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Mugabe, who recently survived efforts to knock him out of the next presidential election through term and age limits, is now cracking down on Copac and those behind the plot to oust him in a bid to halt them in their tracks. Copac officials are now under pressure to fast-track the constitution-making process and deliver a draft before it is given to the management committee and then principals. It  will also go back to the parties for final approval. The draft would then be taken to an all-stakeholders’ conference, parliament, referendum and parliament again for  adoption.

However, sources say the danger is that Mugabe and his party could block the draft at any one of these stages unless they get a constitution they want.

Sources said Mugabe fears that there is a group linked to the Emmerson Mnangagwa faction and which includes Zanu PF Copac co-chair Paul Mangwana pulling out all the stops to delay the process and elections deep into next year, thus knocking him out on age and health grounds. It is now generally accepted in Zanu PF that if elections were to be held next year, particularly during the last quarter, it would not feasible or practically possible to field Mugabe as a winning candidate.

Sensing danger, Mugabe has awakened up the reality that his own party members want him to go and is fiercely hitting back, throwing a monkey wrench in their works.

Mugabe showed he was not aware of the plot and raised the political stakes during last week’s Zanu PF politburo meeting where he demanded
a speedy conclusion to the constitution-making process. He went to the extent of re-activating his team which includes Zanu PF negotiators Patrick Chinamsa and Nichoals Goche and secretary for legal affairs, Mnangagwa, and other members of the technical committee to bring finality to the constitution-making process.

Politburo insiders told the Zimbabwe Independent this week Mugabe put his foot down at the meeting after Mangwana told the politburo Copac was still deadlocked and needed time resolve the “parked” issues by consensus. Insiders said Mangwana’s indicated the process would take even longer than was previously anticipated.

Politburo members said Mugabe saw this as a deliberate ploy by a certain section in Zanu PF, aligned to both factions led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Mnangagwa, who want to use the constitution-making process to delay elections to next year and eliminate him from the race.
Mugabe (88) and his close allies drawn from the politburo and the Joint Military Command (JOC) want elections as soon as possible but mainly this year without fail, with or without a new constitution. 

Mugabe told the Central Committee  meeting last week Zimbabwe would go for a referendum in May, failure of which it would revert to the Lancaster House Constitution and hold elections before the end of the year.

“Let’s conclude the process, whether we agree or disagree. The dance we have had for the past four years is over. Let us have an election and end this animal called inclusive government,” Mugabe said adding that “their days are numbered and one should expect that by May we have a referendum that should give us the way forward”.

He also charged: “I am told that there are some among us who do not want elections this year. If they are there, they must go and join the MDC).”
Party insiders said Mugabe made it very clear at the politburo meeting that he would not tolerate any further delays in the constitution-making process. “By stalling the constitution-making process and thereby delaying the elections, they want to give Mugabe a technical knockout blow. They want to delay elections until next year so that it becomes unworkable for Mugabe to stand as the party candidate,” a senior politburo member said.

“The Mnangagwa faction is mainly behind this. They are trying to use the constitution-making process to force debate on the succession issue. President Mugabe has now seen through their plan and is now fighting them head-on.”

Copac was given until yesterday to hand over the report of the co-chairs on the draft constitution to the management committee, made up of the three negotiating teams. The team of negotiators – Goche and Chinamasa, Tendai Biti and Mangoma from MDC-T and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Moses Mzila-Ndlovu of MDC-N – were given 14 days to conclude the process and hand over the final draft to the three party principals.

They met yesterday and made little progress on the major contentious. The three parties have failed to agree on the structure of government, devolution of power and dual citizenship. Zanu PF last resolved last week at its politburo meeting not to move an inch, especially on devolution. The MDC parties have also vowed not to compromise, leaving Copac facing collapse, a situation which suits Mugabe. 

A member of the management committee told the Independent soon after their meeting: “There has been no movement on the key issues. No one is compromising on devolution of power and dual citizenship. Our next meeting is next week on Tuesday,” he said.

Zanu PF has set up a team which includes Chinamasa, Goche, Mnangagwa and a five-member technical team to handle the constitution-making process. Members of the technical team include senior politburo member Jonathan Moyo, former Matabeleland North MP and chair Jacob Mudenda, Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) chairperson Tafataona Mahoso, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chairman Goodwills Masimirembwa and author Alexander Kanengoni.

The team will prepare a draft and highlight disputed issue before handing it over to the principals. Mugabe is said to have now taken the Copac process by the scruff of the neck to prevent being pushed out.

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