Zanu PF is in dilemma as to how it could wriggle out of the one-centre of power doctrine created nearly three years ago. In the past, Zanu PF provinces used to vote for the party’s vice presidents (VPs) and national chairperson before former president Robert Mugabe secured imperial powers in 2014.
At its congress three years ago, the party inserted a clause in its constitution to allow the 93-year-old despot to handpick his top lieutenants. The clause made it easy for Mugabe to get rid of former vice president Joice Mujuru who had become too influential in Zanu PF. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the current president participated in the crafting of the clause which gave his predecessor the powers he ironically used to fire him last month.
This was before Mnangagwa dramatically bounced back into the party and government with the help of the military, to dislodge one of Africa’s longest serving statesmen from the seat of power. But at its Central Committee of November 19, Zanu PF resolved to amend its constitution to “remove any notion of one-centre of power”. A few weeks after its supreme law-making organ sat in Harare to show a radical departure from the old order, the party now appears split in two minds over the idea.
Zanu PF’s secretary for information and publicity, Simon Khaya-Moyo, told the Daily News recently that Mnangagwa will have the discretion to appoint VPs and the national chairperson – which goes against the spirit of discarding the one-centre of power principle. Political analyst canvassed by the Daily News said it was highly unlikely that Mnangagwa would be comfortable with a radical departure from the old order.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said what happened leading to Mugabe’s resignation was a leadership change as opposed to a regime change. “Such change does not necessarily mean a change in the rules of the game, so it will be difficult to do away of the one centre of power and allow Mnangagwa’s deputies to be democratically elected,” said Masunungure. “What we will witness is a continuation of Mugabeism and the motivation for that is the need for control over the appointees so that they are totally answerable to him. He will realise that democracy does not always bring about intended outcomes and his preferences could lose a democratic process so it is prudent to minimise the risk,” he added.
United Kingdom based constitutional law expert, Alex Magaisa, said the only way Zanu PF can discard the one centre of power principle was through changing the ruling party constitution. “Why should the party impose someone that a leader can’t work with? It becomes dysfunctional. A leader should be able to choose his team,” said Magaisa. “Democracy should always be tempered with mechanisms that ensure sound and efficient administration. If it’s the ruling party, his cabinet should as far as possible reflect the party scenario,” he said.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme weighed in suggesting that Mnangagwa would most likely be “politically expedient”. Saungweme said Mnangagwa would want to reward his close acolytes who did the donkey work in his rise to power by appointing them to influential positions. “He may pay lip-service to doing away with one centre of power just the way he adopted liberal economics but left issues such as human rights abuses untouched,” Saungweme said. “He knows who landed him victory – the military. So he would be more comfortable with appointing VPs, of which one of them if not both will be the generals. He can’t ignore them after all they did for him”.
Saungweme predicted that Mnangagwa would ignore calls for a woman vice president being advanced by Grace when she was the women’s league boss. The quota system was supposed to be adopted at the extra ordinary congress, which would have seen Grace replace Mnangagwa after Zanu PF provinces had already endorsed her.
“The women’s resolution is important, but you would see that he did ignore women in ministerial appointments. “So it will not be surprising when he ignores their resolution this time around. His cabal may come up with a justification for one centre of power around the need to consolidate the party in the face of rift with G40 and impending elections. “So the congress might just be used to give his position as Zanu PF secretary legitimacy by endorsing him at the congress”.