WHEN Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa arrived at the ruling Zanu PF 2018 annual convention — officially referred to as the Annual National People’s Conference – at Mzingwane High School, Esigodini, 40 kilometres south of Bulawayo, with more than 5000 delegates already gathered for his address, he had one main political agenda in mind: Consolidate gains of the coup executed a year earlier and seek re-election in 2023.
It had been a dramatic political journey for Mnangagwa, perhaps his most important step into the future since 1980.
For Mnangagwa had always desired to succeed Chef de Grand as he called the late former president Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa and others in Zanu PF called Mugabe Chef de Grand or Le Grande Chef, meaning The Great Chief.
Because he was too close to Mugabe as his personal assistant and security aide, Mnangagwa was the point man and did his hatchet jobs with distinction.
He was the enforcer of Mugabe’s authoritarian and repressive rule.
As a result, Mnangagwa became the face of Mugabe’s grim excesses, from political violence to brutality, human rights abuses, dramatised by the Gukurahundi genocide, to incompetence and corruption.
Before his arrival at Mzingwane High at 11:05 on 14 December 2018, Mnangagwa was on tenterhooks. It was a touch-and-go situation as the military ran the show.
He had been sworn in on 24 November 2017 after the coup 10 days earlier. He was then sworn-in as an elected leader – fraudulently as it was described as – on 26 August 2018.
So on the day of the Mzingwane High conference, Mnangagwa had been in power for one year, 20 days.
He arrived at the conference at 11:05am accompanied by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, joining Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, (Co-Vice-President Kembo Mohadi was not there as he was unwell), party chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and secretary for administration Obert Mpofu at the top table.
And 10 minutes later, Zanu PF political commissar Engelbert Rugeje welcomed delegates to the conference.
Mpofu then declared that the 17th National People’s Conference duly convened in terms of Article 6 of the Zanu PF constitution.
After that Mnangagwa’s planned 2023 game openly began to play out, much to the shock of Chiwenga and his military allies, including Rugeje and the late Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Sibusiso Moyo, who announced the coup.
The late Zanu PF Matabeleland South chairman Rabelani Choeni set the ball rolling.
“On behalf of Matabeleland South, I would like to welcome His Excellency and Amai and his deputies. We welcome you to the famous rainbow province. We are proud to host you in the new compensation as a province. On behalf of the province we congratulate you for winning the elections resoundingly,” he said.
We won 12 seats making us a province you can count on. 2023 you are the sole candidate. For the first time in the history of the party we will be discussing devolution.”
Former Minister of State Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs Abednico Ncube then followed.
“Welcome to our province. We are the gateway to most Sadc economies. This province has endorsed you as the 2023 candidate.”
Then came Mnangagwa himself.
“We must occupy ourselves with the zeal to grow our economy. We must thrive on recruiting more members so that when 2023 elections come we get more votes. Youths should be visible on social media to articulate our position and counter negative narratives. Our party values must permeate through the structures of the party.”
Chiwenga and Rugeje did not mention 2023.
For in their minds, Mnangagwa was going to stand for one term only and Chiwenga would come in 2023.
Yet Mnangagwa had arrived at Mzingwane High, a well-known boys-only government secondary school located in the heart of Matebeleland South province and the only boys’ school left – Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo’s former school, plotting to be his own man and to remain in power beyond 2023.
Rugeje was to later tell a story to his friends that the 2023 strategy shocked them.
“When Chiwenga, Rugeje and others arrived at Mzingwane High, they were shocked to see Zanu PF youths with T-shirts written ED2023. They tried to ask the youths what that was all about, and they were told to stop being sellouts,” a source said.
“Youths told Rugeje: ‘Makutengesa comrade’. He was shocked to realise Mnangagwa had started to betray the army which had put him in power.
After the Mzingwane High conference, Mnangagwa started fierce purges of the coup coalition and its kingpins. Everybody who was critical was removed, redeployed and died. Chiwenga himself almost died. He survived by the skin of his teeth, courtesy of the Chinese.
“The situation got worse when Chiwenga, Rugeje and others plotted to clip Mnangagwa’s wings. Before the 2018 elections, they even planned to remove his head emblazoned on party regalia, but it failed.
“The purges were ruthless. No one survived except Chiwenga who is also now a lone figure up there without power and influence. Faz has replaced the army as Mnangagwa’s power brokers.”
Now just like he did in 2018 when he unexpectedly rolled out his 2023 re-election campaign at Mzingwane High, only five months into his bloodstained first term victory, Mnangagwa has began his third-term bid soon after his recent controversial re-election.
Insiders say Mnangagwa (officially 81 years) wants to extend his rule to finish at 91. In reality he is 85 and would finish at 95.
This means if he gets a third term he would end it at 95.
For that to happen, Zanu PF needs a two-thirds parliamentary majority. Main opposition CCC thwarted that bid in the legislative poll.
So it has to be obtained through the back door, and that campaign has started and it is underway full swing.
Sources say recalling of 15 CCC legislators by former MDC-T ans PDP member Sengezo Tshabangu, who claims to be the party’s interim secretary-general, is part of a plot involving the Central Intelligence Organisation-run Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz) to ensure the ruling party gets a two-thirds majority in parliament to enable Mnangagwa to change the constitution so that he runs for a third term.
The current Zimbabwean constitution, which came into effect in 2013, restricts the term of office for a president to two terms.
Faz played a prominent role in the chaotic recent elections by, among other things, being involved in the voter registration and inspection exercises, delimitation and voting.
Faz teams were on the ground countrywide more than a year before the poll to mobilise for Zanu PF, while also intimidating voters, especially in rural areas.
The organisation also sponsored double candidates, and in some cases triple candidates, to divide votes and derail the opposition.
Despite Faz’s influence, Zanu PF still failed to get the much-needed two thirds majority, resulting in the Mnangagwa administration launching an onslaught on the opposition by arresting its legislators and harassing them before the Tshabangu political tsunami of recalls Douglas Mwonzora-style.
Using Tshabangu as willing pawn and blunt instrument, Faz has ochestrated the expulsion of 15 MPs from the National Assembly and nine senators to make it easier for the president to change the constitution in months ahead for his third-term agenda.
In the letters dated October 3, Tshabangu wrote to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda and Local Government Minister Winston Chitando recalling legislators and councillors. He said the legislators and councillors elected under the CCC had ceased to be members of the party and thus had lost their seats.
The recalled MPs include Pashor Sibanda who won the Cowdray Park National Assembly ahead of Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, Ereck Gono (Lobengula Magwegwe), Nicola Watson(Bulawayo South), Desmond Makaza (Mpopoma Mzilikazi) Obert Manduna (Nketa), Mlilo Sitabile (P.R), Jasmine Toffa (P.R), Janeth Dube (P.R), Evidence Zana (Youth Qouta), Morgan Ncube (Beitbridge West), Nomathemba Sibanda (P.R), Velisiwe Nkomo (P.R), Prince Dubeko Sibanda (Binga North) and Bright Moyo Vanya (Lupane East).
Mabvuku Tafara MP Febion Kufahakutizwi was also recalled.
Zanu PF insiders say the recalls – just like the arrest of MPs – are part of the need to ensure a two-thirds majority by any means necessary.
This, they said, would leave a clear pathway for changing the constitution, like Mnangagwa did in his first tenure.
The power of a two-thirds is known to Mnangagwa.
In his first term, Mnangagwa, through the Zimbabwe Constitution Amendment (No.2) Act, changed the supreme law to remove the running mate close so that he has a pliant deputy, while giving himself greater control over cabinet.
He also started appointing close political allies, relatives and friends to strategic and influential positions.
The amendment also gave him more power and influence over the judiciary.
The Act permitted the President to promote judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court to a higher court on the recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), without the need for public interviews, thereby opening the door to promotions on the basis of political suitability and cronyism.
It allowed judges of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court to continue to serve beyond the current retirement age of 70, if the President, after consulting the JSC, consented to that.
This effectively stripped judges of their security of tenure, their independence and professionalism since they would hold office from year to year subject to the President’s whims and caprices. So controlling a two-thirds parliamentary majority is crucial for Mnangagwa to change the constitution for self-serving political agendas and his third-term bid.
Police last month arrested Phelandaba-Tshabalala legislator Gift Siziba and Bulawayo Central MP Surrender Kapoikilu on public order charges.
They also arrested Sunningdale CCC legislator Maureen Kademaunga and charged her with attempted murder, but the case was dismissed in court.
Harare deputy mayor Kudzai Kadzombe was also arrested on a charge of allegedly assaulting a Zanu PF member on election day.
These systematic attacks and recalls are meant to reconfigure parliament and give Zanu PF control of the National Assembly.
Zanu PF failed to get the two-thirds majority it sought in parliament, winning 136 of the 209 National Assembly seats contested, while CCC got 73 seats. A by-election will be held in Gutu West following the death of independent candidate Christopher Mutonhori Rwodzi in the run up to the election.
The threshold for obtaining a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly is 186, but Zanu PF managed to get 176 legislators in total.
The National Assembly has a total of 280 members, that is 210 elected members, 60 women chosen under the proportional representation (PR) system and 10 youth quota seats.
Zanu PF got 136 elected seats, 33 PR seats and seven youth quota seats, totalling 176.
The CCC, on the other hand, managed 103 seats in total; 73 elected seats, 27 women PR seats and three under the youth quota. Parliamentarians are chosen in terms of section 124 of Zimbabwe’s constitution.