By Jonathan Moyo
IF President Robert Mugabe truly and honestly believes that he is a serious presidential candidate in the general election scheduled for March 2008 and
that he can best govern this battered country until 2013 should he win, then he miserably failed to demonstrate that at the controversial Zanu PF extraordinary congress which started late yesterday afternoon.
The simple truth is that Mugabe has no national reason to seek reelection and that Zanu PF is being particularly irresponsible by allowing him to do that in a disgraceful manner as shown yesterday at the special congress.
So pathetic was Mugabe’s performance that when he was formally declared the ruling party’s presidential candidate, fair-minded Zimbabweans in and outside Zanu PF who had or still have a soft spot for him for one reason or another did not know whether to laugh or cry. The televised ill-fated declaration was as unwise and as sad as a different but morally equivalent event some 29 years ago when an aged and out-of-shape Muhammad Ali unwisely agreed to defend his world heavy weight boxing title against a young and agile Leon Spinks who went on to clobber and humiliate him on February 15 1978.
Because Zanu PF’s irresponsibility has caused it to fail to protect the national interest and because Mugabe is apparently determined to thrive under that failure in pursuit of his personal ambition to be president for life, it is now up to Zimbabweans across the political divide to rise to the challenge by finding a united front to stop Mugabe and his cronies from turning their self-indulgence into a national catastrophe.
Before he was declared as the Zanu PF candidate yesterday, Mugabe opened the Zanu PF special congress with an uncharacteristically insipid speech, delivered in a cracking voice and notable for its shocking incoherence, irrelevance and lack of inspiration. His rambling speech sent a clear, loud and very worrying message to bemused delegates that Mugabe now represents an unhappy past.
But if Mugabe’s speech was pathetic from the point of view of someone who desperately needed to convince his special congress delegates and the television audience that he has what is required to solve the nation’s daunting problems many of which have been caused by him or during his controversial rule over the last 27 years, the proceedings that followed his uninspiring speech proved beyond any doubt that the Zanu PF special congress was a charade.
Consider the following: Mugabe’s hopeless speech, which was full of the same old clichés he has been saying over and over again to no useful end, was immediately followed by a perfunctory tabling of the central committee report for adoption by Vice President Joice Mujuru who had the appearance of someone who was so removed from it all that she could not care less. Her dutiful act was followed by long-winded and useless vote of thanks from Vice President Joseph Msika whose essence was to confirm that the Zanu PF presidium would be better consigned in a museum than anywhere else in a properly functioning society, let alone a democratic one.
When the presidium was done, the secretary for legal affairs, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was asked to announce the main purpose of the special congress and he outlined two. First, he said that the special congress was being asked to ratify constitutional amendment 18 and he narrated the background to its enactment by the Parliament of Zimbabwe which he situated in the Sadc mandated South African led talks between Zanu PF and the two MDC factions.
What was shocking is that Minister Mnangagwa did not seem to appreciate the absurdity of asking a Zanu PF congregation, with no standing in our Constitution whatsoever, to ratify an Act of the Parliament of Zimbabwe. The matter would have been different and even understandable if he had asked the Zanu PF special congress to ratify decisions of the Zanu PF central committee in support of processes, including the inter-party dialogue, leading to the enactment of Amendment 18.
Someone needs to tell Zanu PF’s manipulative barons that once a law has been enacted by the Parliament of Zimbabwe, and assented to by the President, only the courts can pronounce themselves on that law one way or the other. No other body has the competence to ratify or do anything else about that law besides abiding by it.
After the absurd and meaningless ratification of Amendment 18, Minister Mnangagwa then announced that the second, and obviously most important, business of the day was to declare Mugabe as the Zanu PF presidential candidate in the 2008 presidential election allegedly “in compliance with Article 5 section 22(4) of the party’s constitution and in terms of Article 6 section 30(3) of the same constitution”.
Article 5 section 22(4) of the Zanu PF constitution deals with the convening of an ordinary, not special, congress and provides that resolutions emanating from the party’s provincial structures, youth league and women’s league shall be circulated to the constituent organs of congress at least 14 days prior to the date of congress.
A number of these organs did not meet the requirement for making resolutions 14 days before the congress and some of them, like Matabeleland North, made their resolutions in support of Mugabe only last Saturday on December 8 while Masvingo reported to have done so only yesterday on the day of the congress! In the circumstances, while all the reporting organs recited Article 5 section 22(4) of the Zanu PF constitution to justify the resolutions they read in support of Mugabe, a majority of them violated that provision and shamelessly displayed their violation on national television.
In addition to this, all the reporting 10 provinces along with the youth league and women’s league claimed that they were declaring Mugabe as the candidate of the party in terms of Article 6 section 30(3) of the Zanu PF constitution which deals with the powers and functions of the national people’s conference. Section 30(3) of that article provides that the national people’s conference “shall declare the president of the party elected at congress as the state presidential candidate of the party”.
What is instructive here is that this article is specifically about the powers and functions of the national conference and not congress or a special congress. It was very strange, and indeed incomprehensible, for the youth league, women’s league and 10 provinces to pretend to be following the Zanu PF constitution when they were in point of fact using a provision on the national people’s conference and mischievously conflating it with the special congress.
While those who read the strange resolutions in support of Mugabe’s candidacy did not know what they were doing and clearly are not familiar with the Zanu PF constitutional provisions that they were invoking, those who drafted the resolutions new exactly that they were manipulating the party’s constitution in order to violate it . This was done as part of the desperate efforts to impose Mugabe’s candidacy on an unwilling but helpless ruling party now incapacitated by deep divisions.
After all the organs had read the resolutions that had clearly been written for them by manipulative powers behind the scenes, Zanu PF national chairman, John Nkomo, formalised the declaration of Mugabe as the presidential candidate by acclamation.
The delegates responded by looking at each other in bewilderment. The usual chanting of slogans, singing and dancing were all forgotten. Even the singing national commissar, Elliot Manyika, remained glued to his seat looking as confused if not as sorry as everyone else. Mugabe himself looked equally perplexed and even fearful. As if there was the hand of God at work, Nkomo looked at Mugabe and sought to reassure by saying, “Cde. President we have tried”.
All this was live on television. There was something about the images which seemed to foretell what we are most likely to see on the day of the results of the 2008 general election.
To any discerning observer who was either inside the special congress yesterday or who watched the charade unfold from the beginning to the end on television, it was clear that nobody in Zanu PF actually supports Mugabe’s candidacy. Everyone understands that it is wrong and the most telling statement in that regard is the holding of a sham special congress when a national people’s conference was in order.
The tragedy in Zanu PF is that its leading factions, especially those associated with Solomon Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa, are now using their mutual hatred as a way of expressing their support for Mugabe. The divisions between these factions has widened and deepened as they compete to prove which faction supports Mugabe more than the other. One can only imagine what would happen if these factions were to unite against Mugabe in support of Zimbabwe.
* Professor Jonathan Moyo is the Independent MP for Tsholotsho.