PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has taken steps to reassert his grip on fractious Zanu PF after the endorsement of constitutional amendments giving him powers to handpick his deputies, national chairperson and members of the politburo.
Politburo insiders said a cocktail of amendments, which include empowering the president to appoint his deputies, reduce the size of the politburo from 64 to 25 members and its committees from 18 to five, as well as scrap a clause that one of the vice-presidents should be a woman, and increasing the central committee from 245 to 300 members, were endorsed at a Wednesday politburo meeting.
The amendments now await ratification by the central committee — the party’s supreme decision-making body in between congresses — next week.
“The president can now appoint the whole presidium while a clause which forced him to appoint a woman in the presidium has also been removed,” said a senior politburo member.
“All deputies will no longer be part of the politburo but will sit in the central committee because only 25 substantive members will constitute the politburo, down from the current 64,” said the source adding: “Appointments by the president will not be based on seniority or hierarchy but merit.”
Another source said other amendments include increasing the number of members of the central committee from 245 to 300.
Currently, the two vice-presidents and the national chairperson are elected at congress after every five years.
Another politburo member aligned to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s faction said the proposed amendment on the politburo will see massive purges of Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s allies already removed from the new central committee.
“Most deputies and committee members were Mujuru’s allies and that is the reason why most of the time they prevailed in the politburo.”
Zanu PF sources also said the repealing of the clause which states that one vice-president should be a woman further sealed Mujuru’s fate as she was appointed based on that clause. “In 2004 Mnangagwa, then secretary for administration and eying the vice-presidency, was forced to amend the constitution to accommodate Mujuru into the presidium. That section has been removed and her fate is all but sealed. Mnangagwa is now quite certain to land the vice-presidency,” said another official.
Those who back the amendments, mostly in the Mnangagwa faction, say the changes are meant to create one centre of power in the president and tame factionalism amid allegations that Mujuru wanted to topple Mugabe.
But party officials aligned to the Mujuru faction say the amendments are crafted to deal with Mujuru, who, among other charges, is accused of incompetence, extortion, corruption, abuse of office, fanning factionalism and treason.
“The amendments are manipulative and they are meant to deal with Mujuru who was an obvious successor to Mugabe,” a senior Zanu PF senior official said.
“Congress has been dealt a massive blow and reduced to an assembly where people will gather to hero-worship Mugabe without meaningful debate and serious resolutions adopted,” the official added.
Suspended party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said the congress would be a “sham” as it would be run by “illegal structures” because all the suspended chairpersons have not yet been replaced by elected individuals.
“Interim chairpersons cannot run a congress. That is illegal and even all those suspensions are illegal because they are unconstitutional,” Gumbo said.
“It is subversion of the will of the people who voted those chairpersons into those positions. The suspensions remain illegal and a clear manipulation of the party structures.”