President Emmerson Mnangagwa is facing a tough balancing act in appointing his two deputies amid indications he is under pressure to reward the military for playing a pivotal role in removing long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa deferred appointing the vice-presidents at the just-ended Zanu PF congress, saying he needed to wait for certain institutional processes.
Analysts said the statement showed Mugabe’s successor wanted to appoint Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander General Constantino Chiwenga as one of his deputies.
Mnangagwa, the analysts said, was under pressure to appease the military.
“I don’t envy President Mnangagwa’s current position,” said UK based political analyst and former media lecturer, Reward Mushayabasa. “He seems to be in a very invidious position where he has to balance the competing interests of all the stakeholders who cleared the way for his ascendancy to power,” Mushayabasa said.
He said because Mnangagwa owed his current position to the military, it made him feel extremely beholden to them.
“We all know that Mnangagwa did not get into power through a credible democratic process. He came to power through a soft putsch staged by the army generals with the backing of the war veterans.”
“Against this murky political background, I am not surprised by the ever-increasing militarisation of his government.
Mnangagwa is just confirming what some of us suspected long ago. That he is a lame duck president.
“He is beholden to the military and the war veterans and cannot make his own independent decisions. Until he submits himself to a credible free and democratic general election, ‘the military influence’ in his government will continue to be his Achilles’ heel.”
A source within the ruling party who claimed to know “the plan with the VP appointments”, however, said Chiwenga and Defence minister Kembo Mohadi are tipped for appointment this week.
Mnangagwa was expected to announce his two VPs at the just-ended Zanu PF special congress but deferred it to this week to clear what he described as “institutional” requirements likely associated with the possible retirement of Chiwenga as commander of the defence forces.
Lawyer, Chris Mhike said in an interview yesterday that the Constitution of Zimbabwe did not compel the president to defer his choice of vice-presidents to any “institutions.”
He said the supreme law of the land simply stated that after the resignation of a president and the subsequent appointment of a replacement thereof, the new president must “without delay,” appoint a qualified person or qualified persons to fill in any vacant VP position.
“Without making reference to any institution, the Constitution directs the president to “appoint not more than two vice-presidents, who hold office at his or herpleasure.” The president’s delay to appoint VPs in the present case is more likely to be a case of intra-party political dynamics rather than constitutional hindrances.”
“If there should be any legal complications related to the delay, those hitches could possibly be linked to the apparent removal of Phelekezela Mphoko from office without due regard to the standing constitutional provisions on the resignation or removal from the office of a vice-president. There are worrisome legal loose ends on the Mphoko affair.”
He said Mnangagwa could well be aware of the possibility of a legal challenge to the appointment of a replacement to Mphoko.
“The identity of the person or persons who shall be appointed as VPs is anybody’s guess. If General Constantino Chiwenga should be one of the candidates, he seems to me to be qualified at law for such an appointment, subject of course to his resignation from ZDF. It would be unlawful for him to simultaneously hold the positions of commander of the ZDF and VP of the Republic of Zimbabwe,” Mhike said.
Prior to the congress, social media was awash with rumours that Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri would be appointed as one of the VPs, but Mnangagwa instead opted to give her the party’s chair, making her the first-ever female chairperson of Zanu PF.
Mnangagwa made several changes to the Zanu PF politburo after promising that all party politburo members would retain their positions. The omission of Mohadi, whose secretary for security position was given to party chief whip Lovemore Matuke, triggered speculation that the VP position had been reserved for the Defence, Security and War Veterans minister.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo yesterday refused to be drawn into the speculation, saying the appointment of VPs was Mnangagwa’s prerogative.
“The appointment of VPs of the party is his prerogative and we are not favoured with reasons. We cannot discuss that, the reasons are purely his,” Khaya-Moyo said.
A senior party official who requested anonymity, however, said: “I am certain Mohadi will be the vice-president, unless there are changes to the earlier plan.”
“This is the reason why he was excluded from the list of politburo members, because his position is already reserved,” said the official.
“The other VP position is likely to go to General Chiwenga. This has always been part of the plan.”
Before the special congress, Mohadi was said to be among the top contenders for the post on the Zapu side on a list which included Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda and party spokesperson Khaya Moyo, who eventually retained his position as secretary for information and publicity.
In former president Robert Mugabe’s administration, VPs did not hold other positions in the politburo except that of being the party’s second secretaries.
Mohadi has been a firm member of Mnangagwa’s Team Lacoste faction and had been listed by G40 for expulsion due to his strong ties with the then VP.
According to the Zanu PF constitution, one of the two VPs should come from Zapu in line with the Unity Accord signed in 1987 between Mugabe and the late Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo.
On the Zanu side, speculation has shifted from Muchinguri to Chiwenga and Sekeramayi, who lost his politburo post of secretary for war veterans to Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association secretary general Victor Matemadanda.
Speculation on Chiwenga was buttressed by Mnangagwa’s statement when he deferred the appointment of VPs, saying there were some institutions involved.
This has triggered speculation that he would need to retire Chiwenga first before appointing him his deputy in appreciation of the role he played towards his ascendency to the presidency.
Chiwenga led the military to push Mugabe out of office and so far, a number of military commanders who were involved in the operation which thwarted the rise of former first lady Grace Mugabe to the top post, have been rewarded with top government and Zanu PF posts