DEFIANT members of the faction led by former Vice-President Joice Mujuru said yesterday it would be folly to write off the country's former deputy as she can easily bounce back and succeed President Robert Mugabe when he leaves office.

In separate private briefings, Mujuru's allies said Zanu PF would have to call for an extraordinary congress to elect Mugabe's successor, during which they believe Mujuru could bounce back as the party's president and first secretary.

The top Zanu PF officials said First lady Grace, who currently wields plenty of power merely on account of being Mugabe's wife, would not command as much authority when her husband vacates office.

During her meet-the-people rallies in October last year Grace successfully pushed for Mujuru's ouster ahead of the December congress.

One former politburo member said: "If anything befalls President Mugabe the party will have to call for an extraordinary congress to elect his replacement. It is at this congress where nominations from the provinces will be presented and endorsed. I strongly believe that Mai Mujuru is still in the running for the top post when it falls vacant."

Mujuru's allies were, however, quick to point out that the legal challenge they were mounting was not an attack on Mugabe's authority but on the "illegal" congress which adopted constitutional amendments that allowed the president to appoint his two vice-presidents — Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.

"At the moment we are not challenging President Mugabe's post and authority. We respect that. He was endorsed by 10 provinces — that we agree with. But what we are saying is that the congress was illegal," said another top party official.

"We don't agree with the way the presidium was appointed. If it was elected we wouldn't have a quarrel. They were appointed through amendments adopted by an illegal crowd. Congress is supposed to be attended by elected office holders, not people in an acting capacity. The amendments are therefore null and void."

According to the Zanu PF constitution, any proposed amendments shall be submitted to the secretary for administration at least three months before the date of the meeting of the central committee.

The secretary for administration, upon receipt of the proposed amendments, shall circulate them to the provinces at least two months before the date of meeting.

However, the amendments which gave Mugabe power to appoint all politburo members were adopted by the politburo a week before the December congress and these were never circulated to the provinces.

The central committee adopted the amendments which removed provisions stating that one of the vice-presidents shall be a woman and the election of the presidium — except for the president — the day before the congress.

The amended clause stated that the president, his two deputies and chairperson shall stand elected when they receive nominations from at least six provinces.

Ousted secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa on Monday issued a strongly-worded statement indicating that disgruntled Zanu PF members were preparing to mount a court challenge to the legality of the holding of the party's congress and endorsement of the constitutional amendments that scrapped the election of national office bearers.

"We are determined to push our agenda. The strategy is to push out the mafikizolos (Johnny-come-latelies). They can't take control of the party we fought for — a party of freedom fighters," said a former politburo member.

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