close to President Robert Mugabe, is vigorously pushing for Mujuru to fill the post left vacant by former vice-president Simon Muzenda’s death last year. Joseph Msika remains as the other vice-president.
Sources said the Zanu PF women were planning to come up with a key resolution after their congress, which will be opened by Mugabe today at City Sports Centre in Harare, backing Mujuru.
The congress is being held under the banner of “Total Empowerment of Women in Zimbabwe”.
It is understood that the women will insist on the overhaul of the archaic Zanu PF constitution – which was tailor-made to suit Mugabe’s failed one-party state project of the 1980s – to allow their candidate to be elevated to the party’s top hierarchy through affirmative action.
Sources said the outdated Zanu PF constitution would be amended to take into account present political realities and discard the structures of the past.
“The women want Mujuru to be one of the two vice-presidents because of the key role they played in the liberation struggle and after Independence,” a source said.”Mujuru is seen as the most suitable candidate because the Women’s League chairperson Lesabe is now rather old. Lesabe could have been vice-president in 1999 if the women had pushed harder for her elevation.”
Lesabe almost became vice-president during the 1999 Zanu PF congress but was blocked by the hierarchical impediments in the ruling party.
However, sources said Mujuru could come unstuck in her bid because there were other stronger forces gunning for the same job. Zanu PF secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa and foreign relations secretary Didymus Mutasa have been mentioned as candidates.
Mnangagwa is said to command a majority of provinces through the chairmen of Midlands, Manicaland, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo. He is also said to be backed by retired General Vitalis Zvinavashe. Mutasa is thought to have only an outside chance due to his lack of political clout.
However, Mnangagwa, who lost the chairmanship to John Nkomo in 1999, is said to be highly unpopular with the grassroots and his political record is seen as tainted by allegations of corruption which he has strongly denied.
Nkomo has been named as a successor to Msika and possibly Mugabe.
Sources said the only blot on Mujuru’s record was her insult of Joshua Nkomo during the Econet saga in 1996. She later apologised. Besides that, she is seen as in with a chance due to Women’s League’s support.
Zanu PF has been making much of its newly-discovered gender-sensitive role after Thabo Mbeki appointed women to top jobs in his party and government.
Last Thursday a Women’s League delegation, led by Lesabe, met Mugabe to raise concerns over the current infighting in Zanu PF. It is said the group also discussed other issues.
After that Lesabe lambasted Zanu PF “mafikizolos” – newcomers – in the ruling party mouthpiece, The Voice, who she said were engaged in attempts to discredit the party’s leadership through vitriolic calumnies in anonymous columns in the state media.
Lesabe was last month reported to have raised concern over Zanu PF deputy Information secretary Jonathan Moyo’s conduct. She was said to have been supported by party heavyweights, including Nkomo, spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira and politburo bigwig, retired General Solomon Mujuru.
Mugabe is expected to meet senior party members over the issue. He is understood to have raised the matter in cabinet last week.
Sources said Msika’s attempt to be reelected could falter because there is growing internal resistance to his comeback.
The increasingly intricate situation leaves Mugabe in a fix over the simmering succession issue at congress.