ZANU PF factions are preparing for a potential extraordinary congress in 2017 albeit for different reasons as the factional fights in the party continue to heighten.
By Owen Gagare
Sources in Zanu PF say although the G40 faction prefers that President Robert Mugabe should be the party’s candidate in 2018 to give the faction an opportunity to further consolidate and derail Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidential bid, the faction was closely watching the president’s health and not ruling out an extraordinary congress in 2017 to effectively shut out Mnangagwa if the president’s health deteriorates on the one hand.
The Mnangagwa faction, on the other hand, has long had a plan for an extraordinary congress in 2017, which would confirm Mnangagwa as the party’s presidential candidate for 2018. The Mnangagwa faction believes Mugabe, 92, does not have the capacity to lead the party and the country beyond his current tenure amid increasing signs of infirmity.
Zanu PF is divided into two major factions, one led by Mnangagwa and the G40 faction is fronted by First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Congress is the party’s supreme policy-making organ, which elects the president and first secretary of the party, who then appoints his two vice-presidents and chairperson. Congress also elects members of the central committee and has the authority to amend the party constitution.
Zanu PF sources this week said the possibility of an early extraordinary congress was real as both factions may want it for strategic reasons.
It was also possible given Mugabe’s old age and ill-health. Mugabe recently expressed doubt about his availability beyond 2018 in an interview with state media journalists in Japan.
“Depending on Mugabe’s health situation, the G40 faction may push for an extraordinary congress which will confirm Mugabe as the presidential candidate while also ensuring Mnangagwa is replaced by a woman vice-president in line with the Women’s League’s calls for a woman’s quota within the presidium,” the source said.
“The Mnangagwa faction has always wanted the extraordinary congress, but for different reasons. Mnangagwa’s backers wanted an extraordinary congress which would confirm the vice-president as the party’s candidate in the 2018 general elections. The plan was in place long before the G40 faction took the fight to Mnangagwa with the help of Grace, so he may be forced to come up with new plans should his people continue being purged.”
Sources said that the Mnangagwa faction, just like the G40 faction, was trying to get as many people as possible into provincial structures and other strategic positions to prepare for the eventuality of an extraordinary congress.
The G40 faction, however, has an upper hand in the party’s ongoing restructuring exercise as it is being superintended by the party’s political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, who is a key member of the group.
Kasukuwere has spearheaded the expulsion of the vice-president’s backers. Those suspended have been replaced by cadres sympathetic to Grace as part of efforts to weaken Mnangagwa, whose pillar of strength is the military and war veterans.
“The idea is to weaken Mnangagwa and eventually remove him at the extraordinary congress if it comes,” said the source adding: “G40 wants to go with Mugabe as their candidate in 2018, although they are closely monitoring his health and capacity.”
Zanu PF holds its congresses after every five years. Its next congress is scheduled for 2019, following the 2014 congress which swept away former vice-president Joice Mujuru and her supporters. Mujuru was considered a favourite to succeed Mugabe.
According to the Zanu PF constitution, an extraordinary congress “may be convened whenever it is deemed necessary” and at the instance of the majority of the members of the central committee; the president and first secretary, at the instance of not less than one-third of members of the central committee or the president, at the instance of at least five provincial executive councils.