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Provincial polls and a failed democracy

THIS week we continue looking at the power struggles in the provinces of Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland West as unravelled in a 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) though written by Derek Matyszak.

Derek Matyszak

The report unpacks the unfolding Zanu PF power struggles 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.

The main protagonist in Manicaland dynamics is Didymus Mutasa, who was proposed as party vice-president in 2004 by those seeking Manica representation within the presidium. This, being in accordance with the Tsholotsho principles, would seem to be discordant with Mutasa’s overt support for Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s ascendancy to the presidency.
However, Mujuru’s elevation from the “Zanu PF” vice-presidency would leave the way clear for Mutasa’s own promotion. Poor health, however, may scuttle any ambitions Mutasa may have in this regard. Mutasa became party secretary for administration after the Tsholotsho debacle, the fifth position in the hierarchy of the politburo.

From 2010 to 2013, the Manicaland provincial executive council (Pec) was led by Mike Madiro (who had made a political comeback after being deposed following Tsholotsho), and deputised by Dorothy Mabika. Following incessant squabbling among party cadres in the province, allegations of fraud and corruption, reportedly instigated by Mutasa, were used to force Madiro from the chair of the Manicaland Pec in February 2013.

His replacement, Mabika, only lasted two months as the acting-chair when she too was forced from the post after she and Madiro were hauled before the courts on charges of stock theft.
Both Mabika and Madiro alleged that the charges, some arising from events over two years earlier, were motivated by factionalism within the province. The two eventually were acquitted without being put on their defence.

As these events unfolded, reports emerged of a secret meeting convened at the residence of Oppah Muchinguri (long alleged to have ambitions of being part of the presidium), and attended by Emmerson Mnangagwa’s supporters (Patrick Chinamasa, Madiro, and others) to draw up a petition to Mugabe to have Mutasa removed as secretary for administration. The politburo, after receiving the petition, then determined that the probe team, returned from its investigation of factionalism in Bulawayo province, should proceed to Manicaland. It did not help matters that the team comprised not only Mujuru loyalists, but Mutasa himself.

Following the team’s visit, and recommendations made by it to the politburo, John Mvundura and retired Lieutenant-General Mike Nyambuya were installed as chair and deputy chair respectively of Manicaland, but only after fierce clashes between Mutasa and Chinamasa in the politburo over the probe team’s report.

These events took place shortly before Zanu PF’s primary elections for the July 2013 election, which were all the more fiercely contested as a result. The primaries manifested clear divisions along established faultlines with those in the Mnangagwa camp standing against those loyal to Mutasa and Mujuru.

Mujuru forced Christopher Chingosho, who had intended standing against Mutasa, to retire from the race, claiming that Mutasa was “too senior” to have to compete for a seat, while Madiro, despite being cleared of the criminal charges against him, was barred by the politburo from standing in the primaries.

Ahead of the election itself, Mutasa, and his long-standing ally, Basil Nyabadza, went so far as to attempt to block the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission from accepting Chinamasa’s nomination papers. Chinamasa had defeated Nyabadza (who disputed the poll) in the primaries.

When the Pec elections took place at the end of October, the Mnangagwa-aligned contestant, Monica Mutsvangwa, standing against the probe team-imposed Mvundura, withdrew from the race. She claimed that the contest was hardly fair with Mvundura superintending the poll, a shambolic voters’ roll, districts where she had most support starved of ballot papers, and widespread intimidation.

Mutsvangwa subsequently unsuccessfully appealed to the politburo, despite the fact that the elections had been supervised by Mnangagwa, who gave them a clean bill of health.

As a coda to this saga, in June 2014, Mutasa purported to remove Mutsvangwa from the central committee, claiming that this was a constitutional requirement on account of her having stood in the Pec election.

Midlands is the home province of Mnangagwa, and thus seen as a stronghold of his support. Since 2009, the contest for the chair of Midlands province has pitted July Moyo against Jason Machaya. The media may not always be accurate in its enthusiasm for characterising all such intra-party rivalry as one of Mujuru versus Mnangagwa factions.

The competition for this post was likewise depicted as a Mujuru-aligned Machaya, against a Mnangagwa-aligned Moyo. Moyo, however, was one of the six provincial chairpersons deposed after Tsholotsho, and clearly Mnangagwa-aligned.

In March 2009, Machaya’s son, Farai, murdered an MDC-T activist. The relatives refused to collect the body for burial until the Machaya family apologised and made reparations, an issue exploited relentlessly by the Mnangagwa-faction. The criminal trial relating to the murder ended in 2011, with Farai and his co-accused sentenced to 18-year prison terms.

As these events unfolded, and with an uncertain nexus to the events, Machaya was reported to have incurred the displeasure of those in the Mnangagwa-camp by shifting allegiance to Mujuru. Machaya had also been appointed as provincial governor and those opposed to his chairpersonship argued that he could not and ought not to occupy both positions simultaneously.

The 2013 poll for the provincial leadership set Machaya against Mnangagwa-loyalist, Larry Mavhima. Once again, the poll was disputed. Mavhima alleged manipulation of a vote he had been winning and a shambolic voters’ roll.

Although winning the much-delayed poll, Machaya’s supporters also cried foul and submitted a dossier to the politburo detailing allegations as to the Mnangagwa faction’s attempt to rig the election.

The response by the Mnangagwa faction, which included Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxilia, was to object to the dossier as defamatory and to file a US$50 million defamation suit in the High Court.

A heated and emotional politburo meeting was convened on November 7 2013, to resolve the issues arising from this poll and that of Manicaland. Mnangagwa argued that the central committee be tasked to resolve the matter and not the politburo.

The following day, the central committee resolved that elections for the remaining provinces should be held simultaneously and in one day, and that “mistakes made in the provincial elections that have been held so far should be pointed out and corrected”.

The resolution was not followed as Mugabe seemed to regard ultimate authority as lying with the politburo and it was the politburo which eventually determined the issue.

Matters did not end there. A poll to fill provincial executive posts to be occupied by Youth and Women’s League members on December 9 2013 was annulled as flawed and chaotic. A second attempt to hold the elections dissolved into a physical brawl.

The posts were then subsequently filled by the Mnangagwa faction without any vote being taken, purporting to implement a politburo directive to select members from an obscurely compiled “basket of candidates”. The result was an executive which could not work with Machaya.

The political commissar, the Mujuru-aligned Webster Shamu, then dissolved the executive at the end of January 2014, directing that Machaya and the heads of the Youth and Women’s Leagues would manage the province until the politburo had decided how to proceed.

Mnangagwa’s supporters responded by resolving to render the province “unmanageable” until the disputes around the provincial poll were properly resolved.

In March 2014, a meeting was convened at which Shamu simply announced a new 120-member executive. How the members had been selected was not stated. Given the total lack of transparency and democratic process, unsurprisingly the result was considerable disgruntlement among party cadres.

Mashonaland West.
The key figure in Mashonaland West, until his death in 2014, was John Mafa, who had attained the provincial chairpersonship after his predecessor, Phillip Chiyangwa, resigned in July 2005 following charges of espionage against him.

In mid-January 2010, however, politburo members Shamu, Ignatius Chombo, and Nathan Shamuyarira moved against Mafa, calling a provincial co-ordinating committee (PCC) meeting at which a vote of no confidence in Mafa was passed. The dissention had apparently arisen over action taken by the provincial leadership over the composition of the Women and Youth Leagues.

John Mafa and seven others were accused of failing to respect PCC resolutions on the issue. Mafa has always been seen as a Mnangagwa ally. He was replaced by Robert Sikanyika who took over in an acting capacity. Mafa refused to accept the suspension as constitutional and when he thus subsequently attended a PCC meeting, he was taken outside by party youths and severely assaulted.

Mafa wrote to Zanu PF’s then political acting commissar complaining about his treatment and appealed to the party’s national disciplinary committee about his suspension.

Mafa alleged that the politburo was trying to take control of the province.

When Sikanyika died in a car crash in April 2011, Reuben Marumahoko, a firm Mujuru supporter, was controversially installed as acting chairperson by Shamu. Attempts to hold elections for a substantive chairperson for the province were reportedly postponed when it seemed that Mafa would win, and with Mafa contending that any elections ahead of the determination by the national disciplinary committee relating to his suspension would be unconstitutional.

With Mafa carrying the support of the six administrative districts in the province, Shamu unsuccessfully attempted to fill the top six positions in the province by “negotiation” rather than through elections. Chiyangwa, who had sought to contest the poll, was barred by a directive from Mugabe from standing in the elections.

When the poll was finally held in January 2012, Mafa, cleared by the disciplinary committee, beat Marumahoko resoundingly.

The election did not put an end to the leadership battle in the province. The following March, when Chiyangwa successfully stood against Marumahoko for the deputy chairpersonship, the politburo annulled his election.

Mafa claimed that Chombo and Shamu never accepted his election and sought to undermine him at every turn, including attempting to impose Marumahoko as deputy chairperson by directing him to “co-opt” Mujuru allies into the executive and setting the district co-ordinating committee (DCC) leadership against him.

Mafa wrote to the party chairman seeking to have the two censured. The province thus unsurprisingly was not spared the chaos that marred all the elections for provincial chairpersons at the end of 2013.

By this time Chiyangwa had been allowed to stand in the election, but he lost to reported Mujuru-supporter, Temba Mliswa, in a controversial poll which saw police firing teargas to quell violent skirmishes arising out of factional loyalties and the non-appearance of some people on the voters’ roll. Although the poll took place just under two years since Mafa had been elected, he came a distant fourth, with less than a tenth of the number of votes garnered by Mliswa.

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