Tsholotsho, Mazowe: Where Zanu (PF) Kingmakers Met To Decide

By Paidamoyo Muzulu

Wily Zanu (PF) members have not forgotten anything about the infamous Dinyane meeting, also known as the Tsholotsho Declaration, in factional fights to succeed President Robert Mugabe who has been at the helm of the party for close to four decades.

Zanu PF congresses rarely brew shockers as political bickering and factional fights are usually managed with military strictness, but the 2014 congress, still four months away, has the makings of another Dinyane.

Dinyane is famed for the deft manipulation of party procedures, stealth meetings by kingmakers in the shadows and the unexpected outcome of Vice-President Joice Mujuru against odds, becoming the first woman Zanu PF vice-president and in government.

Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are reportedly leading factions fighting to succeed 90-year-old Mugabe, who has dominated the country’s politics for over three decades, from power. However both Mujuru and Mnangagwa have denied harbouring presidential ambitions.

Recent events at First Lady Grace Mugabe’s 49th birthday party at her Mazowe orphanage smell of a Dinyane meeting in trying to decide the party’s succession conundrum.

Grace has already been endorsed as secretary-designate of Zanu PF Women’s League by women and youths party structures, but the position will be officially confirmed this week.

One can see through that this was not a spur of the moment issue, but a well-calculated political move planned by shrewd strategists. People painstakingly worked behind the scenes, met over kitchen tables, party tables and office tables, building the plan block-by-block far from the media’s prying eyes.

One can also hazard to think that it was like a secret brotherhood where even some members were not aware and also taken by surprise just like the public when the deed was done.

Having a birthday like a mini congress (where all 10 provinces sent delegates) is a Herculean task.

And keeping the secret tightly wrapped like what happened such that Grace herself feigned shock is a stratagem worth applauding. It also remains a small wonder Oppah Muchinguri – current Women’s League boss – gave up power without any qualms.

Could she have been assured during the kitchen table meetings that her future was secured? The intrigue was further heightened by the party’s provincial structures on cue started endorsing Grace even with those structures meeting.

The Youth League and Matabeleland provinces were the first off the blocks to endorse Grace’s automatic rise to the top table.One can imagine seeing Mugabe’s hand in all this. He has spoken little on his likely successor.

Could this be to all pragmatic intents and purposes connected to his love for cricket? On the crease and at 90, does the nearness of a ton excite him to the extent that he forgets that this is a “team” game?

Will, he like a decisive and shrewd captain, declare and ask opponents to bat?

One thing with the benefit of hindsight tells us Mugabe is complicit in his wife’s political elevation or the organisers of Grace’s birthday bash could now be suffering the fate of the Dinyane conspirators.

Dinyane was organised nearly under the same pretenses as Mazowe that “selected” Zanu PF provincial chairpersons and politburo members were to attend the Dinyane Secondary School Prize-Giving Day.

The occasion was also used to prop up Mnangagwa’s shot on the Vice-Presidency to replace the late Simon Muzenda.

Mugabe swiftly reacted causing the suspension and subsequent expulsion of six party chairpersons, among them current Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda; Midlands’ July Moyo and Masvingo’s Daniel Shumba.

The perceived architect of the Tsholotsho Declaration, Information minister Jonathan Moyo, later wrote in 2009 for online publication Newzimbabwe.com, that the declaration was primarily aimed at Mugabe’s succession as it had become clear “whoever filled the vacancy would be successor to President Mugabe”.

Moyo was clear in his mind that Mnangagwa was the favourite by end of 2003 to become Vice-President. He also said the removal of the filling of the vacancy from the 2003 conference in Masvingo saved the day for the Mujuru faction.

Interestingly, Moyo said there was an informal committee that was planning succession in the party, whose composition included the late army general Solomon Mujuru and Sydney Sekeramayi as representatives for Mashonaland East; the late Vice-President John Nkomo and Obert Mpofu for Matabeleland North; Didymus Mutasa and Patrick Chinamasa for Manicaland; Stan Mudenge and Josiah Tungamirai for Masvingo (both late); the late Elliot Manyika and Nicholas Goche for Mashonaland Central, while Harare was left pending.

Of these, Mujuru, Nkomo, Mudenge, Tungamirai and Manyika are all late.

Could the surviving still harbour the same ambition to decide who will succeed Mugabe? The answer can only be in the affirmative.

The Mazowe Declaration so far has been successful in that there havebeen no repercussions for the organisers. This means it could have been cleared by the powers-that-be in the party.

Will party rules be arbitrarily changed like at the 2004 congress that made it a shoe-in for Mujuru to become a vice-president?

If this happens as being shown by Grace’s elevation without meeting the party’s stated criterion for national leadership, then one thing is certain: Whoever Grace will anoint as the successor will easily sail through. 

It, however, remains to be seen if Mazowe will succeed where Dinyane failed – anointing the successor to Mugabe.

For now, Grace and the invisible hand behind her success can revel in their coup, while the other camps scratch their heads on how they can revive their floundering chances to succeed the throne.