Zanu-PF women’s league enters succession race

The influential Zanu-PF Women’s League has entered the Zimbabwean ruling party’s succession race and is now lobbying for politburo member Joyce Mujuru to be nominated as vice-president during the party’s forthcoming December congress.

Official sources said the Women’s League, headed by Thenjiwe Lesabe, who is seen as close to President Robert Mugabe, is vigorously pushing for Mujuru to fill the post left vacant by former vice-president Simon Muzenda’s death last year. Joseph Msika remains as the other vice-president.

Sources said the Zanu-PF women were planning to come up with a key resolution after their congress, which was opened this week by Mugabe at City Sports Centre in Harare, backing Mujuru.

The congress is being held under the banner of “Total Empowerment of Women in Zimbabwe”.

It is understood that the women will insist on the overhaul of the archaic Zanu-PF constitution — which was tailor-made to suit Mugabe’s failed one-party state project of the 1980s — to allow their candidate to be elevated to the party’s top hierarchy through affirmative action.

Sources said the outdated Zanu-PF constitution would be amended to take into account present political realities and discard the structures of the past.

“The women want Mujuru to be one of the two vice-presidents because of the key role they played in the liberation struggle and after Independence,” a source said.

“Mujuru is seen as the most suitable candidate because the Women’s League chairperson Lesabe is now rather old. Lesabe could have been vice-president in 1999 if the women had pushed harder for her elevation.”

However, sources said Mujuru could come unstuck in her bid because there were other stronger forces gunning for the same job. Zanu-PF secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa and foreign relations secretary Didymus Mutasa have been mentioned as candidates.

Mnangagwa is said to command a majority of provinces through the chairmen of Midlands, Manicaland, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo. He is also said to be backed by retired General Vitalis Zvinavashe. Mutasa is thought to have only an outside chance due to his lack of political clout.

However, Mnangagwa, who lost the chairmanship to John Nkomo in 1999, is said to be highly unpopular with the grassroots and his political record is seen as tainted by allegations of corruption which he has strongly denied.

Zanu-PF has been making much of its newly-discovered gender-sensitive role after President Thabo Mbeki appointed women to top jobs in the ANC and government in South Africa.

Last Thursday a Women’s League delegation, led by Lesabe, met Mugabe to raise concerns over the current infighting in Zanu-PF. It is said the group also discussed other issues.

After that Lesabe lambasted Zanu-PF “mafikizolos” — newcomers — in the ruling party mouthpiece, The Voice, who she said were engaged in attempts to discredit the party’s leadership through vitriolic calumnies in anonymous columns in the state media. – The Zimbabwe Independent

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