THE power dynamics playing out in ZANU-PF will enter a new phase from tomorrow as the two wings of the ruling party — the youth and women’s leagues — convene crucial meetings that would set the tone for the 16th annual national people’s conference to be held in Masvingo in December.
The ZANU-PF Youth League will set the ball rolling tomorrow when it convenes its first National Youth Assembly meeting at the party’s headquarters in Harare – the first such indaba since its national executive was ushered into office in 2014.
Next week, the Women’s League will congregate at the same venue for a two-day National Women’s Assembly, which will open on Friday, before closing the next day.
Article 202 of the party’s constitution requires the Youth League National Assembly to convene an ordinary session at least twice a year, which means it can have as many sessions in a year as it deems necessary.
The same constitution is, however, silent on the number of women’s assembly meetings that could be held in a calendar year.
While this is the case, both the women and youth leagues have not had these meetings ever since they were elected into office about 20 months ago. That they have all of a sudden awoken from their deep slumber to act in line with the charter has raised eyebrows, coming hard on the heels of unrelenting onslaughts on Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his allies.
ZANU-PF insiders told the Financial Gazette this week that the meetings, whose agendas are being kept a closely guarded secret, were meant to provide a convenient platform for Mnangagwa’s rivals to push for an extraordinary congress in December where those aspiring for President Robert Mugabe’s position would either be demoted or shown the door.
Trending under the Generation 40 moniker, or simply G40, Mnangagwa’s rivals accuse the veteran politician, who turns 70 on September 15, of plotting to succeed his boss, notwithstanding the fact that President Mugabe does not intend to leave office as long as he is still popular within his party.
While Mnangagwa was forced to issue a public statement last month, dismissing the allegations in the wake of vicious attacks on his person by Sarah Mahoka and Mandiitawepi Chimene, his rebuttal has done very little to appease those who are baying for his blood.
Mahoka is the secretary for finance in the ZANU-PF Women’s League, while Chimene leads a faction of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) that has remained loyal to President Mugabe following the fallout between the incumbent and some members of the association’s executive.
ZNLWVA chairman, Christopher Mutsvangwa, along with his entire executive have since been dismissed from ZANU-PF for denigrating the party’s leadership in what is essentially a counteroffensive by G40 for their role in trying to rally support for a Mnangagwa presidency.
Several allies of Mnangagwa, including Pupurai Togarepi, the secretary for youth affairs, have either been suspended or dismissed from the party for promoting factionalism.
Having isolated Mnangagwa from his allies, ZANU-PF insiders said the youth and women’s leagues are turning up the heat on “the crocodile” or “ngwena”, as the Vice President is affectionately known for his cunningness.
They are hoping to turn the forthcoming conference into an extraordinary congress where the party’s constitution could be amended to accommodate a woman in the presidium.
ZANU-PF used to have a clause reserving one of the two slots for the party’s second secretaries and vice presidents (VPs) for a woman, but it was revoked in December 2014 during the melee to get rid of Joice Mujuru, who had deputised President Mugabe since 2004, when that provision was first introduced.
The other VP slot is reserved for a former ZAPU cadre as part of the Unity Accord signed in 1987 between President Mugabe and the late Joshua Nkomo, to end the disturbances that rocked the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces in the mid 1980s during what became known as the Gukurahundi era.
At its December 2015 conference held in the resort town of Victoria Falls, ZANU-PF acceded to the request from the Women’s League to incorporate a woman VP in its presidium before the end of this year.
The current presidium comprises President Mugabe and his two deputies, Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, who represents the former ZAPU cadres as spelt out in the Unity Accord.
Party secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, is an ex-officio member of the presidium.
In terms of the ZANU-PF constitution, an extraordinary session of congress may be convened whenever it is deemed necessary and at the instance of:
(1) The majority of the members of the Central Committee; or
(2) The President and First Secretary, at the instance of not less than one third of members of the Central Committee, or;
(3) The President and First Secretary, at the instance of at least five Provincial Executive Councils by resolutions to that effect.
On receipt of a resolution requesting an extraordinary session of congress, the President shall forward the same to the secretary for administration, who on receipt of the said resolution, gives at least six weeks notice to convene an extraordinary session of congress.
The Central Committee will then formulate the necessary procedures for the execution of the business of the extraordinary session of the congress.
The extraordinary session of congress shall then deliberate only on those matters for which it has been specifically convened. Three-quarters of the members of congress shall’ form a quorum for the convening of the extraordinary session.
In the event that President Mugabe yields to pressure to convene a special congress and that the quota system is adopted, many believe that Mphoko could be safe because there is no known desire among ZAPU cadres to either recall him or have him re-assigned.
If the current onslaught on Mnangagwa is anything to go by, it would appear that his nemeses would want him to be re-assigned to the vacant post of national chairman or expelled from the party altogether for harbouring presidential ambitions.
An extraordinary congress might also result in President Mugabe, as the sole appointing authority in the party, ringing changes to the Politburo and the Central Committee, which now has a number of gaps following the recent suspensions and dismissals of errant party officials.
The Central Committee has also shrunk as a result of deaths, among them of Espinah Nhari in May and Aguy Georgias in December last year.
To all intents and purposes, this would constitute another shake-up in the party.
Mnangagwa’s allies are particularly worried about reports that their opponents want to capitalise on tomorrow and next week’s meetings to re-ignite the push for the appointment of a female vice president, first proposed by the Women’s League almost a year ago.
“There is serious tension on the ground. People from higher structures are coming to influence the youths. These meetings could change the political arena forever,” said a member of the Youth League national executive who declined to be named.
“The meetings are turning out to be the type of conferences we have just before each congress. It appears as if people are very serious with the (female VP) issue”.
Judging from the reports from a meeting held last week in Mazowe at the First Lady’s orphanage, the forthcoming women’s assembly meeting could be explosive.
According to sources that attended the meeting, ZANU-PF Mashonaland West Women’s League provincial chairperson, Angelina Muchemenye took Mahoka and Chimene to task for disrespecting the party’s leadership by confronting Mnangagwa on separate occasions.
Mahoka rose to notoriety in May when she publicly attacked Mnangagwa for allegedly leading a faction. She was followed by Chimene who launched another tirade on the Vice President last month for allegedly plotting to unseat President Mugabe.
Muchemenye is also said to have accused Mahoka of frustrating development projects in Mashonaland West.
Mahoka is currently navigating a storm in her constituency, Hurungwe East, for allegedly diverting some of the money donated to the First Lady for personal use, claims she denies, as being advanced by her foes.
Efforts to get Mahoka to comment were futile after she first told this reporter that she was travelling and advised him to call later, after which she was not answering calls to her mobile phone.
Contacted for comment, ZANU-PF’s deputy secretary for youth affairs, Kudzai Chipanga, described their meeting as routine.
“That is speculation by people who are not in the know. These are routine constitutional meetings to discuss our issues as a party,” he said.
This was also echoed by the party’s national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere.
“The youths and the women are mandated by the party constitution to have national assembly meetings. They are not mysterious meetings as is being advanced by some creative minds that want to sow divisions in the party. These are party processes to allow them to have dialogue with the President,” said Kasukuwere.
Deputy secretary for women’s affairs in ZANU-PF, Eunice Sandi-Moyo, was not available for comment as well as the Women’s League’s secretary for administration, Letina Undenge.-Fingaz