'I’m no faction leader' – Ngwena

HARARE – Embattled Zimbabwe Defence Minister and ZANU-PF Secretary for Legal Affairs Emmerson 'Ngwena' Mnangagwa took a tactical retreat yesterday describing as “rubbish” reports that he is a leader of a faction fighting against the recent dissolution of the party’s District Co-ordinating Committees.

Some sections of the media have linked Mnangagwa, who is also the Minister of Defence, to a clique of disgruntled Zanu-PF members from the Midlands Province, which was against the party’s resolution to disband DCCs.

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ZANU PF’s factional divisions, widened by dissolution of District Coordinating Committees (DCCs), have apparently assumed a regional and tribal dimension capable of further tearing the party apart ahead of next elections.

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 An insider revealed last week that the party’s Midlands and Masvingo provinces are threatening not to vote for President Robert Mugabe in the next presidential poll, accusing the politburo of deliberately dissolving the DCCs to thwart Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa in the succession race.

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“Why is it that whenever Ngwena (Mnangangwa) emerges a winner in a fair electoral process, goalposts are suddenly changed?” the insider asked.

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“After the Tsholotsho meeting, it was clear Mnangangwa had (the support of) six provinces and they purged the party, particularly the Masvingo and Midlands leadership, and blocked him by amending the constitution to say one of the vice-presidents must be a party woman.”

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It was reported in some sections of the media that the dissolution of DCCs had affected Mnangagwa’s supposed succession battle pitting him against Vice President Joice Mujuru.

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In an interview on the sidelines of an indigenisation and empowerment workshop for rural-based youths in Mvuma, Mnangagwa attacked the private media for “abusing their right to freedom of expression by publishing unfounded and fabricated” stories.

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He said he was surprised to read about the Midlands province’s alleged stubbornness on the DCCs’ dissolution.

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Mnangagwa said it was the province that was the first to endorse the Politburo decision to disband the party structure.

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“I am equally surprised by what the private media has been reporting on the party position to disband the DCC structures.

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“Those reports are false. It’s rubbish and contrary to the facts on the ground. Maybe you can help, go and ask them where they are getting all these fabrications.”

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Mnangagwa said the Midlands Province had always been known as a Zanu-PF stronghold, hence its being the first to endorse the party position on the disbanding of DCCs.

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“In his report in the Politburo on Wednesday, the Secretary for Administration, Didymus Mutasa said Midlands was the first province to endorse the move to disband DCCs and these reports, which claim that the province is against a decision that was unanimously agreed at, are a mere fabrication,” said Mnangagwa.

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The Politburo announced in June the decision to dissolve DCCs after classifying them as “divisive”.

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Mutasa and a team that comprised party spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo, the National Political Commissar Webster Shamu and war veterans chairperson.

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Jabulani Sibanda visited provinces explaining the rationale behind the disbanding of the structure.

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The team told Zanu-PF provincial co-ordinating committees in all provinces that the dissolution of DCCs would strengthen the party as it would promote direct communication between the executive and the grassroots.

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Announcing the dissolution of the DCCs in June, President Mugabe said they were created to co-ordinate the management of the party structures, yet they made things difficult.

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This followed reports of imposition of candidates during DCC elections, especially in Masvingo and Manicaland provinces.

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Some influential Zanu-PF members were allegedly manipulating DCCs and causing divisions in the revolutionary party.

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Divisions and bitterness are simmering in the faction-riddled Zanu PF over the controversial dissolution of district coordinating committees (DCCs), with senior party officials and their allies in lower structures seething with anger over the unilateral politburo decision.

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The Zanu PF politburo, an administrative organ of the central committee, recently resolved without consultation to disband the DCCs and then imposed the resolution on the central committee, the party’s decision-making body in between congresses, before sending out senior officials to explain its contentious move.

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Contrary to state media reports all provinces and other structures had welcomed the party’s contested resolution to disband DCCs, Zanu PF insiders told the Zimbabwe Independent this week the dissolution of DCCs is fuelling internal strife, already intense due to President Robert Mugabe’s raging succession battle.

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The conflict over DCCs is centred on succession now threatening to further divide and tear Zanu PF apart.

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The decision to disband the DCCs is widely seen as a move by the faction aligned to Vice-President Joice Mujuru and a cabal of politburo hardliners and state security service chiefs who wanted to contain the camp led by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, the party’s legal affairs secretary, which had prevailed during recent acrimonious DCC elections that left in their wake a trail of disputes and protests.

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The group aligned to Mnangagwa believes the move was yet another calculated ploy to block – by manipulating the constitution — its leader from consolidating his position to take over if Mugabe either retires or is incapacitated due to ill-health or old age.

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Insiders say the disbanding of DCCs sent out political shockwaves and a sense of deja vu to the Mnangagwa faction.

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In 2004, Zanu PF amended its constitution to stipulate that one of the vice-presidents had to be a woman after it became clear Mnangagwa was on an irresistible ascendancy to become vice-president following his faction’s seizure of seven of the 10 provinces. The move at the stroke of a pen helped Mujuru to become one of the co-vice-presidents with the late Joseph Msika at Mnangagwa’s expense.

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After working hard to regain lost ground following setbacks during the 2004 and 2009 congresses, Mnangagwa again now finds himself thwarted through another constitutional amendment — this time dissolving DCCs, his new springboard to power.

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“While Mnangagwa and his allies mourn the DCCs dissolution, his rivals — without even consulting him as legal affairs secretary — are moving fast to overhaul some clauses in the constitution to deal with the issue of senior officials manipulating structures to secure positions, while sidelining party members who have a constitutional right to elect leaders or be elected to office,” a senior Zanu PF official said.

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“We must defend our constitution by restoring power to the people (members of the party) which had been usurped by structures, including the DCCs. We want a model like that of ANC of South Africa which ensures the grassroots, not higher level structures alone, vote at the party congress.”

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According to the ANC constitution, “At least 90% of voting delegates at the conference shall be from branches, represented by elected delegates. The number of delegates shall be in proportion to the paid up members”.

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The remaining 10% are allocated by the National Executive Council from among the provincial executive committees, the Youth League and Women’s League.

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Some senior Zanu PF officials who have openly defended DCCs dissolution reportedly want the grassroots to be involved in the elections, not nominations, of the presidium — namely the president, two deputies and chairperson — at a congress.

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Party officials say this would deal with contradictions in the party constitution in which members’ rights to elect leaders are taken away by higher structures. For instance, although the Zanu PF constitution under the rights of members allows party members to vote to any office leaders of their choice, higher structures like provincial coordinating council (PCC), which should act as the elections directorate — not the electorate — of the province, end up choosing leaders themselves. Article 7.32 (i) of the party constitution says the top four positions are elected by “congress directly upon nomination by at least six PCCs”, something which appears to take away the voting rights of the grassroots who vote by acclamation, applause or cheering.

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The PCCs are made up of 44 members of the provincial executive councils, members of the central committee and national consultative assembly in the provinces, chairpersons of DCCs and 68 members of the provincial executive committee of the Women and Youth Leagues.

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Officials say this approach was promoting the imposition of leaders and decisions on the people. The disbanding of DCCs, for example, was unilaterally made by the politburo and foisted on the central committee, which is supposed to be the supreme decision-making body outside a congress.

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According to the party constitution, the politburo is the executive committee of the central committee. It acts as the administrative organ it and is answerable to the central committee on all matters, not the other way round.

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A high-powered delegation led by the party’s secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa which is out there struggling to explain the disbanding of DCCs has met with hostility. Mutasa, who was accompanied by the party’s national commissar Webster Shamu, war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda, and Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo, this week embarked on a whirlwind tour of provinces, starting with Midlands on Monday where DCC members aligned to Mnangagwa queried and protested the decision to abolish their posts.

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On Tuesday and Wednesday, Mutasa’s delegation visited Matabeleland North, Bulawayo and Matabeleland South provinces where party officials expressed anger over the DCCs dispute.

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“I brought you a message from the senior party leadership that the DCC structure has been removed from our constitution. The central committee has already endorsed the decision and President Robert Mugabe has tasked us to go to the provinces and explain the decision,” Mutasa has been telling party members.

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Insiders told the Independent the meetings have been tense, with officials expressing fury at the DCCs disbanding. In Midlands, Zanu PF chief whip Jorum Gumbo, a Mnangagwa ally, described the DCCs dissolution as “painful and unceremonious”, showing the issue has left behind more divisions and acrimony.

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