ZANU PF holds a ‘re-birth’ congress
By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
Analysts have said the ZANU–PF Congress scheduled for December 12 is set to rekindle and re-affirm the party’s revolutionary ethos that had faced dilution when the party seemed to have been captured by a cabal aligned to the former First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Ironically, the same special congress is believed to have been slated to deal with President Mnangagwa who was at the time the ZANU-PF vice president and was seen by the cabal aligned to then First Lady as angling to succeed then leader Robert Mugabe.
But things have since changed with the intervention of the military in an exercise dubbed “Operation Restore Legacy”, which culminated in then President Mugabe stepping down. His resignation led to the seconding of Mnangagwa by party members to take leadership of both the revolutionary and government.
The Zimbabwe Constitution mandates the ruling party to second its own leader in the event of a resignation or incapacitation of the incumbent. The secondment of Mnangagwa, as the party and government leader, by ZANU-PF saw him elevated to the position of President, a position that gives him the power to appoint his own Cabinet and other party office bearers like Politburo members and two vice presidents.
The dramatic events of November have largely been interpreted by many as a necessary intervention by the military to salvage the waning fortunes of the ruling party, especially its historical heritage as a party of liberation.
War veterans under the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association led by Chris Mutsvangwa had long led the clarion call for President Mugabe to step down citing capitulation of liberation ideals and capture by the cabal going by the moniker G40.
The allegations reached a crescendo when the war veterans requested an indaba with Mugabe, who was at the time the association’s patron. However, attempts to remind Mugabe of the critical importance of war veterans as custodians of the liberation came to naught, as the party subsequently went on a rampage of purging all those associated with Mnangagwa, who was at the time said to lead the Lacoste faction.
The relentless purging also saw Mnangagwa being fired from both party and government leading to his flight from the country for fear that security agents wanted to capture and eliminate him.
Concerned by the state of affairs that were unfolding in the party, particularly the observations that the First Lady had become a de facto president publicly rebuking ministers and other party officials, the army intervened to stop the haemorrhage in an operation termed “Operation Restore Legacy”.
President Mugabe eventually relented and resigned when his world seemed crumbling after being recalled from the government and the party with Members of Parliament moving a motion to impeach him.
With Mnangagwa assuming the reins, many who had been purged during the era of Saviour Kasukuwere, as the party’s national commissar, have since been readmitted into the party while some of those who were leading the purge were forced to relinquish their positions, and others of the likes of Jonathan Moyo (former higher education minister) and Patrick Zhuwao (labour and social welfare minister) fled the country.
Given a lot of realignment that needs to be undertaken within the party ahead of harmonised elections next year, the special congress initially scheduled to deal with Mnangagwa is now going ahead with a completely different agenda.
Instead of the congress taking place over a period of six days, it has since been reduced to three days with the budget of US$8 million also reviewed downwards. The number of delegates has also been reduced to 6,000 from the 16,000 delegates earlier anticipated when Mugabe was still the leader.
The reduction of days and delegates gives a clear indication of President Mnangagwa’s intent to reduce some largesse and employing a new work ethic within the revolutionary party and government.
Many believe that the congress signals a “re-birth” of ZANU-PF from the abyss that it was gradually heading to as fierce factional fights had become the order of the day. The infusion of cabinet ministers with military background or those that served in liberation struggle is also a pointer to the coming together of comrades, who had initially been marginalised by the G40 cabal.
War veterans believe that they are the custodians of the revolutionary party and they stand ready to defend the gains of the liberation struggle at any given juncture when they feel that its ethos are under threat. Besides mapping the way forward in preparation of next year’s elections, the congress is likely to endorse President Mnangagwa as the candidate. There is no indication so far that his candidature faces any challenge from other contenders in the party.
The second issue that is on the agenda is the appointment of new politburo members. The ZANU-PF constitution obligates the President and First Secretary of the party to appoint members of the politburo. The politburo is the highest decision-making body outside congress.
Mnangagwa is expected to elect a team that will likely be aligned with his Cabinet. It is the Politburo or the party that formulates policy direction of government. In other words, the party is always supreme and superintends government.
The third issue involves the appointment of two vice presidents. It is not clear whether President Mnangagwa will take into consideration the Women’s quota in choosing his two vice presidents. Indications are that he will likely want to balance the gender and ethnic equation by appointing a woman to one of the two slots for the vice presidents and also one from the ethnic Ndebele.
President Mnangagwa has already alluded to the insurmountable odds needed to be conquered to grow the economy and there is no doubt that the congress will come up with strategies of reviving the economy.
Speculation is rife that one of the two vice presidents could be Zimbabwe Army Commander General Chiwenga, who led the military intervention that resulted in Mugabe resigning.
Any individual appointed vice president of the governing party automatically assumes the same position in government. The inclusion of Chiwenga would increase the number of people with post-war military background to three.
Former Commander of Zimbabwe’s Air Force Perence Shiri is now the new Minister of Agriculture while Major General Sibusiso Moyo, who made the announcement of the military’s intervention on television, is now the new Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
While some section of the Zimbabwean populace is jittery over the inclusion of former top army officials, others feel that their presence will infuse a new work ethic that has over the years diminished, as cadres pursued parochial factional interests.
Every Zimbabwean, either in the ruling party or opposition, is waiting anxiously for the ZANU-PF congress, which will surely give direction in terms of how the new President intends to “grow the economy”, as has been his clarion call since day one in office.