By Faith Zaba
With the Zanu PF elective congress slated for December 2-7 just around the corner, confusion reigns in the faction led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, which is working with First Lady Grace Mugabe, over the replacement of Vice-President Joice Mujuru amid indications that President Robert Mugabe might appoint different deputies for the party and the state.
Mugabe can only do this if the proposed Zanu PF constitutional amendments which will allow the president to appoint his deputies are endorsed tomorrow at the party’s politburo meeting.
The president is facing difficulties on how to accommodate Mnangagwa, outgoing Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri, Phelekezela Mphoko and possibly Simon Khaya Moyo. Even if Khaya Moyo is in Mujuru’s faction, he seems to have been spared the wrath of Grace and her allies.
Top Zanu PF officials say it is now likely that Mugabe — who will decide Mujuru’s fate and new appointments — could appoint Muchinguri and Mphoko as vice-presidents of the party and accommodate Mnangagwa as state vice-president possibly with either Mphoko or Khaya Moyo.
Mujuru is under pressure from Grace and her supporters to resign immediately or face humiliation at the congress where they plan to boot her out for allegedly plotting either to oust or assassinate Mugabe.
The vice-president has since August been subjected to vicious attacks by Mnangagwa’s loyalists and Grace who are now hysterically demanding her immediate resignation or risk being fired by Mugabe.
Grace has since her surprise nomination by the Women’s League to be their new boss made it her mission to fight Mujuru and remove her for what has become clearly an individual crusade for personal and family interests.
In trying to clear the confusion that has hit the faction, Grace gave clues as to how Mugabe is likely to address the issue. The First Lady said on Tuesday in Mazowe it did not necessarily follow that the person elected or appointed vice-president by the party should automatically be chosen as Mugabe’s deputy as state vice-presidents were appointed at the pleasure of the president.
“The party constitution is the one with a provision for a quota system in order to mainstream gender so that women can be elected into senior positions. The party even resolved that the Number Two person in the party should be a woman,” she said.
“So in the party hierarchy, if there are two men, the third person should be a woman and it cascades like that down the party structures so that women are recognised and have senior positions in the party.”
Grace added: “The national constitution states that the President shall appoint the vice-presidents but it doesn’t say whether the person is a woman or a man and it’s very clear. So the President can appoint either a man or a woman as Zimbabwe’s (Vice) President, it’s up to him.”
With clear permission from Mugabe, Grace has all but savagely finished off Mujuru and in the process thrown a lifeline to the Mnangagwa faction which, before her entry, seemed to have no answer to their rival’s juggernaut as she had consolidated power after seizing control of key party structures during controversial provincial elections last November.
The well-calculated removal of nine provincial chairpersons, executive committee members, Women’s League bosses and the suspension of Mujuru’s bravest lieutenant, Rugare Gumbo, signalled the end is nigh for the vice-president who seems to be merely waiting for her fate to be sealed at the congress even though she might actually have a dignified exit if she is not nominated or appointed back to the same position.
Mujuru’s faction says that would be better than her resigning due to Grace’s angry and emotional agitation as that might lend credence to her threadbare claims against her.
The near-demise of Mujuru has led to a new stampede to occupy her position.
Muchinguri has already launched her campaign using provincial chairpersons in her structures to canvass for support. The provincial chairwomen who had resisted Muchinguri’s push have been ousted and replaced by her runners.
However, a caucus meeting chaired by Women’s League secretary for finance Sarah Mahoka resolved Senate president Edna Madzongwe should replace Mujuru. But top Zanu PF sources say Madzongwe seems reluctant to take up the post because of events surrounding Mujuru’s ouster.
Top Zanu PF officials from Mashonaland West say in their province the Women’s League is split over Muchinguri and Madzongwe. There is also the problem that Madzongwe is from Mashonaland West and might be related to Mugabe, which could raise eyebrows of dynasty politics given Grace’s role.
“Campaigning for Muchinguri has not started in the province as the women are split on who to support. The problem for Muchinguri is that people are saying the province should support Madzongwe, who hails from there. Leading this call is Sarah Mahoka,” an official said.
Another clique in the Mnanagagwa/Grace faction wants Mnangagwa to be vice-president. They believe that Mugabe should right the wrong done in 2004 when he imposed Mujuru as vice-president through a constitutional coup under the guise of gender equity.
Mnanagagwa and his allies were accused of plotting a “palace coup” against Mugabe. As a result Mugabe purged Mnangagwa’s allies, including suspending six provincial chairpersons and ironically war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda.
Mnangagwa had bagged at least seven provinces to nominate him for the vice-presidency.
Grace recently bragged at rallies that Mnangagwa was the clear favourite for the vice-presidency in 2004, while oddly confessing Mugabe, herself and allies illegally imposed Mujuru.
A staunch Mnangagwa supporter said: “It is now time for Mnangagwa to reclaim his position. He would have been vice-president in 2004 if he had not been disqualified by a dubious amendment stating that one of the VPs should be a woman.”
However, Grace earlier fuelled confusion as she suggested she has a right as a Zimbabwean to be president. Mugabe seemed to support that when he said there is nothing in the constitution which prevents her from joining politics and seeking positions.