THE contentious rules and regulations for election into the Zanu PF central committee, adopted by the politburo a fortnight ago, may have been crafted with succession politics in mind, but deal a body blow to the party’s renewal needs across the deep factional divide.
The rules state that candidates aspiring to stand for election to the central committee must have served in the party structures for a period of not less than 15 consecutive years, a condition which practically slams the door for many young turks aspiring to rise through the party’s ranks.
Those aspiring to be in the national executive of the youth league must not be more than 35 years old and must have served in the national youth league executive for five years or more. This thus excludes many youths at provincial level who were aspiring to get into the national youth league.
The central committee, which the youths and new persons have been blocked from is the “principal organ of congress” and acts on behalf of congress when it is not in session.
According to the Zanu PF constitution, the central committee has full plenary unfettered powers to “make rules, regulations and procedures to govern the conduct of the party and its members; implement all policies, resolutions, directives, decisions and programmes enunciated by congress; give directions as well as supervise and superintend all the functions of the central government in relation to the programmes as enunciated by congress”.
Zanu PF youth officials believe the regulations are a knockout jab to young turks in both factions.
However, there is a general belief that the faction led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa stands to lose more. Party officials who were suspended or expelled from Zanu PF over the 2004 Tsholotsho Declaration which sought to push Mnangagwa to the vice-presidency cannot be in the central committee because of the 15-year consecutive service rule.
“Focus has been on the factional aspect of the decision, but the regulations are a heavy body blow for all party youths regardless of whether one is sympathetic to Vice-President Joice Mujuru or Mnangagwa. With these regulations, the Zanu PF old guard has virtually said no to renewal and no to regeneration,” said a youth league member aspiring to be in the national executive.
“A lot of youths who played a part in re-energising the party and had done well in promoting party programmes and activities are demoralised by the regulations.”
Ironically, ahead of last year’s general elections, Zanu PF’s militarised commissariat department opened doors for young and vibrant candidates to contest in the primary elections, resulting in a number of bigwigs who have always enjoyed the party’s protection falling by the wayside.
Some politburo members like Lazarus Dokora, Joseph Made, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Sithokhozile Mathuthu and former cabinet minister Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana were defeated by youthful candidates in primary elections, heralding what was seen as a new era in Zanu PF politics.
Zanu PF went on to field many youthful candidates and some who were not so young, but were relatively new in Zanu PF politics, with many of them making it into parliament. Some of the new brooms were rewarded with deputy ministerial posts in which they have shown a lot of promise.
These include Information, Media and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira, Deputy Health and Child Care minister Paul Chimedza, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs deputy minister Fortune Chasi, Home Affairs deputy minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Tongai Muzenda, among others.
In parliament, legislators such as Gokwe Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena, who chairs the portfolio committee on youth, indigenisation and economic empowerment, Melody Dziva, who is the deputy chair of committees, Temba Mliswa, Makosini Hlongwane and Dexter Nduna have all stood out, but the rules and regulations adopted by Zanu PF do not allow them to immediately rise through the ranks.
The likes of Joseph Chinotimba, who is a new broom in parliament despite being on the political scene for a long time mainly through activism in the war veterans’ ranks, have also done relatively well contributing to debate and highlighting issues the layman wants addressed.
The rules adopted by the politburo, however, mean party members like Chinotimba may not make the cut for the central committee, which is quite vital in Zanu PF politics.
Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said although the rules were made with factional politics in mind, the Zanu PF old guard had also deliberately shut out ambitious young members and the relatively new members.
“There have been a lot of young and ambitious people who joined Zanu PF in the last five years. The rules are therefore a deliberate ploy to clip their wings. In addition, we also had many people from the army, police, business and some academics who have also joined the party and their ambitions know no bounds, but their wings have been clipped as well,” Nkomo said.
“People want to protect their territory by blocking omafikizolo (johnny-come-latelies), but this development is not good for Zanu PF which badly needs regeneration. By blocking such people you are blocking fresh ideas and some people with a global outlook.”
The central committee is also responsible for setting up party organs, committees, institutions, commissions and enterprises in the name and on behalf of the party and can convene congress in ordinary and/or extraordinary sessions; formulate the agenda, procedures and regulations for business of congress.
It can also amend the party’s constitution. It is clearly a vital body where the young, who are the next generation of leaders, should not be excluded from.
Shutting out youths and people with fresh ideas from this body can therefore be equated with taking several steps backwards in so far as renewing the party is concerned.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo has justified the measures saying they were not targeting anyone, but would ensure that only members with the “right orientation” in the party form national structures.
However, Zanu PF appears to have failed to strike a balance between people with the “right orientation” and the need to ensure regeneration, a development which may be costly going in the near future.
Unlike other liberation war movements in the region such as Chama Cha Mapinduzi of Tanzania which have embraced change and have thus remained popular, Zanu PF has steadfastly resisted change. The party has increasingly relied on the military to win elections instead of using its strong base as a revolutionary party to maintain its popularity.
In 2012, Zanu PF chairpersons who received ideological and mass mobilisation training from the Communist Party of China (CPC) with regard to elections were told their party must embrace change or die.
Former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, in his address to the 2012 Open Forum conference in Cape Town, South Africa, also urged former liberation struggle leaders like Mugabe to retire and allow a new generation of leaders to take over, but the advice seems to have fallen on deaf ears — at least as far as Zanu PF is concerned.
“In my country, you will not find more than three people in cabinet who fought in the liberation struggle,” Chissano said. “All the other ministers and their deputies didn’t fight any war.”
Most senior Zanu PF officials privately complain that Mugabe, who has been at the helm of Zanu PF since 1977 and has led the country since 1980, is now a liability, having stayed in power for too long. Ironically, they too are guilty of shutting out the young in as much as they are guilty of failing to ensure the party is regenerated.