Mugabe hoist by his own petard

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe actually created his own Frankenstein monster in the form of Vice-President Joice Mujuru when he trampled the Zanu PF party’s constitution in 2004 under the guise of promoting gender parity to elevate her at the expense of her bitter rival, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Herbert Moyo

The 90 year-old veteran leader is currently facing a huge dilemma over how to deal with Mujuru who, according to his wife Grace, has been plotting to oust him from power at the party’s elective congress due in December.

Mugabe’s present quandary is the product of his decision in 2004 to accept a proposal to amend the party constitution by inserting a clause that one of the party vice-presidents must be a woman — a resolution taken in connivance with the Mujuru faction in order to block what looked to be a shoo-in ascendancy of Mnangagwa, who had garnered the support of most of the party’s provincial structures.

At the time Mnangagwa was in line to fill the vacancy that had arisen after the death in 2003 of incumbent Simon Muzenda as his faction had the support of most of the provincial structures. The Mujuru faction, then led by her late husband retired general Solomon Mujuru, was at its weakest although continuously plotting its ascendancy.

Mnangagwa was the clear favourite after a series of meetings by the party’s provincial chairpersons and provincial governors chaired by the late political commissar, Elliot Manyika, culminating in the meeting held in Mugabe’s own backyard of Zvimba which endorsed his candidature ahead of the party’s elective congress that was to be held in December that year.

At that meeting the eight provinces of Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Bulawayo and Mashonaland West voted in favour of Mnangagwa.

They also voted to adopt principles that later became known as the Tsholotsho Declaration regarding the procedures for the nomination of the top four leaders of Zanu PF, stipulating among other things the need to elect a presidium which reflects Zimbabwe’s regional diversity and ethnic balance between and among the country’s four major ethnic groupings, namely Karanga, Manyika, Zezuru and Ndebele.

This, in their view, was necessary in order to promote and maintain representative national cohesion, development, peace and stability while fostering a broad-based sense of national belonging and identity.

The Mujuru faction, which included elements from three disaffected provinces in Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Harare, however, came together to devise a strategy to undermine the Mnangagwa group.

It latched on a resolution, first put forward by the Women’s League at its August 1999 meeting in Victoria Falls, and demanded that one of the four members of the presidium should be a woman. Grace Mugabe spearheaded the initiative as she confirmed at her meeting with war veterans in Mazowe yesterday. Mugabe backed the move although he now wants Mujuru out.

The Women’s League repeated the demand at a meeting in September 2004. Mugabe attended the meeting and announced he supported the idea, throwing spanners in the Mnangagwa works in the process.

Nominations for posts in the presidium from the provinces was set for November 21, 2004 but under the cover of a prize giving ceremony at Dinyane High School in Tsholotsho, the Mnangagwa faction gathered on November 18 that year. Mnangagwa was invited as guest of honour and “coincidentally”chairpersons of the provinces were present although he did not attend at the eleventh hour. His allies later regrouped in Bulawayo.

The Tsholotsho meeting was seen as a direct challenge to Mugabe’s authority given that he had made his support for Mujuru clear, while members of the Mujuru faction saw the gathering as a palace coup plot.

Mugabe called an emergency politburo meeting on the same day that the Dinyane meeting was to take place.
The politburo “amended” the party constitution to include the demand of the Women’s League that one of the vice-presidents be a woman.

Ironically, Mnangagwa, as secretary for legal affairs, was given the task of drafting the necessary amendments to the Zanu PF constitution, thus legislating himself out of power while facilitating the rise of Mujuru.

Mujuru has now become a problem for Mugabe and he is now looking at ways of blocking her from assuming the presidency.

This is despite Mugabe reportedly saying: “When you choose her (Mujuru) as a vice president, you don’t want her to remain in that chair do you?” — a suggestion that Mujuru was in the running as his successor when he retires.