The Sunday Mail
Zanu-PF must amend a provision in its constitution that allows 10 senior officials to automatically become Politburo members without Presidential appointment if it hopes to end factionalism, analysts and senior party insiders have said.
This follows First Lady and Women’s League boss-designate Dr Grace Mugabe’s warning that President Mugabe would remove from office any factional leaders who held party positions via appointment.
Dr Mugabe last week told thousands of people in Masvingo and Mutare that leaders in office because of President Mugabe’s appointing authority, but who then chose to fan factionalism, faced a political Siberia come the ruling party’s December Congress.
Politburo members subsequently informed The Sunday Mail that there was a growing lobby to amend Zanu-PF’s Constitution because not all senior officials were appointees, as the case should ordinarily be. Because they were not appointees, they were creating their own centres of power and were thus fanning factionalism.
The 10 positions that automatically get Politburo status are the two Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries, the National Chair, the deputy secretary of the Women’s League and her five most senior officials, and the deputy secretary of the Youth League.
Observers said this situation saw these non-appointed officials creating their own centres of power, which resulted in factionalism that manifested itself in vote-buying, violence, intimidation and general disloyalty to the President.
They pointed out that the party constitution was at loggerheads with the 1987 Unity Accord as regards to how people could occupy the two VP posts.
Article 4 of the Unity Accord states: “That Zanu-PF shall have two Second Secretaries and Vice Presidents who shall be appointed by the First Secretary and President of the party.”
On the other hand, Zanu-PF’s constitution does not allow the President to appoint his deputies.
Article 7 of the party’s constitution reads: “There shall be a Central Committee which shall be the principal organ of Congress and shall consist of… (a) President and First Secretary; (b) Two Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries one of whom shall be a woman; and (c) The National Chairman of the party.
“All of whom shall be elected by Congress directly upon nomination by at least six provincial co-ordinating committees of the party, meeting separately in special session called for that purpose.”
In essence, this means while the Unity Accord says the President should appoint his deputies, the Zanu-PF constitution in its present state says they should be elected.
Analysts and party officials said this created room for multiple centres of power, which resulted in factionalism as some Zanu-PF bigwigs would operate without having any loyalty to the President.
A senior party official pointed to the attempt two weeks ago by Manicaland province to railroad Politburo appointments by nominating a so-called Presidium as an instance where politicians were giving themselves authority to make executive appointments.
Yesterday, Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo said the matter could only be discussed in the Politburo.
“That is not something I can share with the media. It needs to be discussed at the Politburo first so that we map the way forward,” he said.
Chair of think tank the Zhuwao Institute, Mr Patrick Zhuwao, however said institutionalising one source of power “is a systemic solution to factionalism”.
“I think the first part of my analysis is that that thinking was captured in the Sixth Schedule of the new Constitution. It was an issue of importance to Zanu-PF (during constitution-making), particularly because unity is of critical importance.
“The words on the Zanu-PF logo are ‘Unity, Peace and Development’. So, unity becomes the overriding factor.
“The President of the Republic should appoint VPs in the same manner he appoints ministers. The thinking is clear. However, there might be a slight mismatch in what is written. The constitution of Zanu-PF has over time evolved to have VPs directly elected, which is contrary to Clause 4 of the Unity Accord and the Sixth Schedule (of the national Constitution).
“If we take the Unity Accord and the new Constitution, there is need to realign provisions. The danger is mischievous people will start to claim that they belong to this and that faction if we have several centres of power.
“Let’s maintain one centre of power rather than having allegiance to others other than the First Secretary and President. A systemic solution to factionalism is to institutionalise a singular source of power through the Zanu-PF constitution.”
A veteran nationalist who was involved in the Unity Accord negotiations but requested anonymity in the interest of promoting objective debate added: “It has become all too clear for those of us who have been closely following the raging factional battles and the ugly shenanigans of succession politics in Zanu-PF, which have been getting worse since the Party’s 1999 Congress which took place only six or so months after the death of Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo, that the real problem is less about the personalities who are involved or their apparently retrogressive politics but more about fundamental structural weaknesses in the party’s constitution.
“There’s an urgent need to rectify these weaknesses through long overdue constitutional amendments, in light of the current confusion that gives the false impression that the centre is no longer holding with regard to the discharge of the party’s executive authority in order to ensure that the constitution of the party provides for one centre of executive power by aligning it with the Unity Accord and the Constitution of Zimbabwe, both of which are very clear on how executive power should be acquired and on where it should be centred.
“Although some comrades in the party from both the former Zapu and former Zanu sides have been running around causing a lot of factionalist confusion and sowing divisive seeds while challenging President Mugabe’s authority by recklessly campaigning to be elected at the forthcoming congress for the two positions of VP, the Unity Accord is clear that these two senior positions are not elective and should not be filled through divisive factional campaigns because they are both supposed to be appointed by the President and First Secretary of the party.
“The time has come to put factionalism behind us by aligning the Party’s Constitution with the Unity Accord on this matter.”
On the other officials who automatically get Politburo seats, the nationalist said, “You have the problem arising from the fact that the National Chairman, the top six in the Women’s League and the deputy secretary for the Youth League end up in the Politburo by virtue of their election.
“This is a serious anomaly which should not be allowed to continue because it leads to divisions in the party with the people elected to these positions claiming to be loyal to those who have elected them.”
He agreed that this had created several centres of power and growing factionalism.
A political analyst with the Midlands State University said, “The best way of stopping this rot is by aligning the party’s constitution with the national Constitution with regards to the appointment of the Politburo to make it similar to the appointment of Cabinet.
“Nobody, not even the Vice Presidents, are elected to Cabinet. Everyone there is appointed by the President and that ensures that there’s one centre of power in Cabinet.
“The same should apply to the Politburo. Only one office should be in the Politburo by election and that is the President and First Secretary of the Party.
“Everyone else from the two VPs and Second Secretaries down to heads of departments and committee members should be appointed by the President and First Secretary to ensure that there’s one centre of executive power and authority in the party.”
However, lawyer and Mudzi South legislator Mr Jonathan Samkange said Zanu-PF’s constitution had primacy.
“The Zanu-PF constitution is the supreme law of the party. That means it supersedes any other regulation in Zanu-PF. The constitution itself is also independent of the Unity Accord, so they cannot be used in tandem because the constitution is above the accord.
“In simple terms, it will be unconstitutional to put the Unity Accord ahead of the party’s constitution.”
Former Cabinet minister and lawyer Mr Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana said any proposal to align the party constitution with the Unity Accord should be tabled at Congress.
“The Zanu-PF constitution is very clear that all leaders are elected at Congress. The Unity accord stands as its own arrangement but it cannot override the Constitution.
“If there is a strong feeling that the Unity Accord is not being followed, members are free to amend the constitution at Congress.”
University of Zimbabwe Department of Political Studies chair Dr Charity Manyeruke added: “Where there is uncertainty as to which provision to follow, there are various ways to address it. One way is to look at past practices and new factors that may allow for deviation from the past practices. These facts are critical in deciding the path the party can take.
“It is also important to discuss all possibilities because leadership should not be rigid towards a single approach. Democracy should be allowed to set in.”
Another lawyer said Zanu-PF’s constitution should reflect both the Unity Accord and the national Constitution.
“No one can argue that the Unity Accord is supreme, to the party constitution, but where that constitution is not in sync with the Unity Accord and the national Constitution then it should be amended to conform to the letter, spirit and principles of the Unity Accord and the national Constitution.
“The Unity Accord carries important founding values, besides it explicitly making it clear that the President is the appointing authority; and this is even more so when it comes to the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
“Another point to bear in mind is that many of the factional leaders are using that very same Unity Accord to assert their perceived right to hold certain offices. So are they saying they will only respect those aspects of the Unity Accord that further their personal ambitions while they ignore fundamental aspects that might dent those ambitions?”
The lawyer emphasised that executive power, such as that wielded by the Politburo – and similar to that of Cabinet – “cannot be situated in several and competing centres”.