Mnangagwa brings rival Chiwenga to his knees
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has brought his bitter rival Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga to his knees — literally and metaphorically — at the crucial Zanu PF congress which ended in Harare yesterday.
After a brutal political battle following the 2017 military coup which propelled Mnangagwa to power, characterised by plotting, internal strife, purges, poisoning and a grenade attack amid dead bodies, Chiwenga was crushed at congress.
His surrender — at least for now — was symbolised by his kneeling before Mnangagwa. Delegates, foreign fraternal party representatives, diplomats, observers and journalists witnessed the kowtowing spectacle.
Those who spoke to The NewsHawks found the kneeling symbolic of defeat.
“That summarised the key outcome of the congress; Mnangagwa emerged triumphant and Chiwenga defeated, given their power relations in 2017 and the power shift now,” one delegate said.
“This is not to say Chiwenga is down and out. This means he is down, but not out. The fact of the matter is simply that he was routed at congress and needs to retreat and regroup.”
Chiwenga himself accepted the trouncing, going as far as claiming leaders are ordained by God.
He implied Mnangagwa, whom he once claimed was the great Munhumutapa (historical Shona-speaking people’s monarch), had the divine right to rule.
Said Chiwenga: “The party membership through its structures and leagues has already clearly and thunderously endorsed Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa as the president and first secretary, and as the sole presidential candidate for the ruling party, Zanu PF, in the 2023 harmonised elections. People have thus spoken.
” Singing praises of Mnangagwa, he added: “He is the one and only candidate that we know.”
This was a far cry from his plan in 2017 during the coup when he called the shots. Chiwenga’s strategy was to install Mnangagwa as President for five years, and then take over in 2023.
This was part of the military plan to then keep power within their structures and among themselves. In 2017, Chiwenga practically installed himself vice-president when he exchanged military fatigues for a civilian suit, blocking Mnangagwa’s bid to appoint Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri co-deputy leader with Kembo Mohadi.
He also took over the defence and war veterans portfolios that Mnangagwa had initially given to Mohadi who was briefly put in charge of security. Muchinguri-Kashiri was later appeased through an appointment as party chair, a position which she retained at congress.
Zanu PF’s top positions have remained unchanged after congress: Mnangagwa (president), Chiwenga (deputy president), Mohadi (deputy president), Muchinguri-Kashiri (chairperson), Obert Mpofu (secretary for administration), Patrick Chinamasa (finance), national political commissar Mike Bimha and secretary for security Lovemore Matuke. Except Chiwenga and Mpofu, the rest of these appointed top party officials support Mnangagwa, insiders say.
Mohadi, who helped checkmate Chiwenga during the bruising power struggle, threw his weight behind Mnangagwa in his congress address. Mnangagwa lightheartedly described Mohadi as “naughty” — a reference to his sex scandals — but said he is dependable and useful.
He said Mohadi is also an honest leader as he is the only one who has repeatedly told him in his face that he wants to be president.
Good-homouredly, Mnangagwa said if Mohadi wants to be president he must first survive a sustained campaign of vilification and threats, poisoning, expulsion, walking 40 kilometres and then a dramatic recovery from that, which was a description of his own rise to power under the late former president Robert Mugabe’s last days.
Mnangagwa also appointed a limited number of members of the politburo members and 10 new central committee officials who are his personal nominees.
The move is calculated to cement his control of the party. Mnangagwa’s 10 appointees came from the country’s 10 provinces, one each.
This is designed to mobilise votes. They included Emmanuel Fundira (Midlands); Paul Mangwana (Masvingo); Angeline Tongogara (Mashonaland Central); Wilson Khumbula (Manicaland); Michael Madanha (Mashonaland East); Joseph Madziva Chirongoma (Mashonaland West); Veronica Munkili (Matabeleland North); Miriam Chikukwa (Harare); Zenzo Nsimbi (Bulawayo) and Abednico Ncube (Matabeleland South).
Mabel Chinomona remained in charge of the women’s league and Douglas Mahiya the war veterans league. Mnangagwa is also restructuring the politburo portfolios, creating new ones, while also coming up with an elders’ council structure.
Chiwenga’s supporters claim the elders’ council is evidence that their ally is still powerful and influential as that demand came from the coup leaders in 2017, but it is likely to be another pro-Mnangagwa structure.
In yet another indication of his power in 2017, Chiwenga stopped Mnangagwa from appointing Victor Matematanda, now ambassador to Mozambique, as political commissar.
He put retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje who was later removed after the 2018 elections. Rugeje is a key Chiwenga ally who challenged Mnangagwa’s purges and new modus operandi at a charged politburo meeting in July 2019.
Chiwenga and the army also ran internal Zanu PF elections in 2018, including the national polls. However, that power is no longer intact for Chiwenga.
Mnangagwa arrived at congress, having put his ducks in a row through the district coordinating committee, provincial and central committee elections, as well as cells. The provincial elections were brazenly rigged in favour of Mnangagwa.
Sources say the central committee members were meticulously vetted and packed with his supporters.
They say Mnangagwa went through the central committee list of elected members — one by one — to ensure it is dominated by his loyalists. Chiwenga struggled to even get nominated in his Mashonaland East province. At the congress, Mnangagwa’s support — perhaps stage-managed — was thunderously evident in song. For instance, his home Mid lands province was singing “Munomuvengereyi Mnangagwa?” which literally means “Why do you hate Mnangagwa?”
The song caught fire as the venue erupted into a cacophony, burying Chiwenga and his faction under an avalanche of Mnangagwa’s internal support among the 4 000 delegates.
However, insiders say Chiwenga is down, but not out. One delegate said: “It would be unwise for ED (Mnangagwa) and his supporters to think Chiwenga is down and out.
He is down, but not out. The question is: What next for him? Chiwenga still has strong residual support in the party and military.
He has retreated but will regroup, perhaps starting with Bhora musango [internal sabotage] during the upcoming general elections. It’s not yet over till it’s over.
At the end of the day, the unresolved leadership issue in Zanu PF still remains as long as there is a top leader who believes he was betrayed and needs to recover his lost ground and seize power.”
Closing the congress, Mnangagwa said: “Our party is more united as we march forward in building our country, leaving no one and no place behind. As we approach the 2023 elections, we must remain in sync and encourage our members to register to vote.”