- How, where and when did he get his mandate?
ZIMBABWEAN President Emmerson Mnangagwa, struggling to consolidate and maintain power at the volatile helm amid renewed internal Zanu PF infighting and disintegration of the coalition which drove his ascendancy, is tenuously hanging onto his faltering position by his fingernails despite an aura of invincibility, top party officials say.
An investigation by The NewsHawks shows Mnangagwa’s biggest problem is that he is leading a divided party, which has an unresolved leadership issue, without a mandate from congress, the supreme decision-making body of the party.
“Legally, Mnangagwa has no mandate from congress to currently lead Zanu PF,” a senior party official said.
“He basically avoided the 2019 congress, when it was constitutionally due, and postponed it to 2022. Currently he is running on empty: the mandate he got from the 2017 extraordinary congress expired. It was for the interregnum only. Subsequently, there was no other extraordinary congress to allow him and all those in the structures elected in the last regular congress in 2014 to continue. It was an arbitrary postponement, hence illegal arrangement. So his mandate is illegitimate in terms of the Zanu PF constitution.”
Mnangagwa was installed Zanu PF leader by the party’s central committee on 19 November 2017 at the height of the military coup and confirmed through an extraordinary congress on 15 December 2017, where he gave a lengthy address, saying he had been “appointed” into the position after the late former president Robert Mugabe was toppled.
The Zanu PF constitution does not give power to the central committee to remove an elected leader.
If the position becomes vacant for whatever reason, an extraordinary congress is held to fill it in. In his long-winded extraordinary congress speech — which had 3 167 words — Mnangagwa said: “Comrades, today I address you as a newly draped President and First Secretary of Zanu PF, subject of course, to the ratification, by this august gathering of the resolution of the Extraordinary Session of the Central Committee held on 19th November 2017, which appointed me to the helm of our Party. I feel the full weight of this new role which is made lighter by the wealth of experience and systems synthesised into clear rules, procedures and traditions we have built together as a Party over the years.”
This was in the aftermath of a dramatic series of game-changing events which culminated in Mugabe’s ouster and Mnangagwa’s ascendancy. Following fierce clashes in the party spearheaded by Grace Mugabe, the late authoritarian Zanu PF leader escalated the fight and dismissed Mnangagwa as vice-president on 6 November 2017.
Mnangagwa staged a great escape in the following 48 hours fearing arrest, detention and murder by his mentor’s goons — that he directed for decades — ending up in Pretoria, South Africa, at local businessman Justice Maphosa’s home, via Beira, Mozambique. Seething with rage, on 8 November Mnangagwa issued a statement warning he would be back in a fortnight to take over, which he did.
On 12 November, retired military commander General Constantino Chiwenga, fighting in Mnangagwa’s corner, returned from China with his adrenaline shooting up ready for combat. The following day, 13 November, he threw down the gauntlet at Mugabe.
On 14 November, the army moved in. By the following morning, 15 November, it had taken over. Sadc-brokered negotiations followed on 16 November, but immediately stalled.
Resultantly, demonstrations were organised to force Mugabe’s hand on 18 November. The central committee met to remove him a day after. On that day, 19 November, Mugabe addressed the nation, saying he was going nowhere.
The party then gave him an ultimatum to resign on 20 November, which he rejected. And then on 21 November Parliament moved to impeach him, forcing him to resign, to wild scenes of jubilation. The next day Mnangagwa returned from South Africa. Two days later, 24 November, he was inaugurated as president, sealing Mugabe’s fate.
In the interregnum, there were serious illegalities in Mnangagwa’s rise to power. Without any sense of irony, Mnangagwa had on 15 December during the extraordinary congress spoken about himself ascending by following the constitution and legal processes when he had grabbed power through a coup, convened the central committee improperly as the president and his deputies, including himself, were not there, and suspended members had unlawfully attended the meeting chaired by then party secretary for finance Obert Mpofu, who had no legal mandate to do so.
Mnangagwa later rewarded Mpofu with the position of secretary for administration, but removed him as Home Affairs minister in a bitter-sweet deal. In terms of section 38 of the Zanu PF constitution, the central committee meeting which “appointed” Mnangagwa party leader was not properly convened and constituted.
Central committee sessions are presided over by the president and first secretary of the party or, in his absence, one of the two vice-presidents and second secretaries, or the national chairperson.
At the time, Mugabe was not able to convene the meeting as he was under military siege marooned at his Blue Roof home in Borrowdale, Harare; Mnangagwa was in self-imposed exile in South Africa after he was dismissed as vice-president on 6 November 2017; and Phelekezela Mphoko was out of the country.
There was no chairperson as the position was vacant. Party officials now complain that Mnangagwa came in through a series of illegalities — from the coup, through blocking Mphoko from briefly acting as president after Mugabe was removed, the central committee meeting right up to the extraordinary congress.
“His presidency is a product of power seizure and illegalities,” another senior party official said.
“But the real problem now is that he is leading without a constitutional mandate since he avoided the 2019 congress.”
Zanu PF last held a regular elective congress in 2014, where Mnangagwa ascended to the position of Vice-President at the expense of Joice Mujuru, with Mphoko who was replacing the late John Nkomo.
The next congress was due in 2019. Mnangagwa avoided it, delaying it to 2022. However, Mugabe had in October 2017 called an extraordinary congress for December that year, where he had planned to install his then Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi as his successor.
Contrary to the claims by Mnangagwa and his faction, as well as their supporters, Mugabe did not want to be succeeded by his wife Grace, although she showed a growing appetite for power at the height on the succession battles.
In what effectively became his political waterloo, Mugabe had in May 2017 came up with the Mexico Declaration — which catalysed his succession war — to facilitate his retirement and let Sekeramayi take over.
The deal was reached while he was visiting Mexico with senior ministers and party officials. Zanu PF officials say besides the legitimacy issue, Mnangagwa is facing a brewing internal revolt, with his close allies now either facing pressure to quit, battling removal or restless.
The sources say Chiwenga is “really fed up”. Senior officials at party headquarters, mostly former ministers, are angry.
The war veterans are also grumbling. In the dungeons of the deep state, the rankand-file within the military which carried him to the top is disgruntled; they have not shared the spoils of the power seizure.
Strategic players within the police and intelligence community, Central Intelligence Organisation mainly, are harbouring resentments over how they were treated during the coup. There were serious purges in top police, intelligence and army echelons after Mnangagwa took over.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa and those close to him — his family, relatives and cronies — have evidently become cash-rich through self-aggrandisement deals and primitive accumulation.
“They are not only making money, but flaunting it with reckless abandon in a sea of poverty,” a Mnangagwa ally said.
“They are naïve. That is political suicidal.”
Mnangagwa’s Midlands and Masvingo power bases are in turmoil due to growing internal strife. Provincial heavyweights are at war with each other over positions and influence. In the Midlands, two factions within a faction have emerged and are slugging it out over who should be the next chairperson.
Incumbent Daniel Mckenzie Ncube is battling it out with State Security minister Owen “Mudha” Ncube, in a wrangle that has sucked in the President’s closest allies now divided on either side. There is also wrangling among Mnangagwa’s allies over Kwekwe Central.
Last October, Zanu PF primary polls to choose a Kwekwe Central parliamentary candidate for a by-election turned bloody following intense clashes between rival groups at Kwekwe district offices.
Police had to fire warning shots after being called to contain the situation which had spiralled out of control as factions bludgeoned each other over the voters’ roll.
The primary election pitted Energy Ncube — Mudha Ncube’s nephew — against Zanu PF’s 2018 losing candidate Kandross Mugabe.
The fight claimed the scalp of former Zanu PF national commissar and deputy defence minister Victor Matemadanda who was backing Mugabe.
Matemadanda, who had replaced retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje as commissar, was removed and dispatched to Mozambique as ambassador to defuse tensions in the region and address complaints by Chiwenga’s faction that he had failed.
Mnangagwa’s powerful allies in the Midlands, including July Moyo and Mudha Ncube, and elsewhere were swept aside in district coordinating committee (DCC) elections that left him weaker. Chiwenga has gained ground of late.
DCCs had been unconstitutionally dissolved by the central committee in 2012. However, as amendments to the Zanu PF constitution by the central committee are “subject to ratification by congress”.
DCCs should have continued to exist de jure until such ratification. The DCCs formed part of the congress and should thus not have been excluded from the congress prior to ratification of their disbandment.
Similarly, DCCs should not have been restored without ratification by congress. Independent Norton MP Temba Mliswa has publicly said that Mnangagwa’s close allies, Moyo, Mudha Ncube and others, lost in the DCC polls and no longer have political capital to offer the President to ensure his and their survival in 2023.
Mliswa is a Mnangagwa supporter. In Masvingo, Provincial Affairs minister Ezra Chadzamira is under fire over corruption charges which have taken a factional dimension as the Chiwenga camp now wants him out. War veterans are leading the charge.
Chiwenga has previously been in Masvingo, where he challenged Chadzamira’s leadership and associated decisions, especially on land distribution, which The NewsHawks covered relentlessly.
Zanu PF officials say Chiwenga has been intervening in Masvingo and nationally through his key ally, Rugeje.
Since the watershed politburo meeting on 29 July 2020, where Rugeje challenged Mnangagwa amid attempts by the President’s allies to round on Chiwenga through sudden verbal attacks, relations in the Zanu PF presidium have continued to deteriorate.
Mnangagwa even brought CIO director-general Isaac Moyo into the politburo to make an indirect case against Chiwenga by attacking his allies using an intelligence report presented by Lovemore Matuke, party security head.
Factional clashes at the time led to the suspension of youth leaders Pupurai Togarepi and Lewis Matutu, while Godfrey Tsenengamu, who has now formed a new party called Front for Economic Emancipation in Zimbabwe, was expelled.
Zanu PF Politburo members Cleveria Chizema and the late Tendai Savanhu, Chiwenga’s allies, were expelled for allegedly plotting the 31 July 2020 stayaway protest with the opposition. Sources say Chiwenga is disgruntled over Mnangagwa’s reneging over their coup gentleman’s agreement that the President would serve one term and give him a chance in 2023; Mohadi is upset he has been removed over sex scandals when “everyone is doing it, in fact, others are worse” and Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri is an unhappy figurehead at the party as chairperson and Defence minister.
War veterans are also restless over welfare issues. Civil servants, especially teachers, have been fighting confrontationally for better pay and benefits.
The explosive leadership battle and resultant political brinkmanship frequently explodes into open deadly confrontation, as it did at White City Stadium in Bulawayo on 23 June 2018, just over a month before the first post-2017 coup general elections.
Mnangagwa, who escaped the attack which was an internal job by the skin of his teeth, went on to win the disputed presidential election by a wafer-thin margin.
He won the July 30 election with 50.8% of the vote, enough to meet the 50% plus one vote threshold needed to avoid a runoff against main opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa who garnered 44.3% of the ballots.
Chamisa challenged the result in court, but the Constitutional Court led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba declared Mnangagwa the winner on 24 August 2018. Not only that, Malaba had prior to that ruled in court that Mugabe had resigned voluntarily, thus Mnangagwa had gotten power legitimately.
The then Judge President George Chiweshe had also claimed the coup was constitutional. Judges are always an important player whenever there is a coup. Mnangagwa has since extended Malaba’s tenure by five years — changing the retirement age from 70 to 75 years — through controversial constitutional amendments that analysts say undermine judicial independence, rule of law and democracy.
“On the surface it appears Mnangagwa is consolidating power; after all he seems to have put Chiwenga into checkmate, Mohadi is down and now on his side at the party headquarters, removed top army commanders who put him at the helm, liquidated the coup coalition, purged police, intelligence and army bosses to coupproof his regime and through political contingency key retired military figures, Perrance Shiri and Sibusiso Moyo, king-makers of sorts, have died,” a top Zanu PF official told The NewsHawks.
“However, in reality there is no consolidation to talk about. Mnangagwa is now surrounded by political upstarts and fortune-hunters. Most importantly and inevitably, he has lost control of the party. The evidence is there for all to see. Just look at what is happening in Midlands and Masvingo. His strongholds are in turmoil and all he can do is watch helplessly.”
This week, an extraordinary Zanu PF politburo meeting suspended provincial elections amid intensifying infighting, claiming it wanted to pave way for structures to prepare for the annual conference set to be held from 25-30 October.