Presidium, factional battles in Zanu PF

IN this week’s instalment researcher and lawyer Derek Matyszak, looks at the succession process in practice.

Derek Matyszak

This is a continuation in a series of articles from his report titled The Mortal Remains: Succession and the Zanu PF Body Politic, which was produced by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Research Advocacy Unit (Rau), which unpacks the unfolding Zanu PF power struggle and President Robert Mugabe’s succession drama, focusing on the national and party constitutions, the movers and shakers and the internal dynamics attendant to the process.

As a result of the chaos and disputes around all three polls (Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland Central), the elections for the remaining seven provinces which had been set for November23, 2013, were postponed and an urgent and extraordinary politburo meeting was convened to consider whether to accept or re-run the contentious polls in the three provinces, and to chart the way forward for polls in the remaining seven.

Despite cogent reports of electoral malpractice, the politburo resolved at an emotionally charged meeting to accept the results from the three provinces where the polls had been conducted, and set November 30 for polls in the remaining provinces.

These elections did not proceed any more smoothly, with allegations of electoral manipulation raised in each, and the police summoned to quell disgruntled party members in Masvingo and Mashonaland West, where tear gas was fired. It was only in Harare and Mashonaland East where the losing candidates reportedly were prepared to accept the outcome.

Significantly, complaints concerning manipulated and fraudulent voters’ rolls formed a central part of the allegations of electoral malpractice in all the provinces — reflecting the difficulty of determining the composition of the electing party structures and leaving the process open to manipulation and bias.

The factional dimensions of these polls are discussed below.
The Achilles’ heel of any electoral process which relies upon an internal electoral college is that it is susceptible to challenge on the grounds that the college making the selection was not properly constituted.

An allegation that merely one of the provincial co-ordinating committees (PCCs) was not properly convened or constituted as an electoral college, and its nomination to the presidium thus invalid, is likely to effect the determination of who are the nominees with the highest votes for purposes of being reconsidered by the ten PCCs.

Arguments as to whether the provincial executive committee (Pec) elections were validly conducted, and thus as to the validity of the composition of the PCCs, have continued long after the conclusion of the fraught polls.

Practical difficulties do not end there if the intention is that the selection of the nominee for Zanu PF president is to be put forward as the nominee “of” Zanu PF as state president by the PCCs. The nominee that wins the vote of six provinces must be elected by congress.

But extraordinary sessions of congress may only be convened on 42 days (six weeks) notice. Furthermore, as noted earlier, it is unclear whether an extraordinary session of the national people’s conference must be convened to “declare” the party president as the party candidate for state president as required by Section 31(3) of the party constitution. Accordingly, within a 90-day period, the following must take place:

the PCCs must convene, submit their nominations, and resolve and resubmit nominations in the event of a contested process;

the congress must convene and “elect” the person so nominated — a process which might be protracted given the ambiguities as to the elective power of congress in this regard; and
the national people’s conference may need to convene to declare the party president “elected by congress” as the candidate for national president.

It will be a tight timeframe if this process is followed. The constitution does not deal with a situation where no nominee has been put forward within the requisite timeframe.

In order to consider how the succession to the presidency within Zanu PF might unfold, it is instructive to look at past successions to positions within the presidium and factional battles.

The fault lines
Reports concerning those vying for the presidency are usually based upon conjecture and political gossip. The conventional wisdom in Zimbabwe is that there are two main factions within Zanu PF contending for the presidency on President Robert Mugabe’s departure: those who grouped around the late retired General Solomon Mujuru and are now grouped around his wife and Vice-President, Joice, and those grouped around Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

However, it has also been suggested recently that those formerly aligned to the late general, now rally around Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi as successor. Simultaneously, it has been claimed that the military secretly “symbolically swore in Emmerson Mnangagwa as shadow president” with the consent of Mugabe.

Both the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions have advanced differing and expedient perspectives on the manner in which the Zanu PF presidium is to be constituted to advance the cause of favoured candidates to the posts.

The blurring of the lines between Zanu PF as a party and the state has been a hallmark of Zimbabwe’s polity since 1980, and is reflected in the Zanu PF party constitution itself.

One manifestation of this is the confluence of the party presidium and state presidium. The state and Zanu PF constitution both establish the posts of a president and two vice-presidents.

Those holding the posts under the state constitution have always been the same individuals who hold the posts under the party constitution. With Mugabe having the unfettered discretion to appoint both Vice-Presidents under the state constitution, this power affects the processes under the party constitution.

Combined with the fact that there is no unequivocal statement of term limits for the presidium under the Zanu PF constitution, a sector within Zanu PF, and particularly the presidium itself, which of course includes Joice Mujuru, have advanced the notion that unless there is a “vacancy” in the presidium, the nominations from the provinces prior to congress for the top three positions are a mere formality, in the same way as the people’s conference is required yearly to declare the president of the party as the Zanu PF candidate for state president. Mugabe and his supporters have thus adopted the refrain that “there is no vacancy in the presidium”.

The notion that there need not be five yearly elections for the presidency appears to have continued.

This assumption of the right to office by the incumbents has been disputed and contested by those seen as aligned to Mnangagwa, who have contended that fresh elections to all posts within the presidium must take place every five years by way of nominations from the provinces.

Their view is that these nominations are not merely a formal and automatic endorsement of the incumbents.

A second fault line dividing the Mujuru and Mnangagwa camps is a result of the Unity Accord, which absorbed Joshua Nkomo’s PF Zapu party into Zanu PF in December 1987. One section of Zanu PF claims an unwritten term of the Unity Accord is that the four posts in the presidium will be divided between Zanu PF and PF Zapu, with Zanu PF holding the presidency and a vice-presidential post, and PF Zapu holding the other vice-presidential position and the post of national chairman.

Since the power base of PF Zapu is in Matabeleland, the further inference by some is that the PF Zapu posts will be held by members of the majority ethnic group in Matabeleland, the Ndebele.

However, many of those aligned to the Mnangagwa camp have taken the understanding concerning the distribution of posts within the presidium along ethnic lines further and maintained that it ought to be party policy that all major ethnic groups in Zimbabwe, the Zezuru, Manyika, Karanga, and Ndebele, will be represented in the presidium.

The military factor
The ethnic analysis of Zanu PF’s succession battle views the contest as between the Zezuru (represented by the Mujuru faction) and the Karanga (represented by the Mnangagwa faction). Both are seen as periodically endeavouring to forge alliances with the Manyika and Ndebele groupings.

It certainly seems to be outside any coincidence that the head of state, Mugabe, a vice-president (Mujuru), the head of the judiciary, Godfrey Chidyausiku, the head of the Defence Forces, Constantine Chiwenga, the Head of the Air Force, Perence Shiri, the head of police, Augustine Chihuri, and the Registrar-General, Tobaiwa Mudede, are all Zezuru. None of the four cabinet ministers of the last government, excluded from the politburo, were Zezuru.

Masvingo and Midlands provinces, home to the Karanga, have consistently opposed nominations to the presidium comprising people of Zezuru and Ndebele backgrounds only.

The most contentious of the district co-ordinating committee (DCC) elections took place in Masvingo and Manicaland, and those of the Pec in Masvingo, Midlands, Bulawayo and Manicaland.

However, while some factions within Zanu PF might wish to exploit ethnic considerations, several political observers have cautioned against using ethnicity as an analytical lens through which the internal dynamics of Zanu PF may be viewed.

For several years, and most obviously in the aftermath of Mugabe’s electoral defeat in March 2008 (when those heading the security sectors stepped in to ensure Mugabe’s “victory” in the presidential run-off election in June), it has been evident that the President and any aspirant to the presidency are heavily dependent upon support from the security sector.

Zanu PF succession politics may be conceptualised in terms of the extent to which the wooing of securocrats has been accepted or rebuffed, and the extent to which the securocrats believe who is best able to safeguard their positions and the status quo. This in turn infers the extent to which each of these are prepared to protect the positions of the Zanu PF old guard, most of whom, having played prominent roles in the “liberation war”, believe in “rule by entitlement” by virtue of their contributions made during the war.

Manoeuvring and precedent
After the congress of 1964, Zanu PF, due to internal repression and then the war, was unable to hold any congresses for the next 20 years. Leadership issues were determined by the party’s council or “Dare” in exile with significant influence exerted by the military, manifested famously in the Mgagao Declaration which led to the ousting of the then leader of the party, Ndabaningi Sithole.

The congress of 1984 revealed a party struggling to adjust to constitutionalism as a modus operandi. With the politburo at this time being elected rather than appointed from the central committee by the party president, as is now the case, it was apparent as the delegates converged at Borrowdale Race Course that at least six seasoned party stalwarts were set to be deposed from their positions in the politburo. Among these were Simon Muzenda and Kumbirai Kangai, who had not been nominated by the provinces.

They were rescued by the intervention of Mugabe who went so far as to persuade Maurice Nyagumbo, the nominee of all provinces, to stand aside and allow Muzenda to fill the vacant vice-presidency post. Although Mugabe’s preferences held sway, the revised list of candidates was met with booing by the plenary of delegates.

Congress had just experienced its first taste of guided democracy, which was to emerge each time a vacancy arose in the presidium. From the time the executive presidency was created, and the Unity Accord signed, there was little challenge to the triumvirate of Mugabe as President, and Nkomo and Muzenda as Vice-Presidents. The only position which admitted any fluidity was that of national chairman, a possible future stepping stone to the vice-presidency on the demise of any one of the two vice-presidents.

Positioning and manoeuvring around the issue of succession to Mugabe began as early as 1999, when sectors within Zanu PF were, correctly as it transpired, beginning to view Mugabe as an electoral liability. The Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions first locked horns following the death — on the July 1 of that year — of Nkomo, then the PF Zapu nominated vice-president.

Pursuant to what one PF Zapu member has described as a series of “secret meetings”, the national party chairman, Joseph Msika was “elected” as the new vice-president by congress that convened in December 1999. Although a member of PF Zapu, and raised in Matabeleland, Msika was Zezuru, the same ethnic group as Mugabe.

This caused disgruntlement within PF Zapu who felt that Msika had been imposed from above, and, not being Ndebele, was not an appropriate representative of the Matabeleland provinces.

However, being fourth in the presidium hierarchy, and previously second-in-command to Nkomo within Zapu, his elevation to the vice-presidency was not overtly contentious. Significantly, however, Mugabe was unable to secure the elevation of his preferred candidate, Thenjiwe Lesabe, the then head of the Women’s League.

The promotion of Msika to the vice-presidency left the position of national chairperson open, and Mnangagwa threw his hat into the ring for this position.

Had he succeeded in this quest, he would have been in pole position to succeed Muzenda, also a Karanga, and within reach of the Presidency after Mugabe’s departure.

It was apparently astute political manoeuvring by Solomon Mujuru, however, that secured the nomination of John Nkomo, an Ndebele, from eight of the 10 provinces. As a Ndebele, Nkomo was an unlikely rival to Solomon Mujuru’s choice for the vice-presidency when the opportunity arose — as it did with the death of Muzenda in September 2003.