Constitutional Amendments Divide ZANU-PF As Congress Nears
A Silent war is raging in the ruling party over plans to tweak with ZANU-PF’s constitution, last amended in 2005. In September, the Financial Gazette broke the news that ZANU-PF had secretly started the tricky process of amending its constitution. The paper now exclusively reveals that the process has been completed but is now mired in intense bickering between the two main factions which are fighting to succeed President Robert Mugabe in the event that he retires from active politics.
ZANU-PF is torn between two major factions, one led by Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and the other by Vice President Joice Mujuru. The two have, however, denied leading any factions. The main source of conflict is that the process is being led by members from a rival camp amid fears that these may manipulate the exercise to suit their own agendas.
The legal department, which is spearheading the exercise, is headed by Mnangagwa, who is deputised by Patrick Chinamasa. Those spearheading the process want the party president to handpick his deputies and the national chairman as opposed to having them elected at congress, as is currently the case. The intention is to do away with the hierarchical approach, which has been part of ZANU-PF’s tradition and parachute new faces into the top echelons of the party.
Patrick Zhuwao, a Politburo member said to be sympathetic to the Mnangagwa camp, argues that the change will eliminate factionalism in the party. “We need to have that amended so that we have one source of power. That is the only way we can control that, otherwise without doing that the party would have multiple sources of power and factionalism can continue to grow,” he told the Financial Gazette.
Others in the same camp cite the Unity Accord of 1987 which united ZANU and ZAPU. In terms of the accord, the President should be appointing his deputies. This provision has not been adhered to because it didn’t find expression in the party’s constitution. Mujuru and her allies, according to sources, want congress to continue to elect members of the presidium, comprising the president, two vice presidents and the national chairman.
“We don’t go to congress with the Unity Accord. We go to congress on the back of the party constitution,” said Temba Mliswa, Mashonaland West provincial chairperson seen as aligned to Mujuru. The other proposal which has split opinion in the party is that of increasing the number of members in the Central Committee in order to achieve equitable representation across provinces. Currently, Matabeleland North and South contribute only seven members into the 230 member Central Committee. While both factions are for the idea, they are not on the same page with regards how this could be achieved.
There are those who would want this achieved on the basis of proportional representation whereby provinces gain seats in proportion to the number of members they contribute to the party. This would seem to favour Mujuru and her allies who are in control of ZANU-PF’s strongholds. The other group, which controls provinces that have been a pain in ZANU-PF’s backside, would want the seats allocated on an equal basis.
ZANU-PF spokesman, Rugare Gumbo, said it would be unfortunate if factional considerations were to hold sway during the process. “We will discuss this in the Politburo and then give you an answer,” Gumbo said two weeks ago.
“The party was indeed involved in trying to amend the constitution and the man responsible for that is Cde E.D Mnangagwa. We cannot make decisions about our party on partisan lines, otherwise it won’t work. When they are done with the amendments, we will look into them. If we are not happy with them, we will go back to the drawing board and do the thing again,” Gumbo said.
Asked if he was aware of any factional concerns surrounding the exercise, Gumbo said: “I do not think we need to look into the matter that way. The party has faith that those tasked with the task would do the work in a professional way and if they cannot repay that trust, then it would be unfortunate.”
The amendments will also seek to do away with certain clauses that have become redundant while incorporating new Politburo positions. District Coordinating Committees, which were disbanded two years ago, may be removed from the constitution. One of the likely additions could be the position of secretary for environment, which exists in the Politburo but not in the constitution. There is also a proposal to have membership into the Central Committee be on the basis of proportional representation.
The party is also considering aligning its constitution to the new charter which became effective last year. Ideally, the amendments should be tabled for discussion before the Politburo, which is the supreme decision-making organ of the party in-between congresses. The Politburo could, however, be circumvented, with the amendments being taken either to the Central Committee, which is ZANU-PF’s policy-making organ, or straight to congress, scheduled for December.
The Mnangagwa faction is not keen on having the amendments debated in either the Central Committee or the Politburo where they think they don’t have the numerical advantage but would rather have the changes debated at congress.