PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s failure to deal with the contentious succession issue, coupled with the vagueness in the party and state constitutions on the matter, is a recipe for conflict should the long-serving leader retire, becomes incapacitated or dies in office, a new report says.
The report, produced by Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum by the Research and Advocacy Unit (Rau), although written by Rau researcher, Derek Matyszak, says although there are sections that clearly deal with succession in the new constitution, one has been parked for 10 years after a Zanu PF faction loyal to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa objected to it, saying the running mates proposal would aid and abet Vice-President Joice Mujuru to succeed Mugabe.
Section 92 (2) of the new constitution provides that a presidential candidate must nominate two running mates, one of which must be a candidate for the first vice-presidency and other second vice-president, while section 101 (1) stipulates that if the president dies, resigns or is removed from office the first vice-president assumes office until expiry for the term.
However, a special bridging provision was introduced into the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution which states: “The vacancy in the office of president must be filled by a nominee of the political party which the president represented when he or she stood for election”.
The party is expected to notify the Speaker of the National Assembly of its chosen nominee within 90 days, but in the interregnum the vice-president who was last appointed acting president on account of the president’s absence or ill-disposition, assumes this role “affording considerable tactical advantage to the incumbent as a candidate for the presidency.”
But the report says grey areas in the Zanu PF and national constitutions create loopholes for conflict.
“One central difficulty with the way in which the succession provisions have been formulated is that the constitution is silent as to whom the speaker should regard as authorised to submit the nomination on behalf of Zanu PF.
“In normal circumstances, a party president is assumed as having plenary authority to represent the party.
“Consider the problem that would arise if Mugabe retired as state president during his term of office but not as party president, and submitted the name of a nominee to replace him to the speaker.
“The question would arise as to whether the speaker would be obliged to determine if, in terms of the Zanu PF party constitution, Mugabe has authority to do so. Alternatively would a failure to follow Zanu PF’s own internal rules negate the legitimacy of a nomination by an authority the speaker is entitled to treat as actually authorised to make such a nomination?”
There are also questions on whether the speaker should judge the eligibility of the nominee submitted by Zanu PF and have the duty to ascertain that the nominee is the true and duly appointed candidate of the party in the same manner that nomination court does for parliamentary candidates.
“Other difficulties are conceivable. For example, in the event of Mugabe’s death while in office, Vice-President Mujuru, as number two in the Zanu PF presidium, may claim the authority to nominate herself as de facto acting Zanu PF president. Similarly, an intractable problem may arise if a section of the party believes that the nominee has been submitted in defiance of party protocol, and the nominee, presumably, at the least, complicit in the perceived breach, is expelled from the party as a result,” the report says.
It says the national constitution does not present answers to these conundrums. It also has no provisions for dispute resolution.
Similarly, the Zanu PF constitution does not have clear provisions which will ensure that these difficulties do not arise.
“The Zanu PF constitution is an inordinately complex document and, in places, poorly drafted. These two factors render the selection of the Zanu PF nominee far from straight forward… The Zanu PF constitution does not contain a direct statement that the party president must be the party candidate for the office of state president. Although usual, it is not always the case that the head of a political party is always the candidate in state presidential elections. Term limits for the office of state president may render this impossible,” the report notes.
“The Zanu PF constitution addresses the matter obliquely with a requirement that Zanu PF’s yearly national peoples’ conference declare the president of the party as the state presidential candidate of the party. The use of the word “declare” suggests that this is merely the formal announcement or public revelation of a pre-existing condition which arises from some other provision of Zanu PF’s constitution. There is, however, no such other provision.”
The vagueness of the two constitutions is potentially dangerous in view of the serious factional infighting, which often manifests itself whenever internal polls are held.
In recent years, and at various levels of the party, Zanu PF’s democratic processes have consistently failed whenever tested as seen by the chaos that erupted in the party during the 2012 District Coordinating Committee (DCC) elections, or at provincial level as evidenced by the conflict in Provincial Executive Council elections last year or at national level such as seen by the recent contentious primary elections last year, youth and women’s league elections last month.
Similarly, whenever vacancies have risen in the presidium, the party has always been plunged into internal strife as evidenced by the jostling for the Vice-President’s position following the deaths of Joshua Nkomo, Simon Muzenda, Joseph Msika and John Nkomo. Mugabe, using the politburo, has often stepped in to use his influence to determine the outcome.
This means if Mugabe is no longer there, chaos becomes almost certainly inevitable, the report states. “There is no reason to suppose that the Zanu PF’s internal democracy will not be equally, if not more flawed, when the stakes are higher, and internal democratic procedures should be applied to select the next party president,” reads the report.
“Politburo may become locked in disarray with one faction perhaps insisting on a legalistic approach, while another may seek to determine the issue by the process of ‘guided democracy’. In the past, Mugabe has been the chief ‘guide’ of the ‘democratic process’ and when the Mujuru-aligned politburo has not been able to impose its will due to opposition from those in the Mnangagwa-camp, his arbitration has been accepted. Mugabe’s mediation may not be so readily accepted when the issue is one of deciding the next party leader.”