Mugabe outwits Mujuru, Mnangagwa

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IN the penultimate instalment of his article tackling the Zanu PF constitution and succession, Derek Matyszack looks at how Mugabe has resorted to unconstitutional strategies to cling on to power, his insecurity over diminishing support and how he cunningly countered those positioning themselves for his job.

Report by Derek Matyszak

The unconstitutional actions by Robert Mugabe and the centralisation of power at the top echelons of Zanu PF’s hierarchy have caused considerable disgruntlement in the Emmerson Mnangagwa (secretary for legal affairs) camp at lower levels of the party structure.

It is significant that, despite the pressure brought to bear, only six provinces eventually endorsed Joice Mujuru as the nominee to be elected by the December congress of 2004.

Four provinces — Bulawayo, Matabeleland South, the Midlands and Masvingo — remained obdurate, also refusing to nominate John Nkomo (who would complete the Ndebele/PF Zapu balance) as national chairman, and persisting, in line with the Tsholotsho principles, to nominate Patrick Chinamasa (a Manyika) for this post. The defiance from the Bulawayo provincial coordinating committee (PCC) was complete, with the province refusing even to nominate a woman as vice-president as the other rebellious provinces had done in accordance with the directive from the politburo. They also refused to nominate several of Mugabe’s preferred candidates to the central committee.

An infuriated Mugabe and members of the politburo exerted extreme pressure in a vain attempt to try to bring the Bulawayo PCC into line. Further indications of Mugabe’s insecurity within the party emerged in graphic fashion two years after the Tsholotsho saga. The saga, and Mugabe’s apparent anointment of Mujuru as the chosen successor at the congress, led Mujuru to believe that her time was at hand and that Mugabe would not stand for election in 2008. Mugabe indeed signalled that he did not wish to stand for election in 2008, but not in the manner that those seeking to occupy the presidency wished.

Never enthusiastic about facing the electorate, either nationally or within Zanu PF, Mugabe proposed the “harmonisation” of parliamentary and presidential elections to avoid going to the polls alone. While there was general consensus within the country that elections be harmonised, the understanding was that the parliamentary election due in 2010 would be brought forward to coincide with the presidential election due in 2008, rather than the converse.

Mugabe, however, aware of his diminishing support within the party as a candidate in 2008, sought,with the support of the securocrats, to postpone the presidential election until parliamentary elections were due in 2010.

Although Mugabe’s plan to extend his term of office had been rebuffed by both the politburo and central committee, he presented the scheme to the Zanu PF national people’s conference held at Goromonzi in December 2006. Following intensive lobbying by both the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions, Mugabe found no takers for his proposal. To avoid embarrassment to Mugabe, the conference took the unprecedented step of not passing any resolutions and indicated that the suggestion had been referred to the PCCs. In the wake of this humiliation, Mugabe apparently sent emissaries to the provinces to gauge his support as party candidate for the earlier election which he would now have to contest in 2008.  Seven of the 10 were reportedly opposed to his candidacy with three uncommitted.

Mugabe’s view that his defeat in Goromonzi was part of Mujuru’s bid for the presidency appears to have been consolidated following the publication of Edgar Tekere’s autobiography A Life Time of Struggle. Mugabe claimed Mujuru had plotted with Ibbo Mandaza, the publisher of the book, to denigrate his role during the “liberation war” to further her presidential ambitions. He launched a scathing attack on Mujuru during a February 2007 interview on the occasion of his 83rd birthday.

Mugabe stated: “The Tekere/Mandaza issue, ah! they are trying to campaign for Mujuru using the book… you can’t become a president by using a biography. Manjevairasa (they have lost the plot). They don’t realise they have done her more harm than good.

Somewhat paranoid sounding, Mugabe added: “The way to any post in the party is through the people. It is not through n’angas (witch-doctors). Others are using biographies. We do not take notice of that but we move along the path, the people’s way.”

Further evidence of Mugabe’s insecurity over this period is manifest in his decision to convene an extraordinary congress at the end of 2007. The main purpose of the congress was to affirm Mugabe as the party presidential candidate for 2008, which, given that this is a routine duty of the people’s conference, could hardly be said to justify the need to bring together the reported 10 000 delegates to the congress.

To the extent that Mugabe had been “elected” to the presidium by congress in 2004, and declared party candidate for national elections by successive national people’s conferences, this move, if not outside the provisions of the Zanu PF constitution, and procedurally flawed, ought certainly to have been viewed as superfluous. It had no other purpose other than for Mugabe to counter those positioning  themselves for his job.

  • Matyszak is a former University of Zimbabwe law lecturer, constitutional expert and researcher with the Research and Advocacy Unit.

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