ZANU PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere faces an uphill task ahead of the party’s annual conference in Masvingo in his bid to push through a controversial resolution by his home province Mashonaland Central which seeks to scrap the “one centre of power” principle that currently empowers President Robert Mugabe to handpick his two deputies.
By Elias Mambo
This comes amid indications the plot to amend the party’s constitution was being pushed by the Zanu PF G40 faction and could have been masterminded by Mugabe in his Machiavellian manoeuvres designed to re-align his succession process and re-assert control over his fractious organisation.
To members of G40, attempts to throw out the “one centre of power” provision is considered a new strategy to oust Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is regarded by some as a frontrunner in the race to succeed Mugabe.
In a move that has set the cat among the pigeons, Zanu PF’s Mashonaland Central province challenged the ruling party’s “one centre of power” principle which empowers Mugabe to appoint his deputies and politburo members.
During its inter-district meeting in preparation for this month’s annual conference, the province resolved that the much-touted “one centre of power” principle — ushered in through an amendment to the party constitution in 2014 — should be adjusted to allow members to elect the vice-presidents.
However, the proposal has met stiff resistance from Zanu PF provinces across the country, particularly Mnangagwa’s supporters.
Insiders say the controversial resolution, though appearing calculated to whittle down Mugabe’s powers, is actually aimed at ousting Mnangagwa whom the G40 faction believes cannot win internal elections due to his perceived unpopularity.
Zanu PF sources this week said G40, which is associated with First Lady Grace Mugabe, Kasukuwere, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, Zanu PF Youth League leader Kudzanai Chipanga and Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao, among others, wants to leverage the amendment of the constitution as a new weapon to intensify its battle against Mnangagwa who seems to be on the ascendancy.
“The plan is very clear; it is to amend the party constitution to try to oust Mnangagwa, having failed to deal with him using other means before,” the source said.
Since Grace launched a spirited attack on Mnangagwa and his military allies in Chiweshe in February, there has been serious resistance from war veterans and some in the army who are fighting in Mnangagwa’s corner.
“The push to have the constitution amended is aimed at weakening the Mnangagwa faction which has been decimated through dismissals by the G40-led displinary committee,” the source said.
Acting Mashonaland Central provincial chairperson, Dickson Mafios, who is Kasukuwere’s brother, said the “one centre of power” principle is undemocratic and must be discarded.
Mafios said the “one centre of power” arrangement was not “benefiting anyone” and was in the process supported by his G40 allies.
“There is need for flexibility in a democratic system. There is need for flexibility to advise the president that we adjust that concept of one centre of power, be flexible such that the vice-presidents be elected,” he said.
“The president is under attack and no one is protecting him. We want people to identify those who are able to protect the President. Of course, one centre of power is there but practically people are defying. We are aware that even the President is elected and, if the President is elected, why not also the vice-presidents? We are worried.
“At the moment we want to see the president’s integrity being protected by senior members within the hierarchy of the party. But when we see that there is no protection and people are talking a lot of rubbish, we wonder why those people who have been appointed by the one centre of power keep quiet when the president is being lambasted.”
A Zanu PF source said: “No one in Zanu PF can directly challenge Mugabe like that as it appears on the face of it in this case unless he (Mugabe) is the architect of the plan. What Mafios and his allies did is to directly challenge Mugabe and this needs further interrogation as to whether he is alone or it’s a case of a mismanaged political project.
“If Mugabe is involved in this, which is likely, then it is clear Kasukuwere and his team failed to manage the process properly and now face an uphill task to pull it off ahead of the conference.”
Under pressure from provincial and executive members for initiating the explosive resolution, the provincial leadership backtracked and regrouped on its move which seeks to strip Mugabe of his powers to appoint vice-presidents.
This is not the first time that Zanu PF warring factions have used the party constitution to settle their political scores.
In 2014 at the height of factionalism, Mugabe and his allies amended the party constitution in order to oust former vice-president Joice Mujuru.
The Zanu PF politburo changed the constitution, giving Mugabe the powers to appoint his deputies and removing a clause aimed at ensuring gender balance in the party presidium.
G40 was at the forefront of calling for the changes to the constitution which resulted in Mnangagwa and co-Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko being appointed by Mugabe as his deputies.
“It is the same strategy they (G40) want to use, but unfortunately the circumstances have now changed. What they did to Mujuru cannot be done to Mnangagwa because his faction has consolidated and it will resist any push to oust him by such means,” another source said.
“The proposal was mismanaged and hence no takers — at least for now — since all other provinces have expressed satisfaction with the status quo.”
The same strategy was, however, previously used to block Mnangagwa from becoming vice-president in 2004 ahead of Mujuru who was removed in 2014.