Presidential succession plan in Zim collapses

Zimbabwe ruling party Zanu-PF’s plan to amend the Constitution to delay the 2008 presidential election until 2010 to facilitate Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s succession to President Mugabe appears to have collapsed in acrimony after its designated architect, justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, confirmed it is no longer on the cards.

This came amid reports yesterday that Chinamasa, who is still viewed with suspicion by those linked to the Zanu-PF faction led by retired army commander general Solomon Mujuru because of the 2004 Tsholotsho power struggle, was facing a backlash over the issue by those who think he might have torpedoed their plan.

Sources said the strategy was to introduce a constitutional amendment delaying the 2008 presidential election to 2010 to assist Mujuru in her bid to become president. The plan would ensure President Robert Mugabe goes in 2008 and Mujuru takes over as an interim president, elected by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Parliament, between 2008 and 2010.

Mujuru was expected to become the Zanu-PF leader when Mugabe steps down during the 2009 party congress. In 2010 she would then become the party candidate in the presidential poll.

Sources said Chinamasa’s adversaries were planning to arraign him over an unclear case of alleged interference in due process, regarding a sensitive political-violence case that was recently in the courts, as retribution for his perceived failure to manage the succession plan. Chinamasa, who was linked with a camp led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, yesterday said he was not aware of any manoeuvres to arrest or summon him to court.

“Certainly, I don’t know what is going on about that. I wish I knew,” he said. Efforts to get comment from the attorney general’s office failed as everyone ducked the issue.

While the ruling party was known by insiders to be working on the plan to smooth the way for Mugabe’s problematic succession plan and facilitate Mujuru’s entry, Chinamasa said the item was not on the agenda.

“The 18th amendment is about the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and that is what is coming because it has been approved by the party and Cabinet,” Chinamasa said. “I’m not aware of the other issues to do with harmonisation of elections. There was never any consideration to make that part of this amendment.

“As you will recall, I only raised the issue for brainstorming and debate. It was never considered by the party at any time and I hope the party will come to it sometime and clarify issues.”

Although Chinamasa said Zanu-PF did not table the issue, well-placed ruling party sources insisted the plan was initially the main reason for the expected amendment, not the proposed Human Rights Commission, which is an afterthought to save the already announced amendment.

“The election postponement, with a succession-handling mechanism, was initially part of the 18th amendment agenda but was dropped for specific reasons,” a source said. “Apart from the fact that the issue had already been made public by the press before the politburo and Cabinet discussed it, it had no sufficient support inside and outside Zanu-PF.”

It is understood Zanu-PF MPs linked to the Mnangagwa camp wanted to block the plan in Parliament. Opposition parties and civil society groups, as well as the international community, also wanted to build resistance to it.

Sources said after last year’s general election, Mugabe tasked Chinamasa to look into the issue when he was working on the 17th amendment, which dealt with the Senate and land acquisition matters. However, the election issue was not supposed to be publicised. When Chinamasa, said the sources, reported on progress in his assignment to the politburo in May last year, he was told to leave the succession issue which was earmarked to be tackled in the 18th amendment.

On May 27 last year, Chinamasa presented a memorandum to the Zanu-PF central committee that dealt with the proposed 17th amendment. In the process he said another amendment was coming.

“Further and above the constitutional proposal referred to above, I wish to alert the central committee to the fact that during the course of the sixth Parliament of Zimbabwe I intend to bring further comprehensive constitutional proposals to address, in a holistic manner, the constitutional changes that we need to put in place to take effect from 2010,” Chinamasa said.

He also said the senate — which was part of transitional and succession management mechanisms — would last from 2005 to 2010. Sources said the idea was to manage Mugabe’s volatile succession and Mujuru’s takeover. But mounting opposition appears to have scuttled it, at least for the time being. — Zimbabwe Independent

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