IN this seventh part of his article, Derek Matyszak looks at the complexities of the contentious Zanu PF succession matrix and how it was influenced by the now dissolved Disrict Co-ordinating Committees (DCCs). He argues that the disbanding of the DCCs, still existing at law, poses a conundrum for the party’s succession politics.
Report by Derek Matyszak
If Zanu PF is to rely upon its electoral process for the replacement of President Robert Mugabe, as it seems it ought, certain practical difficulties present themselves.
The electoral process requires that all 10 PCCs (provincial coordinating committees) submit nominees for “election” to the presidium by congress. The PCCs, as has been outlined, are large and unwieldy bodies. They comprise the provincial executive council and provincial members of the central committee, national consultative assembly, executive committee of women’s league, executive committee of the youth league, MPs and, until recently, chairpersons of district coordinating committees (DCCs).
Many of these bodies are comprised of other components of the party structure. Annexure B expands each of these so that the highly complex nature of PCC is apparent. Each PCC thus usually comprises as many as 100 to 110 members. In theory, the composition of the PCCs makes them extremely democratic bodies, and the large number of members drawn from disparate sectors of Zanu PF structures ought to make it extremely difficult for any individual to exert political pressure upon a PCC in the selection of the nominee for “election” as president by congress.
However, this is both the forte and foible of the PCC. It will require particularly astute, efficient, and active political commissars at of all levels to ensure that delegates to the PCCs are properly identified and attend the special electoral conferences of the PCCs. Furthermore, since the PCC comprises elements of other party structures, it is necessary that these structures are in place and properly formed when it becomes necessary to convene each PCC as an electoral college. This is by no means certain given the current state of Zanu PF’s internal politics.
The elections of the DCCs, for example, were particularly fraught. Several elections were annulled, or postponed as a result, and on one occasion police had to disperse rival supporters by firing shots into the air.
The politburo specifically cited the “divisive” nature of the DCC elections as the reason for the dissolution of this component of the Zanu PF structure. It has been suggested that these elections were hotly contested and controversial because of the influence the DCCs have in the PCCs which, as the electoral college, are central to Zanu PF’s succession politics. However, as is seen here, the chairpersons of the DCCs did not constitute a large component of each PCC.
There was only an average of nine DCCs in each province.
However, as the engine room of Zanu PF’s organisational structure, the DCCs wielded an influence far beyond mere voting numbers. The DCCs played a key role in subduing the rural electorate prior to the presidential run-off election of 2008. The chairpersons of DCCs appear to have established fiefdoms in the areas under their control. The requirement that the PCCs must ensure each administrative district has at least one member appointed to the central committee makes it probable that the appointee was the DCC chairman.
Control of the DCCs was thus seen as the route to enormous political influence within Zanu PF.
The disbanding of DCCs poses a conundrum for Zanu PF succession politics. All DCC chairperson were part of the PCCs. If these PCCs meet as an electoral college to choose the nominee for president prior to the ratification of the dissolution of the DCCs by congress, the question arises as to whether the chairpersons of the DCCs should still be included as part of the PCCs.
The Achilles’ heel of any electoral process which relies upon an internal electoral college is that it is susceptible to challenge on the grounds that the college making the selection was not properly constituted. Even prior to the dissolution of DCCs, it is obvious PCCs were particularly vulnerable to such a charge. If DCC chairpersons are excluded from PCCs prior to the ratification of the necessary constitutional amendment by congress, this will provide a glaring opportunity to assert that their exclusion invalidates the proceedings of the electoral college. In a contested nomination process, an allegation that merely one of the PCCs was not properly convened, and its nomination thus invalid, is likely to effect the determination of who are the nominees with the highest votes for purposes of being reconsidered by the 10 PCCs as outlined earlier.
The practical difficulties do not end there if the intention is that the selection of the nominee for Zanu PF president is to be put forward as the nominee “of” Zanu PF as state president under Section 28(3)(b) of the state constitution.
The nominee who wins the vote of six provinces must be elected by congress. But extraordinary sessions of congress may only be convened on 42 days (six weeks) notice. Furthermore, as noted earlier, it is unclear whether an extraordinary session of the National People’s Conference must be convened to “declare” the party president as the party candidate for state president as required by section 31(3) of the party constitution.
Recall that the parliamentary electoral college must make its choice within 90 days of a president’s demise, and that the Clerk of Parliament must call for nominations 14 days before the election. This means that the parliamentary electoral college may convene no sooner than 14 days, and no later than 76 days, after the demise of a president.
Accordingly, within this timeframe the PCCs must convene, submit their nominations, and resolve resubmit nominations in the event of a contested process; the congress must convene and “elect” the person so nominated — a process which might be protracted given the ambiguities as to the elective power of congress in this regard; and the national people’s conference may need to convene to declare the party president “elected by congress” as the candidate for national president.
It is thus unlikely that Zanu PF will be able to select a candidate for the parliamentary electoral college within the requisite timeframe if this process is followed, particularly if the Clerk sets an early election date. The role and power of the Clerk will thus be extremely important and possibly decisive. It is worth noting here that the Electoral Act only attends to a situation where there are competing candidates or a single candidate. It does not deal with a situation where no nominee has been put forward within the requisite timeframe.
If Zanu PF’s constitution is followed, therefore, the selection of a single candidate to replace Mugabe is likely to be difficult. The Supreme Court may be extremely busy over this period.
- Matyszak is a former University of Zimbabwe law lecturer, constitutional expert and researcher with the Research and Advocacy Unit.