President Robert Mugabe’s succession dispute has taken another dramatic twist after the ruling party’s Soviet-style Politburo resolved that the December annual conference be turned into an extraordinary congress in what many political pundits view as a plot to oust Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa, who claims he was poisoned by his rivals in the party and has clashed with Mr. Mugabe’s increasingly powerful wife, Grace Mugabe, was stripped of his justice ministerial portfolio in a Cabinet reshuffle early this week following a spat with his colleague, Phelekezela Mphoko.
Finance minister and party secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, told VOA Studio 7 that the party will make a final decision next week following a proposal by some members to hold an extraordinary congress.
The party hold congresses once every 5 years and the next one was expected to take place in 2019.
While attending a ruling Zanu-PF youth meeting in Gwanda, Matabeleland South, in August, Mnangagwa collapsed after suffering from relentless vomiting and diarrhea.
Mnangagwa’s allies initially alleged he was poisoned after eating ice cream from Gushungo Dairy owned by the first family.
He was forced to publicly state that he had not eaten ice cream on the day in question. Mr. Mugabe also told close to 30,000 Zanu-PF supporters in Gweru, Midlands province, at a ruling party Youth Interface Rally that Mnangagwa’s doctors had told him personally at State House that Mnangagwa’s illness was not a result of food poisoning.
“There was no food poisoning. It is not food poisoning. no!” the 93-year-old Zimbabwean leader said.
Mnangagwa though had a different version when he addressed journalists in Harare last week. He alleged that, “during the briefing with His Excellency, the President, Cde R.G Mugabe, the medical doctors who attended to me ruled out food poisoning, but confirmed that indeed poisoning had occurred and that investigations were still in progress.”
But First Lady Grace Mugabe hit back at Mnangagwa, accusing his supporters of plotting to topple President Mugabe.
She also shot down allegations of food poisoning. "Why would my dairy business prepare a single poisoned ice cream cup just for him? Why would I want to kill him? I am the wife of the president. Who is Mnangagwa? Who is he? What do I want from him?"
This, according to party sources, triggered calls for an extraordinary congress.
Mnangagwa allegedly leads a faction of the party called Team Lacoste while Mrs. Mugabe is said to be in charge of G40. Both camps are allegedly wrestling for the control of the party with group leaders aiming at succeeding Mr. Mugabe, who is the ruling party’s sole candidate in the 2018 presidential election.
ZANU PF CONSTITUTION
The Zanu PF constitution stipulates that an extra ordinary congress may be convened “whenever it is deemed necessary and at the instance of:- the majority of the members of the Central Committee; or the President and First Secretary, at the instance of not less than one third of members of the Central Committee, or the President and First Secretary, at the instance of at least five Provincial Executive Councils by resolutions to that effect; the President and First Secretary, on receipt of a resolution requesting an extraordinary session of Congress, shall forward the same to the Secretary for Administration.”
The secretary for administration, on receipt of the said resolution, is expected to give at least six weeks’ notice convening an extraordinary session of Congress.
“The Central Committee shall formulate the necessary procedures for the execution of the business of the extraordinary session of the Congress. The extraordinary session of Congress shall deliberate only on those matters for which it has been specifically convened.”
Human Rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga says it is clear that the extraordinary congress is targeted at Mnangagwa but it will be difficult to oust him as he enjoys massive support.
President Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe attained independence from British rule in 1980.
Mnangagwa, who was his right-hand person during the war of liberation of the 1970s, has served Mr. Mugabe’s government for more than 37 years.
The vice president was elevated to his current position following the ouster of former vice president Joice Mujuru, who was accused of attempting to topple the president.
She dismissed these allegations as far-fetched.