Plot to change Zanu PF constitution to help Grace Mugabe presidential bid

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By Andrew Kunambura

HARARE – ZANU-PF hawks operating under the Generation 40 (G40) moniker are plotting to push for a constitutional amendment to re-introduce a clause that would compel the party to have a woman in the presidium in what could be a game-changer in the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe.

Minister Chombo kneeling before Grace Mugabe at a rally
Minister Chombo kneeling before Grace Mugabe at a rally

The party’s presidium comprises President Mugabe and his deputies, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko. Before its December 2014 congress, ZANU-PF had its national chairperson as part of the presidium.

The arrangement was done away with immediately after Congress for unclear reasons, with the two vice presidents, Mphoko and Mnangagwa, assuming additional duties of the national chairman on a rotational basis.

We can now reveal that members of G40 have made a volte-face.

After viciously campaigning for the ouster of former vice president Joice Mujuru between September and December last year, they now want ZANU-PF to respond to the current gender imbalances by either catapulting a woman to the party’s national chairmanship or even relegate one of the vice presidents to make way for a woman.

Because the only position which is now being contested for in ZANU-PF is that of President, pressure would be brought to bear on the appointing authority to make some concessions.
In their wisdom or lack of it, a less divisive way of achieving gender parity would be to institute constitutional amendments.

In 2004, ZANU-PF had to resort to the quota system to accommodate Mujuru, who was, however, later spectacularly booted out of the party ahead of last year’s December congress. Come the December 2014 congress, the quota system was conveniently abandoned to allow Mnangagwa to succeed Mujuru.

ZANU-PF insiders told the Financial Gazette that ambitious G40 members, most of them former allies of Mnangagwa, are going for broke and appear to have the support of two critical organs of the party, namely the Youth League and the Women’s League, although the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, is still to be presented with the proposals.

The First Lady is the secretary for the party’s Women’s League.

Mphoko appears to be safe as his appointment was in line with the Unity Accord signed between ZANU and ZAPU in 1987 to end the disturbances that rocked the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces in the early to mid 1980s, in what became known as the Gukurahundi era.

If Mphoko is to be threatened at all, the risk would have to come from the ZAPU side of the equation, of which there is currently nothing to suggest any animosity towards him. Also, Mphoko has been a darling in G40 circles as he does not appear to pose any threat to their agenda of renewing ZANU-PF from within.

There have been tell-tale signs that all is not well in the top echelons of ZANU-PF despite denials from the party’s leadership. Some party functionaries have lately been speaking in riddles and innuendos, suggesting that the ghost of factionalism, which was supposed to have disappeared with Mujuru’s expulsion from ZANU-PF on allegations of plotting to unseat President Mugabe, had reared its ugly head again.

While no party official has been openly fingered by name for fomenting factionalism, it is no secret that ZANU-PF used to be split along two factions, one linked to Mnangagwa and the other led by Mujuru. Indications are that the architects of Mujuru’s downfall could be angling to destroy the remaining factional leg to ensure that President Mugabe is the only centre of power in ZANU-PF.

As if to confirm this, there has been a social media onslaught against Mnangagwa and his supporters by ZANU-PF members linked to G40 such as Higher and Tertiary Education Minister, Jonathan Moyo, flamboyant businessman, Philip Chiyangwa and a number of other youthful politicians.

Until last Saturday when he received news of the death of his daughter, Zanele in South Africa, Moyo has been prolific on twitter, relentlessly mocking Mnangagwa, who is known as the crocodile, or Ngwena, in ZANU-PF circles.

In one twitter post, Moyo asked: “Is it really a crocodile or an ambitious lizard?”
In another, he said: “Here comes Zimbabwe’s latest craze, Croco Burgar. Yave nyama yekugocha (it’s now barbeque meat).”

Chiyangwa joined the fray, releasing videos of himself and ZANU-PF Members of Parliament, Shadreck Mashayamombe, Esau Mupfumi and other party members declaring that everyone must back the First Lady or Amai, as she is affectionately known in ZANU-PF circles.

ZANU-PF national secretary for the commissariat, Saviour Kasukuwere, is seen as the face of G40 although he has repeatedly denied being a member of a faction. Insiders said members of G40 are trying to make use of article 5:25-26 of the party’s constitution, which gives room for the conference to be turned into an extraordinary congress.

As such, the Central Committee, which has the mandate to declare an extraordinary congress and power to alter the constitution, has in recent weeks become the focus of attention as the group seeks its support.

According to the party’s constitution, an extraordinary congress can be convened after a simple majority consensus of the Central Committee which has 300 members.

Sources, however, said the G40 outfit could struggle to get the required support of over 150 members. In addition, the ZANU-PF constitution says the case can only be brought to the Central Committee upon endorsement by at least five members of each of the 10 provincial executives.

The Central Committee would then write to secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, who in turn would inform the party’s first secretary and president. Well-placed sources said the G40 was exploring ways of getting the required endorsements.

A trusted lieutenant of the incumbent for nearly 50 years, the reclusive Mnangagwa has been unperturbed by the attacks and machinations, preferring to go about his duties as if all is well. His lieutenants have, however, been on high alert, hitting back on those who seek to undermine the Vice President. They are also said to be preparing to defend their turf.

“Nobody is entertaining this absurd talk (of amending the constitution) which is coming from very ambitious people who want to grab power through the back door without coming from the grassroots. They are saying let’s amend the constitution again, but that process is long and difficult. I don’t see them succeeding,” said a close Mnangagwa ally who declined to be named.

“Our position and strategy have not changed. We support the President. It is the other camp that has shifted. They may very well wish to get in power but there are many hurdles in the way. Our camp is calm and not even afraid,” he said.

Another party member said: “I do not know why they should be campaigning for a constitutional amendment because if it is really about promoting a woman, they can lobby for her to get to any position without the amendment. The party does not even say members of the presidium must all be men. It speaks about only party members, regardless of their sex.”

Contacted this week for comment, ZANU-PF spokesman, Simon Khaya-Moyo, said he was not even aware of any moves to amend the party’s constitution.

“I haven’t heard about it. Those who informed you should be able to tell you more. As far as we are concerned, there is no factionalism in the party. I comment on the party position and that position was emphasised by the President in his address to the Central Committee last week — that there is no factionalism at all,” he said.

However, despite his denials, factionalism is ravaging ZANU-PF strongholds of Mashonaland Central and in Mashonaland East and West. The idea is to get out of the way those who might stand against G40’s desires. Manicaland provincial women’s league chairperson, Happiness Nyakuedzwa, who is a staunch Mnangagwa ally, was ousted through a vote of no confidence which was passed on her in Mutare at the weekend.

The Mnangagwa faction has since put its foot down, overturning the vote of no confidence.
Mashonaland Central provincial youth chairman, Godfrey Tsenengamu, another perceived Mnangagwa ally, was also booted out the previous week, triggering mass resignation of his colleagues from their positions in solidarity with him.

It is understood, however, that senior members of the Mnangagwa camp had advised the chairpersons to renounce their resignations because this was self-defeating. The Mnangagwa camp this week hit back, declaring the dismissals null and void.

An inquiry by the Financial Gazette revealed that the G40 was also targeting influential provincial chairpersons of the main wings who themselves are Central Committee members in the hope that they could be useful in whipping their provinces to support their cause.Financial Gazette