The Unity Accord of 1987 is posing serious headaches for President Emmerson Mnangagwa who gave himself two days to handpick his two deputies, the Daily News on Sunday can report.
This comes amid indications that Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander General Constantino Chiwenga could make history by becoming the first decorated soldier in post independent Zimbabwe to land one of the posts straight from the barracks.
Mnangagwa is required by the party’s constitution to pick the other deputy from a powerful cast of contenders in the former Zapu, which is proving to be a herculean task for him.
The list includes veterans of the liberation struggle who were in the Zipra High Command, among them retired colonel Tshinga Dube; lieutenant general Phillip Vallerio Sibanda; retired brigadier general Ambrose Mutinhiri (former Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister) and Stanley Nleya, whose Chimurenga name was Elish Gagisa.
There are also dark horses in the form of Kembo Mohadi (Defence minister) and Jacob Mudenda, the current Speaker of Parliament.
Selecting the most deserving Zapu cadre from the cast is proving to be a difficult task for Mnangagwa because his choice must not just appeal to Zapu cadres but the military as well, which sees itself as the party’s stockholders.
His appointee must also not be out of step with Zanu PF’s core values of loyalty and tribal balancing — an art perfected by Mnangagwa’s predecessor, Robert Mugabe.
And more importantly, the appointee must bring about unity of purposes at the top, which cascades across party structures countrywide, especially as the country heads towards polls in 2018.
Signed on December 22, 1987 to end ethnic violence that had broke out in the Midlands and Matabeleland regions, the Unity Accord vests the power to appoint two vice presidents in Zanu PF’s first secretary and president.
The agreement makes the point that national unity, political stability and order, social and economic development can only be achieved to their fullest under conditions of peace and unity primarily of Zanu PF and PF Zapu — the signatories to the Unity Accord.
It has been the tradition in Zanu PF that whenever a vacancy arose on the Zapu side of the equation, former Zapu cadres would meet to make recommendations based on seniority.
When Joshua Nkomo died in July 1999, he was replaced by Joseph Msika, who was also replaced by John Landa Nkomo following his demise in August 2009.
The practice was abandoned in 2014 when then party president Robert Mugabe ignored submissions by Zapu cadres who met at the late Cephas Msipa’s residence in Gweru to deliberate on whom among them was to succeed John Nkomo, who had died in January 2013.
Breaking with protocol, Mugabe settled for Phelekezela Mphoko whom many thought was a rank-outsider.
Mphoko became the only VP on the Zapu side to leave office while still alive after he fell out with the military due to his closeness to Generation 40 functionaries, especially Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
The country has been without its two vice presidents since last month when Mnangagwa was fired from both government and Zanu PF.
After Mnangagwa and his Team Lacoste faction made a dramatic comeback last month — riding on the military’s intervention in Zanu PF’s internal politics — Mphoko, who was the other vice president, became part of the collateral damage targeting key members of the rival Generation 40 faction.
Whoever would have been appointed to the position of vice president and second secretary of Zanu PF would automatically become Mnangagwa’s deputy in government.
Zimbabweans were left in suspense on Friday after Mnangagwa delayed revealing the identity of his two deputies. The conjecture has it that he is in a dilemma as he has too many constituencies to reward.
University of Zimbabwe political Science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that despite his unenviable position, Mnangagwa would ensure that the military establishment is placated by elevating Chiwenga straight from the barracks.
He said while Mnangagwa has already appointed major general Sibusiso Moyo as Foreign Affairs minister, the real silver medal for the military was having their person in the presidium.
“If you checked carefully at the Zanu PF congress, Chiwenga appeared to be dressed in vice presidential attire. He did not pose as a military figure and it looks like he realises that time is ripe for him to land the top post and that he is within striking distance,” Masunungure said.
He said Mnangagwa might actually be worried about the choice of Chiwenga’s replacement as head of the ZDF, claiming the uniformed forces were not as united as they acted in pushing Mugabe out.
“Candidates such as Mohadi and (Simon Khaya) Moyo are real contenders with the former having been loyal to Mnangagwa for a long time and was even targeted for suspension by the G40.
The same does not, however, apply to Moyo who has had links with (former vice president Joice) Mujuru, which saw him miss out narrowly in 2014.
“Tshinga Dube to me is a more serious contender because he is known to have stood by Mnangagwa’s faction even risking losing his job as he backed the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led war veterans against G40. He may actually have a better chance than the other two I have mentioned because he is a very solid war veteran with impeccable history.”
Contacted for comment, Dube told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that while in the past the Zapu side of Zanu PF would be given an opportunity to meet and decide on who to second, according to their seniority, it was up to Mnangagwa to decide what criteria he will use.
“As it stands, I would say the most senior from our side is Mashonaland East Provincial minister Ambrose Mutinhiri although he is senior to me by a few months having trained together in 1963,” Dube said.
“The likes of Mohadi came in much later in the 1970s but what we used to do is to meet and decide. For example, when Joshua Nkomo died we decided that the national chairperson of the party Joseph Msika should be elevated and we did that gain with John Nkomo.
“However, this was dropped in 2014 when we sought to have Khaya-Moyo to replace Nkomo only to find … Mphoko’s name featuring. We did not know where that had come from because we had a meeting that was chaired by … Msipa in Gweru that came up with a position. Now we know that the criteria used was that Mphoko was close to the (former) first lady, Grace Mugabe.
“We will follow the same process if we are given the chance but it is up to the appointing authority at the end of it all.