Liberation parties brace for elective congresses

By Lovemore Ranga Mataire

Harare – At least three governing parties in the SADC region are bracing for elective congresses by year-end meant to reconstitute their top echelons.

SWAPO in Namibia, ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe and the ANC in South Africa are all set to hold congresses and conferences in November and December respectively in a move set to galvanise their membership and rally behind the new leadership.

In Zimbabwe, the governing ZANU-PF party is bracing for an extraordinary congress ahead of next year’s harmonised elections in a move likely to see the reconstitution of the presidium and the Politburo.

Ordinarily, ZANU-PF holds its congress after every five years but this year’s extraordinary congress seems to have been necessitated by internal dynamics that have seen some senior members being expelled from the party for various misdemeanours.

There has also been intense in-fighting in the party along factional lines.

The ruling party’s presidium is currently made up of the president, who is also the first secretary, at the top, followed by two vice presidents who are second secretaries.

The Politburo borrows a lot from the Chinese Communist Party where other members are secretaries of various portfolios.

Another reason for the holding of the special congress is to effect a proposal by the party’s Women’s League that one of the two vice presidents must be a woman.

The Politburo is the highest decision making body outside the Central Committee and Congress.

It is envisaged that an extraordinary congress would be critical in filling vacancies in critical organs of the party ahead of national elections next year.

Besides the reconstitution of the presidium and Politburo, the extraordinary congress is expected to re-affirm President Mugabe as the candidate for next year’s harmonised elections.

Four out of 10 provinces already support the idea of an extraordinary congress and indications are that the remaining provinces will follow suit.

Section 26 of ZANU-PF’s constitution provides for the holding of the special congress if five or more of the party’s provincial executive councils request one.  Congresses are ordinary every five years and the next one was due in 2019.

Reads section 30 of the ZANU-PF section: “Extraordinary Session of ZANU-PF heads for Special Congress shall deliberate only on those matters for which it has been specifically convened.”

This effectively bars any other issues to be included outside the said mandate of the congress.

ZANU-PF secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo said the decision to hold a special congress came from various quarters of its membership.

“After noting that the requests were numerous, I presented to Politburo this information and the Politburo, in its wisdom, decided that it is not its duty to decide on that but this should come from the provinces.

“Armed with the Politburo resolution, I then invited to Harare all provincial chairpersons and provincial political commissars from the 10 provinces and I briefed them on the resolution. So we directed them to go to their provinces and meet as provincial executives to deliberate on the matter and revert back to me on Tuesday (this week) with their decisions stating whether or not they want the special congress,” said Chombo.

Although a congress is ostensibly held to elect a new leadership, Chombo insisted that the special congress was mainly to discuss matters related to the impending election.

There is a likelihood that the congress will see a woman joining the presidium. This may mean that the party may decide to have a third vice president or one of the current two vice-presidents may be dropped.

In Namibia, SWAPO is scheduled to hold its elective congress at the end of next month to review its policy agenda and choose its top leadership.

Last week, The Southern Times reported that at least three senior SWAPO leaders have come out of the woodwork to challenge President Hage Geingob for the party presidency.

President Geingob has been the acting SWAPO president since the retirement from active politics of former President Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2015.

Former Prime Minister Nahas Angula and Youth Minister Jerry Ekandjo have expressed interest in the top post while Home Affairs and Immigration Minister and former SWAPO secretary-general Pendukeni livula-Ithana said she will be Ekandjo’s running mate.

The scheduled congress looks set to be a bruising encounter, which is indicative of vibrant democracy at play.

Jostling for the presidency is already in full swing in the ruling ANC in South Africa where two factions- one supporting former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the other supporting current deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has said the coming elective conference will be a matter of life and death. Mantashe said this last month in a memorial lecture on the party’s longest serving president, Oliver Reginald Tambo, in Johannesburg.

“The choice that the ANC has in December is a choice between life and death. It’s a choice between prosperity and disaster.

The choice that we have in December is to first cleanse the ANC because we are in a transition of moving from a particular era to the next,” said Mantashe.

Mantashe has served as the party’s secretary general for two consecutive terms. He said the use of dirty tricks to discredit presidential candidates in December will destroy the party.

It is not in doubt that the impending elective congresses and conference are to be benchmarks of the ruling parties performances in the coming elections.

In Zimbabwe, factional fights are threatening unity of ZANU-PF and observers have said the revolutionary party needed to sort its internal affairs before next year’s elections.

Similarly, as analysed by Asser Ntinda and published on SWAPO’s official website, elective congresses for the Namibian ruling party since independence have always been fiery and divisive.

“That is the time when comrades start washing their dirty linen in public, all in the name of the state presidency.

That is the time when presidential ambitions become so entrenched and hopes for victory raised so high that defeat no longer forms part of the race. But defeat should form part of the campaigns, if contenders and their supporters are to recover from the shock of not having made it to the top,” wrote Ntinda.

Ntinda concluded by urging SWAPO members to realise that they can only be one winner and within the party, the winner does not necessarily take all as the common denominator remains the SWAPO party.

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