Après moi le déluge: Succession and the Zanu (PF) party constitution

The somewhat provocative title of this report conceals an extremely serious issue with Zimbabwean politics. The theme of succession, both of the State Presidency and the leadership of Zanu (PF), increasingly bedevils all matters relating to the political stability of Zimbabwe and any form of transition to democracy.

Robert Mugabe flanked by the two people vying to take over from him:  Emmerson Mnangagawa and Joice Mujuru.
Robert Mugabe flanked by the two people vying to take over from him: Emmerson Mnangagawa and Joice Mujuru.

The constitutional issues related to the death (or infirmity) of the President have been dealt with in several reports by RAU. In these reports it was noted that there are arguably two valid interpretations of the provisions in the State Constitution in this regard – one is that a nominee “of” Zanu (PF) is simply appointed as the successor to President Mugabe, the other is that both Houses of Parliament sit together as an Electoral College and elect a nominee “of” Zanu (PF) as successor.

But providing that the nominee is “of” Zanu (PF) rather than rather than “by or from” Zanu (PF) opens the door to several possibilities as to the nature of the nominee, including that the nominee may be “of” Zanu (PF) but not a member of that party.

The various possibilities and the difficulty they will present the Clerk of Parliament (who effectively plays the role of a nomination court) are discussed in the paper. However, if Zanu (PF) is to select the nominee in terms of its own constitution, further problems need to be considered. The Zanu (PF) Constitution is not well-known and only recently has a copy of the full, detailed Constitution been available for independent analysis. Using this copy, the structure of Zanu (PF) is outlined in the paper, together with the powers, duties, and responsibilities of every structure within the Party. Of particular importance are the powers related to elections and amendment of the Party Constitution.

It is evident that there are a number of grey areas in respect of election to the office of any of the four posts in the Zanu (PF) Presidium, including the post of President and First Secretary. The clarity of the procedures leaves much to be desired and is a fertile area for dispute.

With an understanding of the applicable provisions, rules, and the powers of the various structures within Zanu (PF), the question of election to the Presidium is analysed, and the important role of the Provincial Coordinating Committees [PCCs] is described.

The Zanu (PF) Constitution stipulates that any candidate receiving nomination by six or more of the ten Provinces will be directly “elected” to the Presidium, by the National People’s Congress. It is unclear what happens if the Congress refuses to “elect” the nominee chosen by the PCCs.

It is also unclear what happens in the event of multiple nominations and splits between the PCCs. More topically, the role of the DCCs (District Co-ordinating Committees) is outlined, with the understanding that the Chairs of the various DDCs comprise(d) part of PCCs.

Hence, the dissolution of the DCCs has implications for the electoral process for the Presidium, since, without the DCC chairmen represented on the PCC, any decision could run the risk of being legally challenged on the basis of that the body is improperly constituted. This can have knock-on effect. Improperly constituted PCCs cannot make legal decisions, including nominating persons for election to the Presidium. The difficulties (and the above is one example) become amplified in the situation where the Zanu (PF) constitutional and electoral machinery must conclude its processes within the 90 day or shorter time frame required by State Constitution for voting in a Parliamentary Electoral College following the death or infirmity of the President.

It seems that this would create a well-nigh impossible deadline for the internal Zanu (PF) procedures. Although the national succession problem has yet to occur, there have been problems of succession within Zanu (PF) over the years, and these are analysed with respect to the Zanu (PF) Constitution, especially the events related to deaths of previous members of the Presidium – that of Joshua Nkomo in 1999, Simon Muzenda in 2003, and Joseph Msika in 2009. The manner in which the replacements to posts in the Presidium were made is considered as a possible indicator as to what might happen when the next vacancy in arises. As the report shows, each of these deaths lead to considerable internal conflict over succession, and, following the death of Simon Muzenda, to the remarkable events of the “Tsholotsho Declaration” in 2004. The consequence of all of these events has led to an increased centralisation of power in the hands of the Politburo, and the marginalisa-tion of the democratic core of the Zanu (PF)Constitution. The paper shows that nominations to the Zanu (PF) Presidium have, to date, been determined, in the face of considerable resistance, by a process of “guided democracy” on instructions issued by a Politburo controlled by Mugabe.

The question thus arises as to what will happen when the post to be filled is that of the “guide” – Mugabe himself. Several scenarios suggest themselves, and are considered at the conclusion of the paper. – Derek Matyszak, Research and Advocacy Unit, Harare

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