OUTGOING Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF faction has gained control of the National Assembly at the expense of the camp led by his long-time rival Vice-President Joice Mujuru after his close ally, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Jacob Mudenda, landed the powerful Speaker of Parliament post.
REPORT BY BRIAN CHITEMBA
MPs were sworn in on Tuesday and the control of the legislature is vital since it is one of the three critical arms of the state.
Mnangagwa and Mujuru have long been locked in an intra-party battle in a bid to succeed Mugabe, who might be forced to step down before the end of his seventh term due to old age and deteriorating health.
Mnangagwa has successfully positioned his close associates in the legislature as he consolidates his political base.
Mnangagwa, together with six provincial chairpersons, including Mudenda, were accused of masterminding the 2004 Tsholotsho episode regarding Zanu PF’s leadership renewal. Consequently Mudenda, who was the Zanu PF Matabeleland North chairperson, was suspended from the party together with five other provincial chairpersons.
Top Zanu PF officials told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that although Mudenda’s name was suggested by Mugabe at a recent politburo meeting, it was likely Mnangagwa had lobbied for his ascendancy.
Apart from Mudenda another Mnangagwa ally, Mabel Chinomona, was elected Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, to consolidate his control of the lower house.
Chinomona was nominated by Mnangagwa close ally and strategist, Mberengwa East MP Makhosini Hlongwane, while Mudenda was nominated by Zanu PF Bubi MP Clifford Sibanda who is believed to belong to the same camp.
Long serving Zanu PF chief whip in the National Assembly Joram Gumbo and his deputy Mandy Chimene are also linked to Mnangagwa’s faction, suggesting the outgoing defence minister now has control of the lower house.
Senate president Edna Madzongwe — reportedly a relative of Mugabe — was nominated by former Matabeleland North governor Sithokozile Mathuthu, and she was seconded by Josiah Hungwe, both Mnangagwa allies. As a consolation for the Mujuru faction, her ally Chenhamo Chimutengwende secured the post of deputy president of the senate.
The succession race is now open as the new constitution provides that the ruling political party has to nominate a successor in the event that the president is incapacitated, retires or dies.
Zanu PF officials said the succession fight will now cascade down to newly-created provincial councils as the heavyweights seek to influence election of chairpersons.
Provincial council chairpersons will be elected by members of the provincial council in terms of Section 272 (1) of the constitution which states: “At its first sitting after every general election, a provincial council must elect a chairperson from a list of at least two qualified persons submitted by – the political party which gained the highest number of National Assembly seats in the province concerned.”
Therefore, the fight will be centred in the politburo where the list of candidates for the chairships will be drawn up. Lobbying for the provincial council chairpersons, Zanu PF sources said, has already started although the selection will be determined by politburo members.