PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe (pictured) was yesterday endorsed as the ruling Zanu PF’s presidential candidate in next year’s poll amid subdued pro
tests by senior party officials against what they described as a “fraudulent process” exposing “blatant intrigue and manipulation”.
The stunning revelations of Mugabe’s heavily contrived endorsement came from senior Zanu PF politburo members who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent behind closed doors to explain how their leader secured the party’s approval.
Top Zanu PF officials said Mugabe was endorsed through manipulation that involved violation of the party’s constitution, use of unprocedural means, and coercion.
War veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda’s recent nationwide solidarity processions and the “one million man” march were part of the coercive methods used, including a propaganda blitz in the state media.
The intimidation succeeded, at least for now, in whipping into line the faction led by retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru which had pressed for congress in May to remove Mugabe. The Mujuru camp had pushed for a congress because a conference cannot elect leaders, but congress can choose the leader, the two deputies and the chairman. The hope was that Vice-President Joice Mujuru would take over from Mugabe.
However, Mugabe by February when he first announced he would stand for re-election — despite initially saying he would retire in 2008 — started demolishing the Mujuru camp after it blocked his 2010 bid at Goromonzi. To fight back, the Mujuru camp pushed for the congress to evict him, but he out-manoeuvred them in the process.
“If the truth be told, Mugabe’s endorsement yesterday was done in an unconstitutional, unprocedural and coercive manner,” a senior politburo official said. “The constitution of the party and procedures were not followed. What this means is that it was a manipulated and stage-managed process.”
Details of a Zanu PF politburo meeting on November 28 show that the party was divided over whether to declare and confirm or nominate Mugabe as the candidate. Zanu PF administration secretary Didymus Mutasa read out “declarations” by the Women’s League, Youth League and provinces that Mugabe was the candidate in terms of Article 6 (30) (3) of the constitution at that meeting. This was also done yesterday.
The sources said the first problem which was apparent yesterday was that Mugabe was endorsed at the extraordinary congress in terms of the party constitution, Article 6 (30)(3).
However, Article 6 only deals with issues of the annual National People’s Conference, not the extraordinary congress. The relevant section (30)(3), says one of the powers and functions of the conference is to declare the president of the party elected at the last congress as the presidential election candidate.
But that section was arbitrarily employed to declare Mugabe the candidate yesterday despite the fact it is not a function of the congress but that of a conference. Zanu PF officials said this was unconstitutional.
Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa raised this issue at the November 28 politburo meeting, saying party legal affairs secratary Emmerson Mnangagwa was “mixing up” provisions of congress and those of conference. Mnangagwa, pushing for Mugabe’s endorsement, unconvincingly tried to defend his decision.
Prior to that at a politburo meeting on October 24, Dabengwa had asked what the nomination procedures to elect the candidate were. Mnangagwa, sources said, had replied, saying the December congress “would have no nominations”. Party officials said this is the unprocedural part of congress yesterday.
The October 24 politburo meeting first came up with a strategy to pre-empt potential challenges to Mugabe at the congress.
Mnangagwa was the architect of the plan.
At the November 28 politburo meeting, Vice-President Joseph Msika asked why party organs and provinces “were being told what to do and say instead of them coming up with their submissions”.
“Msika said the proper procedures to nominate President Mugabe were done in 2004,” a senior politburo member related. “He said at the extraordinary congress, the one yesterday, the process of nomination should be followed because some people might have developed interests and ambitions to be the party candidate since 2004.
Women’s League head Oppah Muchinguri said nomination was more credible than confirmation.
But Mnangagwa said the nomination process would “violate the party’s constitution”. However, nomination was the normal congress practice, the senior party official said.
Zanu PF transport and social welfare deputy secretary Tendai Savanhu said at the November 28 politburo meeting Mugabe should be declared and confirmed — not nominated — because he was still serving his term until congress in 2009. However, others said he should be nominated because the extraordinary congress might decide to nominate another leader and the confirmation does not allow for that.
The party information and publicity deputy secretary Ephraim Masawi suggested that the party should declare and confirm Mugabe instead of nominating him because “that might create problems”.
In the end, Msika said it appeared the majority wanted confirmation of Mugabe as leader instead of opening up the nomination process and the meeting agreed to adopt the confirmation method.
However, Dabengwa and others still felt that it was unprocedural, even unconstitutional.
It is understood Mnangagwa carefully crafted the plan to endorse Mugabe without challenge to frustrate the Mujuru faction which outmanoeuvred him in 2004 for the post of vice-president currently held by Joice Mujuru.
The sources said Mnangagwa also worked closely with Sibanda to frighten the Mujuru camp and other rivals from challenging Mugabe yesterday.
“The strategy worked because Mujuru and his camp ended up supporting Mugabe, at least in public, and for Mnangagwa it was sweet revenge after his 2004 defeat,” another source said.