Women's league fights for VP post

HARARE - The Zanu PF women’s league has upped its battle to regain one of the ruling party’s two vice presidency posts, as insiders opposed to VP Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding President Robert Mugabe vowed yesterday that this would happen at the expense of the Midlands godfather.

At the same time, Mugabe not only took a firm stand against Zanu PF’s escalating factionalism and infighting when he addressed members of the league in Harare, but also implored party members opposed to Mnangagwa to stop demonising the embattled VP, in a rare piece of good news for Team Lacoste to come out of a major ruling party gathering.

Well-placed sources who spoke to the Daily News on Friday said the Zanu PF women’s league, which is headed by influential First Lady Grace Mugabe, had unanimously resolved to push for the party’s constitution to be amended in time for the former liberation movement’s December congress, to accommodate a woman in the presidium.

This development, the sources asserted, would see Mnangagwa pushed out of the presidium as the deadly factional and succession wars devouring Zanu PF continue to escalate.

However, it is believed that a cagey Grace told the gathering, which included Mnangagwa, that it was not the league’s plan that as it agitated for inclusion at the top table, this should necessarily happen at the expense of either of the current two VPs.

Indeed, other insiders told the Daily News that Mugabe had gone out of his way to try and “balance” the hot potato issue of the party’s succession, by affirming that Mnangagwa and the other VP, Phelekezela Mphoko, were his deputies -- despite the “obvious” push to oust the Midlands Godfather by a faction opposed to his ascendency to power, known by the moniker Generation 40 (G40).

But the women’s league still vowed to push for the changes, amid claims that they would gang up with the party’s youth league to get their way in December, as opposed to 2019 when Zanu PF’s elective congress is slated to take place.

“It was a tense meeting and President Mugabe had to do a balancing act by appearing not to support any of the factions. But the women’s league is pushing hard for the constitution to be amended and it will be changed by December.

“All I can say is that the resolution was pushed in a stealthy way after some serious political manoeuvring. The league insists that the constitutional amendment has to be effected in terms of the resolutions of the 2015 conference in Victoria Falls,” a reliable source who was present at the meeting said.

“Some of the women want to turn the December conference into an extraordinary congress and if they fail they will push for this to happen next year. The extraordinary congress will be held on the pretext of re-endorsing President Mugabe, but in essence it will be used to target Mnangagwa,” another source said.

Zanu PF has for more than a decade now been dogged by its ugly factional and succession wars that have seen the repeated purging of several of its bigwigs.

Mnangagwa, who is accused of leading the Team Lacoste party faction, is battling it out with the G40 who are determined to derail his ambitions. Some of the alleged members of G40 are Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Mphoko.

The quota system has once before been used against Mnangagwa in 2004 -- which saw the elevation of former VP Joice Mujuru at his clear expense.

Mnangagwa’s loyalists are now insisting that this time he cannot be torpedoed again in his alleged quest to succeed Mugabe, and that he is in fact the natural replacement of the increasingly frail nonagenarian.

It was further learnt last night that the G40 is pushing for Zanu PF to revert to its old constitution, under whose Article 7 (31) it is declared that four members of the party’s central committee should comprise a president and first secretary, two vice presidents and second secretaries — “one of whom shall be a woman” — and a national chairperson.

“We demanded (yesterday) that the Zanu PF Constitution should be aligned to the national governance charter which says there must be 50-50 representation in all positions,” a women’s league member told the Daily News.

While the G40 is leaving no stone unturned in its endeavours to ensure that Mnangagwa is shafted, the Midlands godfather’s allies are similarly vowing never to go down silently, fighting tooth and nail to keep the VP in the “game”.

Team Lacoste has allegedly been plotting to turn the tables on their foes by agreeing to the women’s quota demand — as long as this affect Mphoko.

Many of Mnangagwa’s allies, including vocal war veterans, have since been shown the exit door from Zanu PF, leaving him exposed. Amid these power struggles, the VP has been accused of failing to protect his sympathisers.

Analysts have previously told the Daily News that even though the process to return to the women’s quota system might take several stages to materialise, Zanu PF can easily by-pass the procedures in a move that would see Mnangagwa being relegated to a lesser position.

In the run up to the ruling party’s damp squib “elective” congress in 2014, the party’s constitution was changed to enable Mugabe to purge officials who were perceived to be Mujuru’s allies.

The Daily News was the first paper to crack the political matrix, laying bare how the women’s quota system was mooted, before it became the new rallying point of most provinces.

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