ZANU PF’s youth and women’s leagues are stepping up their campaign to have Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa demoted and replaced by a woman possibly at an extraordinary party congress in December.
Elias Mambo/Wongai Zhangazha
It has also emerged that unlike former vice-president Joice Mujuru, who was expelled from party and government in December 2014, the two structures, that are working closely with the G40 faction which is coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe, want him retained in the party and government albeit in less powerful portfolios as part of their containment strategy.
This also comes at a time when Grace is said to be printing two million T-shirts to be distributed around the country.
Zanu PF sources this week said T-shirts, emblazoned with her image and written Munhu wese kuna Amai (Let’s all support our mother), are currently being printed in South Africa.
Party insiders revealed the G40 faction is using a two-pronged approach to derail Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed Mugabe — pushing for expulsions of his backers from Zanu PF structures in order to isolate him as well as pushing for an extraordinary congress to replace him with a woman.
The leagues are planning meetings nationwide in preparation for an extraordinary congress, where they intend to call for the return of the women’s quota in the presidium.
Senate President Edna Madzongwe has been touted as a potential replacement, although the deputy secretary for the party’s Women’s League Eunice Sandi-Moyo has also been mentioned. The Women’s League, which is headed by Grace, is pushing for the vice-presidency under the pretext of seeking gender parity.
There is no woman in the Zanu PF presidium following the purging of Mujuru and her allies at the party’s December 2014 congress. Ironically, the Women’s League, then led by Oppah Muchinguri — who teamed up with Grace to vilify Mujuru ahead of the congress — played a prominent role in the former vice-president’s expulsion from the party.
According to party sources, G40 members are holding a series of meetings whose “aim is to retain Mnangagwa while crushing his aspirations of succeeding Mugabe”.
“The push is not to have the VP out there, but to have him close. He will probably remain with a cabinet post. The idea being that they want to keep him closer so as to keep him in check and monitor him. The push will be to put a female VP who will just be there and not challenge the presidium,” said one source.
“Tensions have been high since war veterans issued a communiqué (denouncing Mugabe and calling on him to step down) which was followed by Mandi Chimene’s public attack of Mnangagwa. The idea of an extraordinary congress was then mooted. However, what really pushed the youth and Women’s League structures to call for a special congress are comments by (Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantino) Chiwenga. To them it confirmed that the military was behind the war veterans who are supporting Mnangagwa’s presidential bid,” the source added.
In an interview with the state media on the eve of the Heroes Day and Defence Forces celebrations recently, Chiwenga warned that leading figures in the faction that is pushing for Grace to take over from Mugabe “must not make the mistake of crossing the rubicon”.
The G40 faction is also mooting the suspension of Mnangagwa loyalists in the party structures so as to weaken him while also re-admitting some high-profile persons who were purged alongside Mujuru. These include former politburo members and former ministers like Nicholas Goche, Tendai Savanhu, Webster Shamu, Francis Nhema and Flora Buka, among others.
“G40 is pushing for expulsions of Mnangagwa’s backers from Zanu PF structures as well as targeting those perceived to be his allies in state institutions,” said the source.
This comes against the backdrop of the expulsion of four leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) from Zanu PF for allegedly insulting Mugabe. The four, Victor Matemadanda (secretary-general), Douglas Mahiya (spokesperson), Francis Nhando (political commissar) and Headman Moyo (vice-chairperson) were expelled by the Zanu PF politburo together with five party members, including former deputy minister Munacho Mutezo.
They join ZNLWVA chairperson Christopher Mutsvangwa who was expelled from the party last month.
“The strategy is to isolate Mnangagwa by expelling those who are loyal to him,” a Zanu PF official said, adding: “Zanu PF and Mugabe cannot afford to do without Mnangagwa at the moment because this will weaken the party ahead of the 2018 elections given that the expulsion of (ex-VP Joice) Mujuru and her allies took a heavy toll on the party.
The strategy also involves pushing out his sympathisers in state institutions, like the army. The idea is to retain him in the position, but without the key support that he enjoys. This means dealing with his support structure at both party and government levels.”
According to Section 26 of the Zanu PF constitution, an early congress may be convened “wherever it is deemed necessary and at the instance of: (a) the majority of the members of the central committee; or (b) the president and first secretary, at the instance of not less than one-third of members of the central committee; or (c) the president and first secretary, at the instance of at least five provincial executive councils by resolutions to that effect”.