President Emmerson Mnangagwa faces his toughest test yet after taking over from Zimbabwe’s former leader when he presides over Zanu PF’s first congress in the post Robert Mugabe era, with war veterans demanding a share of the spoils.
Mugabe alienated war veterans in his last days in power as he increasingly relied on the younger generation and the new Zanu PF leader is facing loud demands to reverse the trend in what could be a tough balancing act.
Mnangagwa took over from Mugabe after the army forced the 93-year-old ruler to resign in dramatic fashion and the congress to be held in Harare will his first major ruling party assignment.
War veterans made it clear yesterday that they want him to give them the majority of the posts in the “new Zanu PF” in a move that might not go well with Mnangagwa’s other backers who did not fight in the liberation war.
The former fighters were instrumental in fighting for a Mnangagwa presidency and analysts say it is now pay back time for the new Zanu PF leader.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans leader Douglass Mahiya yesterday said former fighters should be appointed to key positions in Zanu PF as they were custodians of the party’s values.
“…if you appoint someone, the deputy should be a war veteran,” he said.
“We are reaching the end of our careers; we want to fix the party and leave it to the young ones.
“Any position that has to do with mobilisation should be given to a war veteran, as has been the case with my appointment.
Mugabe had created a gap between the war veterans and the people, treating the war veterans as useless. This has to stop.”
Zanu PF commissar Victor Matemadanda said the special congress would endorse the elevation of Mnangagwa to party leader and elect him the presidential candidate for next year’s elections.
“The special congress will endorse the decision of the previous central committee to elevate President Mnangagwa as the party leader,” he told The Standard.
“It will also endorse him as the presidential candidate in next year’s elections.”
However, Matematanda referred questions about the other agenda items to Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo.
Khaya Moyo said he would only know of the agenda after a politburo meeting on Tuesday and the central committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
“The politburo will meet on Tuesday and the central committee on Wednesday, after that I will be aware of the agenda for the congress,” he said.
But sources said some of the issues to be discussed included proposals to scrap the one centre of power principle, which allowed Mugabe to hand-pick the politburo.
War veterans accused former first lady Grace Mugabe of abusing the principle to usurp her husband’s powers.
“True, there will be amendments to the party’s constitution,” a Zanu PF senior official said.
“The one centre of power will be removed and the central committee and provinces executives will have their power back.
“The central committee and provinces will have a say in the appointment of vice presidents and the issue of a female vice-president will also be discarded.”
Zanu PF structures that include the women’s league, youth league and main wing had already endorsed the move while provinces had started stampeding to endorse the candidature of Grace for the post of VP.
In the past, provinces used to vote for the VPs before Mugabe secured imperial powers through the one centre of power clause to hand-pick his deputies.
Mnangagwa himself participated in the crafting of the clause that gave Mugabe the powers he used to fire him before he was returned by the military.
“The party will also change the constitution to make sure that congresses will not be held a year before the elections so that the party does away with the issue of special congresses,” the source said.
“The party should go for elections with a new team of elected members.”
This year’s special congress was called by G40, which had an upper hand then in a bid to use it to deal with Mnangagwa and his backers in the succession race
The official also said the party was likely to come up with clauses that will detail the requirements needed for officials to be appointed in certain positions.
War veterans have been demanding that a Zanu PF commissar should have liberation war history so that the party’s founding values can be protected, accusing the former commissar Saviour Kasukuwere of destroying the party.