A SCRAMBLE to endorse President Robert Mugabe as Zanu PFâ€™s leader and first secretary by provincial executive committees, the youth and womenâ€™s league ahead of the partyâ€™s congress in December has started, stalling momentarily the bitter succession debate.
First to endorse Mugabe was the Midlands province at the weekend, which described the octogenarian as a â€œsupreme leaderâ€, and other provinces were expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.
Speaking after the Zanu PF Midlands province met in Gweru, party legal secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa said the province had unanimously agreed that it was â€œsatisfied and committedâ€ by the leadership of â€œSupreme Leaderâ€ Mugabe.Â
Mnangagwa â€“â€“ who is the godfather of the province despite his difficulties in securing it â€“â€“ leads a faction in Zanu PF battling against another camp headed by retired army general Solomon Mujuru to succeed the 85-year-old Mugabe.
Mujuruâ€™s wife Joice who is also party and state vice-president, and Mnangagwa are jostling to take over from Mugabe who has been the undisputed leader of Zanu PF since 1976.
The Mujuru faction is reportedly fighting for the retention of the current Zanu PF presidium, amid reports that their bitter rival wanted Joice to go at the congress.
Impeccable sources within Zanu PF said Mnangagwa was behind the Midlands province move to become the first executive committee in the country to endorse Mugabe to avoid what befell his faction after the October 2004 Tsholotsho debacle.
Mnangagwaâ€™s faction was accused then of plotting to re-arrange the Zanu PF presidium by trying to block the ascent of Mujuru and precipitate the ouster of Vice-President Joseph Msika and national chairman John Nkomo.
The faction allegedly wanted Mugabe to retain his post, Mnangagwa to become co-vice president along with then womenâ€™s league boss Thenjiwe Lesabe whilst Patrick Chinamasa would replace Nkomo.
The plot was scuttled by the Mujuru faction resulting in Mugabe suspending six provincial chairpersons and expelling war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda for attending a meeting in Tsholotsho where the plot was allegedly hatched.
Chinamasa and ex-Information minister Jonathan Moyo were also victims of the debacle as they lost their positions in the Zanu PF politburo.
â€œThe decision by the Midlands province was calculative,â€ a Zanu PF politburo member said. â€œThey have quickly moved in to reassure Mugabe that they are solidly behind him, but deliberately did not make any pronouncement on the other members of the presidium.â€
The source said there was still room for the province to nominate candidates of their choice to occupy the two vice-presidency positions and that of national chairperson. Womenâ€™s League boss Oppah Muchinguri, the sources said, was being backed by the Mnangagwa camp to take over from Joice.
The same faction also wants Nkomo to retain his position and was yet to make a firm decision on whether or not the ailing Msika should remain in office. The Mnangagwa faction, the sources said, would influence the outcome of next monthâ€™s youth and womenâ€™s leagues conferences.
The faction reportedly wants Shurugwi MP and also Zanu PF national deputy secretary for administration in the youth league, Anastancia Ndhlovu, to take over as the organâ€™s deputy secretary from Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who is eyeing the post of secretary for commissariat in the politburo. The faction also wants Muchinguri to remain Womenâ€™s League secretary, but she would have to shrug off the challenge of Womenâ€™s Affairs minister Olivia Muchena, who has the blessings of the Mujuru camp. The sources in Zanu PF said that the Mnangagwa faction was in control of five of the 10 party provinces. The camp was therefore better positioned to force changes in the presidium, the central committee and the politburo.
â€œThe Mujuru faction has been lobbying for the current presidium to be retained at the congress under the guise that they were against the intensification of factionalism,â€ another senior Zanu PF member said. â€œThey want to maintain the status quo and fight another day. If they succeed at congress, they will push for the restructuring of provinces which they think were restructured to benefit the Mnangagwa faction.â€
Zanu PF secretary of administration, Didymus Mutasa, and Nkomo met provincial chairpersons at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare on July 6 where Mutasa instructed them to retain the current presidium. Sources said Mutasa told the chairpersons to ensure that their provinces nominate Mugabe, Msika, Mujuru and Nkomo, but Mashonaland Central and Manicaland chairpersons Dick Mafios and Basel Nyabadza objected saying it was unconstitutional; the leaders of Mashonaland West and the Midlands, John Mafa and Jaison Matyaya backed the secretary for administration.
Nkomo, the sources said, had to intervene and pronounced that the provinces were free to nominate anyone of their choice in line with the partyâ€™s constitution. Last month, Mugabe told the central committee that he would stay put and that there would be no change of guard in Zanu PF until there was â€œbetter unityâ€.
â€œWe must be united. People (in Zanu PF) are preoccupied with planning who will be where, by such a time,â€ Mugabe was quoted saying. â€œThat will be decided when we are better united.â€
Mugabeâ€™s succession debate has been raging on for the past five years, but it reached a crescendo on May 20 this year during a politburo meeting when heavyweights attributed problems afflicting the party to infighting and divisions by senior officials bent on grabbing power from the ageing leader.
The clash of bigwigs, among them Mnangagwa, Mujuru, Muchinguri, Kasukuwere, Rugare Gumbo and Thokozile Mathuthu prompted the convening of another politburo meeting on May 28 where a succession committee headed by Nkomo was appointed.