The ongoing Zanu-PF national congress, which many believe is a mere formality, has essentially placed all power in President Robert Mugabe’s hands, giving him the authority to appoint his deputies and the party’s national chairperson and confirming Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s demise.
For the first time in the history of Zanu-PF, the party started its congress on Tuesday without the provinces nominating candidates for the presidency, the two vice-presidents and the national chairperson. This followed recommendations by the party’s politburo to make constitutional amendments allowing Mugabe to appoint his preferred candidates.
At previous congresses, a person was deemed elected after receiving nominations from six of the country’s 10 provinces.
The central committee agreed to the proposed amendments on Wednesday, paving the way for their adoption during the congress, which ends on Saturday.
Although many Zanu-PF insiders believe Mugabe is attending his last congress, he is still likely to be declared the party’s candidate for the 2018 elections.
Mujuru’s days numbered
Provinces such as Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central, as well as the women’s league and the youth league, have recommended declaring him the party’s candidate for the next polls.
The central committee also discussed and approved proposals to scrap a clause requiring one of the vice-presidents to be a woman, which all but confirms that Mujuru’s days as the party’s vice-president and second secretary, as well as the country’s vice-president, are numbered.
Speculation has now moved to who Mugabe will appoint as his deputies – more so after he told reporters on Monday that he would make major announcements during the congress.
It is unlikely that he will reinstate Mujuru or her key allies, given his public criticism of them this week.
Zanu-PF officials believe the major announcement could be that Mujuru’s rival, Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, will be appointed deputy president. There is also a chance that Phelekezela Mphoko, Zimbabwe’s former ambassador to South Africa, could be appointed the country’s second vice-president as he is Mnangagwa’s preferred choice.
A reward for outgoing women’s league boss Oppah Muchinguri, who gave up her post to accommodate Mugabe’s wife, Grace, is also expected.
Mujuru seems to have read the writing on the wall and is not attending the congress. She was also absent from Tuesday’s politburo meeting, which marked the beginning of the congress.
Mugabe cut a lonely figure at the main table as the party’s secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, and national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo did not attend the meeting. They are both Mujuru allies.
Mujuru and Mutasa were also conspicuous by their absence at Wednesday’s central committee meeting that marked the second day of the congress, leading Mugabe to complain about the snub.
There was no let-up to the onslaught against Mujuru, who has been under sustained attack from Mnangagwa’s faction, which has been working closely with Grace Mugabe.
The central committee resolved to expel key Mujuru ally Rugare Gumbo, the party’s former spokesperson, who was suspended from Zanu-PF for five years last month. Gumbo was ejected by the central committee for allegedly bringing the name of the liberation movement into disrepute.
Mugabe piled the pressure on Mujuru this week, saying he had known that his deputy was plotting his ousting for a long time.
Addressing service chiefs and the newly elected leaders of the war veterans association at party headquarters on Tuesday, Mugabe, who appeared to show disdain for women, described Mujuru as “too simple and junior” to comprehend the state’s demands.
“The party is going through a tough time [in] its history, a tough situation where a woman wants to take over from us; anonokerwa [she can’t wait].
“Thinking with your simple mind, you could withstand the pressures of state craft … The plot was very simple and done by people who don’t understand the complex[ities] of governance.”
A seemingly bitter Mugabe continued to lay into Mujuru on Wednesday at the politburo meeting, alleging that she and her backers had consulted spiritual and traditional leaders in their quest to assume power.
He said Mujuru and her allies believed he would relinquish power after winning the polls, and also that he would die soon.
“I go to elections, fight an election and I am expected to bow to my deputy and say I won an election, you can take over. Did I not hear or read that this man was going to die in September? But the man refused to die in that September and is still refusing to die,” Mugabe said, referring to himself.
Mugabe, who is known to deal ruthlessly with anyone who shows signs of intending to challenge him for the presidency, said Mujuru should have used the right channels to challenge him.
“You have the right to contest for any seat,” he said. “You can contest for the presidency and if people vote you in and you win more votes than me, then you can take over … but to try to organise illegal ways – no, no, no. That we shall not allow. Never.”
He added: “We knew all they were planning, claiming the whites will pour billions into this economy only if Mugabe is out of the way. European-oriented minds can never develop Africa. If you have a European or American mind-set, then you do not belong to Zanu-PF.
“We thought we were united from the top to the bottom and that there were no machinations among us, but alas, we were deceived. We didn’t know that as we went for elections some among us, vana Mujuru [the likes of Mujuru], did not want them.
“We heard their views were shared with the MDC, vana [by the likes of Tendai] Biti. Foolish, idiotic expectations that some circumstance will take place and Mugabe will be out of the way,” he said.