Politburo showdown looms over Gono

A SHOWDOWN is looming in the Zanu PF politburo next week where senior party officials are expected to square off along factional lines over the issue of former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, who has been disqualified by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) from filling the vacant Manicaland senatorial seat despite a resolution by the ruling party’s decision-making administrative body.

Faith Zaba

Gono was disqualified on the grounds that he was not a registered voter in Buhera at the close of the voters’ roll on July 10 ahead of the July 31 polls last year.

The Gono issue has been dragging on amid allegations Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who heads a faction angling to succeed President Robert Mugabe whenever he goes, has been taking his time in aligning the electoral law with the constitution, while the other faction, led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, is supporting Gono’s bid although the former central bank boss says he does not support factions but Mugabe.

Gono was nominated by the Manicaland province to replace the liberation war-time Dare ReChimurenga member and former politburo member and cabinet minister Kumbirai Kangai who died in August last year.

The nomination was approved by the politburo late last year, but Gono could not be sworn in until after the alignment of the Electoral Law to the new constitution.

The Electoral Amendment Bill, which sailed through parliament without amendments in July, was signed into law by Mugabe last month.

However, the party is deeply divided over the issue along factional lines, with members aligned to Mujuru pushing for Gono to be sworn in as a Manicaland senator, while those linked to Mnangagwa have been blocking him.

Gono insisted this week he does not belong to any of the two rival factions, blaming factionalism for hurdles thrown on his way.

The Gono issue, senior politburo members told the Zimbabwe Independent, will be on the politburo agenda at its meeting slated for next week.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed the politburo meeting next week, but refused to give details on the party’s position regarding the Gono issue after the Zec announcement.

“It’s an internal issue,” he said. “The politburo will sit down and find a way forward. Next week, the matter will certainly be on the agenda of the politburo.”

However, senior party officials said the politburo meeting, like the last two, is likely to be tense as the two factions face off over the Gono issue.

The Mujuru faction, which has been backing Gono’s bid, is proposing an amendment in the electoral legislation to enable Gono to be sworn in.

“We have two options — one to challenge not so much the legality of that decision, but to ask parliament to make an amendment that would allow Gono to still fill in that vacancy,” said one senior official. “The other is to revert to the party list and change it.”

The politburo is likely to propose ways of aligning the Electoral Amendment Act with the constitution so that Zec can swear in Gono.

However, the Mnangagwa faction could throw spanners in the works.

Information minister Jonathan Moyo, who described the former RBZ governor as too desperate for the senatorial seat, said yesterday the law should not be amended to suit individual interests.

“Zimbabwe is not a Banana republic. It is repugnant and therefore unacceptable that the enactment of any law should be hurried or done to suit the political interests of an individual or to mitigate the consequences of anybody’s ignorance of the law,” Moyo said.

Zec chairperson Rita Makarau said any transfer of a voter by the Registrar-General, as Gono did, after July 10 2013, is of no force and effect and is constitutionally unsustainable.

Gono transferred to Manicaland as a voter at the Registrar-General (RG)’s Office at Makombe Building on December 5 2013.

Makarau said the constitutional function to register and transfer voters vested in the then registrar of voters in accordance with the provinces under Clause 6 (2) of Part 3 of the Sixth Schedule to the constitution for the purposes of the July 31 2013 elections which ceased when the voters’ roll for those elections closed on July 10 2013.

In a letter to Zanu PF chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo dated September 15, Makarau wrote: “Honourable chairman, we regret to advise that whilst we now have the constitutional mandate to register and transfer voters, and are willing and ready to register and transfer voters, there is no legal framework on voter registration and allied matters as envisaged in Section 157(1)(b) of the constitution, a vacuum that has made us hold back on the voter registration, thereby prejudicing not only Dr Gono in this case, but the generality of the electorate in Zimbabwe.”

But Gono said the “Registrar-General’s Office gave me confirmation of transfer which Zec has got. Why the two organisations cannot manage transitions and authenticate transfers between themselves boggles the mind”.

However, Jonathan Moyo said, “It is abundantly self-evident that by any means available or not, Dr Gono is desperate to be a senator for Manicaland province, a provincial parliamentary seat he apparently mistakes for Buhera district.”

“Meanwhile it is common cause that the transfer from the Registrar-General to Zec of the authority and power to register voters was created not by Dr Gono’s alleged detractors but by the new constitution and is therefore a very public constitutional matter which has nothing whatsoever to do with real or imagined factionalism in Zanu PF.”

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has highlighted the discrepancy between the Electoral Amendment Act and constitution.

It said while Section 239(c-e) of the constitution gives Zec authority over the voter’s roll, including the registration exercise, the Electoral Amendment Act is silent on that.

“The continued exercise by the Registrar-General and his officers of their powers to register voters and prepare rolls is therefore unconstitutional. The Act should have remedied this and given the full responsibility to Zec,” Zesn said.