THE recent announcement by Zanu PF’s secretary for legal affairs, Emmerson Mnangagwa, members of the presidium at the Zanu PF national congress in December will be elected through a secret ballot system has opened a new battle front in the intensifying infighting within the party.
Members of the faction led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru say the secret ballot would not happen unless the new voting system is first approved by the politburo and the constitution is amended.
This came amid fears in the party that those pushing for the secret ballot — which is a good thing in situations where free, fair and credible elections are held — are plotting to rig out Mujuru from her position to prevent her from consolidating her campaign to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
Since Mugabe’s wife Grace entered the fray last month, Mujuru has been under immense political pressure from the Mnangagwa camp which is using the First Lady as a platform to revive its diminishing fortunes after it lost crucial provincial elections last year and the battle for key elected positions within the Youth and Women’s Leagues at recent conferences last month.
Events at the Zanu PF’s politburo last week showed that the Mnangagwa faction has gained some ground after the emergence of Grace and is now pushing to turn the tables by December, although the Mujuru faction is scheming behind the scenes to stay course.
The Zanu PF presidium is composed of the President and first secretary, two vice- presidents and second secretaries and the national chairperson.
All positions will be up for grabs at the congress although Mugabe will almost certainly be uncontested as nobody in the party has the guts to challenge him.
In a surprise move, Mnangagwa last Sunday was quoted by the state media as saying the secret ballot system will be used at congress in line with the Zanu PF constitution.
This raised alarm in the party, with Mujuru’s allies saying this was not possible because it has not been approved by the politburo and the constitution has not been amended.
“The whole thing is suspicious because it’s coming from nowhere,” a senior politburo member aligned to the Mujuru camp said. “The politburo has not approved this and the constitution has not been amended. So where is it coming from? Who is behind this and for what purpose? What’s the agenda?”
However, a politburo member supporting Mnangagwa said: “It’s a good thing; it’s the most democratic method used in elections everywhere, so why are they complaining unless they don’t want democracy?”
Mnangagwa said the Zanu PF constitution would be amended to regularise the disbandment of district co-ordinating committees (DCCs). The DCCs were disbanded in 2012 after Mugabe came under pressure from the Mujuru faction.
“If you read the constitution, it says delegates at the congress will vote through the one-man one-vote (system),” said Mnangagwa, who is also Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister.
Those who want the secret ballot system say the system is good for internal democracy, especially in a party like Zanu PF, which has resisted the method in electing its top leaders for a long time.
However, Section 32 (1) of the Zanu PF constitution says members of the presidium “shall be elected by congress directly upon nomination by at least six provincial co-ordinating committees of the party, meeting separately in special session called for that purpose.”
The section further says: “Provided that if in respect of any position being contested no candidate succeeds in securing the nomination by at least six (6) provincial co-ordinating committees (PCCs), the candidates having the highest nomination votes, shall be referred to the provincial co-ordinating committees for fresh nomination.
“This process shall be repeated until it yields a candidate who commands the nomination by at least six (6) provincial co-ordinating committees. The candidate, who through this process attains the nomination by at least six (6) provincial co-ordinating committees, shall stand nominated for election directly by congress.”
“Normally, by the time we get to congress, members of the presidium would have been elected,” a party official said. “So we are not sure what he is talking about unless things will be changed before congress.”
Research and Advocacy Unit senior researcher, Derek Matyszak, who has studied the Zanu PF constitution and recently wrote a report on the party’s succession politics, said he was unaware of a clause which says election at congress is through the one-man one-vote system.
“As far as I am aware, nobody has been elected to the presidium at congress. Normally, by the time you get to congress a consensus would already have been reached. If there is a tie in the nominations, the PCCs nominate again, but in the past the PCCs are eventually guided on who the nominee is,” Matyszak said.
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said a decision on how the voting would be conducted was yet to be taken.
“The legal committee will make its recommendations and we will discuss the rules and finalise them. The national coordinating committee, chaired by the national chairman, will meet to look into that issue. That has not happened yet,” said Gumbo.
A Zanu PF official said voting by secret ballot would give the Mnangagwa faction a chance to bounce back.
“Voting by secret ballot, even at provincial level, would allow people to freely exercise their choice without the fear of being victimised. This means a faction can hold the key positions in the structures, but still lose elections because at the end of the day the vote of a politburo member or provincial chairperson carries the same weight as that of any delegate at congress,” said the official.