By Andrew Kunambura
Rival Zanu PF factions shall momentarily shift their focus to primary elections due to be held either in the final quarter of this year or early next year, as they battle for control of the National Assembly.
The legislature, split into two – the upper chamber and the lower chamber — is one of the three organs of the State crucial in opening doors for whoever might succeed President Robert Mugabe in the event that he exits the grand political stage for whatever reason.
Although Mugabe, 93, has indicated his desire to stay on for as long as his party wants him to, this has not stopped party underlings to plan beyond him, hence the emergence of rival factions that are positioning their preferred proxies to succeed him.
With Mugabe having kick-started his re-election campaign, disguised as provincial youth interface meetings, the factions within his party – Generation 40 (G40) and Team Lacoste – are losing sleep over the impending primary polls, used to select candidates to represent Zanu PF in national polls.
At his party’s 2014 congress, Mugabe secured the ticket to represent Zanu PF as its presidential candidate, making him the only official in his party given the green light to proceed to do-or-die polls in 2018.
Even though dates for next year’s general elections are yet to be set, Zanu PF factions have since signalled their parliamentary hopefuls to engage in subtle campaigns in anticipation of a call for early primary polls.
Both factions are aiming to control the National Assembly, comprising 210 seats for Members of Parliament and 93 seats for Senators.
Were Mugabe to be incapacitated, resign, removed from office or die, the new Constitution states that until 2023, the vice president who last acted as president assumes office as president for the next 90 days until the party nominates a replacement for consideration by Parliament.
To that extent, the National Assembly has become the new frontier in Zanu PF’s succession wars as it could have the final say on who might take over from Mugabe, in the event that he exits politics.
Zanu PF prohibits its members from engaging in premature campaigns, but notwithstanding, members have hardly been bothered because they always get away with it.
The party’s national spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, told the Daily News recently that they had not yet sanctioned the campaigns, warning that the party would act on those who defy its orders.
“I am not aware of any pronouncement by the party officially sanctioning such campaigns. Those doing so are violating party principles,” said Khaya Moyo.
The Zanu PF national spokesperson could not say when Zanu PF would hold its primary elections, preferring to say: “I will let you know when the time comes.”
Mugabe has been addressing huge crowds in different provinces, calling on Zanu PF cadres to get ready for elections, thereby latently opening up another frontier for a deadly factional fight for control of party structures.
On Friday, Mugabe will be addressing his seventh Zanu PF youth interface rally in Gweru – the provincial capital of the Midlands.
There is belief within the party that its hierarchy could call the election of representatives for the constituencies across the country earlier, even before the end of the year, to give selected candidates time to prepare for the general elections.
This has created a battle over their “winnable” seats between G40 and Team Lacoste, locked in an intriguing battle over who should succeed Mugabe when he exits the political scene.
Team Lacoste backs Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who recently survived an alleged food poisoning attack, to succeed Mugabe while G40 appears to be torn between Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and the Zanu PF leader’s wife, Grace.
Party officials from various provinces told the Daily News in off-the-record briefings yesterday that bare knuckle fights are underway anyhow with the president’s increasingly frailty not helping the situation.
Both factions have lined up at least one candidate to battle the rival group, with seating MPs at risk of losing their seats.
Team Lacoste is more dominant in Masvingo province where sitting legislators who are linked to G40, among them Jappy Jaboon (Bikita South), Denford Masiya (Chiredzi East), Paul Chimedza (Gutu South), Tongai Muzenda (Gutu Central) and Kennedy Matimba (Bikita East), face an uphill task.
Provincial chairperson, Ezra Chadzamira, himself a Team Lacoste-linked legislator, professed ignorance of the campaigns but said his executive would not hesitate to act should culprits be made known.
Team Lacoste is also dominant in the Midlands province where an onslaught has reportedly been launched against perceived G40 lawmakers, among them Makhosini Hlongwane and Tapiwa Matangaidze. Hlongwane represents Mberengwa East while Matangaidze stands for Shurugwi North constituency.
The battle is much more complex in Manicaland, Harare and Bulawayo provinces where G40 has considerable support.
MPs such as Harare South legislator Shadreck Mashayamombe, Psychology Maziwisa and Jason Pasade (Mt Pleasant) have to worry more about opposition MDC candidates than those within their ranks, although the situation is different for seating legislators such as Terrance Mukupe (Harare East MP) and Tendai Savanhu, who have real battles to fight.
Mukupe is linked to Team Lacoste and has of late had noxious brawls with G40 protagonists, most notably party national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere who recently told a provincial gathering that he would do everything he could to block the outspoken youthful legislator from winning the 2018 primaries.
G40 has the clear edge in Mashonaland East and Central provinces, but the battle is on for constituencies such as Mazowe Central currently represented by abrasive Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister, Martin Dinha.
Dinha stepped on Kasukuwere’s toes when he volunteered to be Team Lacoste’s public face in the anti-Kasukuwere demonstrations which have dominated the political space since March this year.
Mugabe’s increasingly powerful wife, Grace, recently absolved Kasukuwere of any wrongdoing, giving him the chance to come back at his political foes with vengeance.
In Mashonaland East, the biggest casualty could be former provincial affairs minister and provincial chairperson Joel Biggie Matiza whom Mugabe fired in 2015 for siding with Mnangagwa.
Reports also suggest that some senior party members a now lobbying for the establishment of the national elections council to take over the administration of internal polls in terms of provisions of the party constrictions.
The council would take over from the commissariat department which has been provisionally running the elections since 2015 following the disbandment of the national elections directorate.
The council would give a factional balance given that it would be chaired by Mnangagwa and co-vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko on an alternating basis.
Mphoko is heavily linked to G40.
Those behind these moves seem to believe that once in control of Parliament they could even depose Mugabe through a no confidence vote as happened in South Africa early this month.
South African President, Jacob Zuma, narrowly survived a motion of no confidence against him in Parliament, the most serious attempt yet to unseat him, after months of growing anger over allegations of corruption and a sinking economy.
It was the sixth such vote of his increasingly beleaguered presidency, but the first involving a secret ballot, with a broad coalition of opposition parties and renegade Members of Parliament from the ruling African National Congress falling just short of the simple majority needed to force Zuma and his Cabinet to resign immediately.
One hundred and ninety-eight MPs voted against, compared with 177 in favour. There were nine abstentions. Daily News