ABOUT a fortnight from now the ruling Zanu PF will hold its elective congress with all eyes trained on President Robert Mugabe to see whether he will once again illegally amend the constitution, this time to oust Vice-President Joice Mujuru — exactly a decade after tinkering with it specifically to facilitate her surprise ascendancy.
Mujuru, once the darling of Mugabe, who famously declared that she should aim higher — a statement widely interpreted to mean that she would succeed him — has gravely fallen out of favour with the First Family particularly Mugabe’s wife, Grace, who has traversed the country publicly accusing her of abuse of office, subversion, extortion, illicit underworld diamond dealings, blackmailing corporates to grab 10% equities and corruption in general, and demanded she resigns immediately or be fired.
However, indications are that despite her generally muted public response to Grace’s outbursts and demands, Mujuru is not considering resigning and her party supporters in and outside the politburo are defiant. It will take no less than constitutional manipulation or political thuggery to boot her out.
Back in 2004, Mujuru was sensationally catapulted to the vice-presidency through the back door courtesy of a controversial constitutional amendment by Mugabe and other pro-Mujuru members of the politburo, including her late husband, retired army commander Solomon. Mugabe accepted their proposal to illegally impose Mujuru which ironically was supported by Grace and outgoing Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri.
Grace recently proudly confessed Mugabe, herself and allies imposed Mujuru illegally to block Mnangagwa.
Mugabe then inserted a clause that one of the party vice-presidents must be a woman — a resolution made in connivance with the Mujuru faction in order to block Mnangagwa’s rise after he had won support through most party provincial nominations, leaving him poised to fill the vacancy that had arisen after Simon Muzenda’s death in 2003.
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, the late Elliot Manyika, culminating in a 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 seven provinces of Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Bulawayo and Mashonaland West voted in favour of Mnangagwa.
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.
Commenting on the events of 2004, which saw Mujuru being elevated after the suspension of six party provincial chairpersons who supported Mnangagwa, former Zanu PF MP Pearson Mbalekwa said that “the story of Tsholotsho has been told albeit by the beneficiaries of a political party that is fraught with hate, fear and a tyrannical leadership”.
“The actual coup d’état against the constitution was not by the so-called Tsholotsho conspirators, but by the politburo that sat at Zanu PF headquarters on November 18, 2004 to undermine the party constitution,” wrote Mbalekwa in the Zimbabwe Independent on September 15, 2006.
“The constitution was illegally amended to accommodate the preferred candidate of the political mandarins of Zanu PF (Mujuru) when it had become clear that Mnangagwa was heading for a clear victory if the party procedure was followed to elect a new vice-president during the next congress which was due in December 2004.”
Nominations for posts in the presidium from the provinces were 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, but he did not attend after the plot was exposed. 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 conveniently saw the gathering as a “palace coup plot”.
Mugabe had called an emergency politburo meeting on the same day that the Dinyane meeting was to take place.
The politburo illegally “amended” the party constitution to include the demand of the Women’s League that one of the vice-presidents be a woman.
Fast-forward 10 years to 2014, Mujuru is now having the taste of her own medicine. The same dirty tactics of unsubstantiated allegations that were levelled against Mnangagwa and his allies of plotting to overthrow Mugabe are now being used against her.
One after the other, provincial chairpersons who support Mujuru are being purged ahead of the congress, some illegally and on false charges. Mashonland West provincial chairperson Temba Mliswa, who openly supported Mujuru, has already been booted, while other chairmen Callisto Gwanetsa (Masvingo), Jason Machaya (Midlands), Andrew Langa (Matabaleland South), Amos Midzi (Harare)and Ray Kaukonde (Mashonaland East) faced the axe ahead of yesterday’s politburo meeting following votes of no confidence from their provincial executives and allegations of plotting to remove Mugabe.
Langa, Midzi, Machaya and Gwanetsa have purportedly received votes of no confidence, while mob rule is being used to force out Mujuru.
History seems to be repeating itself.