By Maxwell Sibanda, Farai Machamire and Andrew Kunambura
Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, is seen standing a good chance of being elevated straight from the barracks to become one of the two vice presidents at Zanu PF’s extraordinary congress scheduled for this month.
At the special congress, Emmerson Mnangagwa will be endorsed as the party’s president and first secretary, in the wake of the decision by Zanu PF’s central committee to recall ex-president, Robert Mugabe from the high pressure office, and have him replaced by Mnangagwa.
While Mnangagwa’s endorsement will be a matter of formality, there is fierce jostling for vacant posts in the party, particularly for the two vice presidents.
Whoever would have been appointed to the position of vice president and second secretary of the party would automatically become Mnangagwa’s deputy in government.
The country has been without its two vice presidents since last month when Mnangagwa was fired from both government and Zanu PF.
After Mnangagwa and his Team Lacoste faction made a dramatic comeback — riding on the military’s intervention in Zanu PF’s internal politics last month — Phelekezela Mphoko, who was the other vice president, became part of the collateral damage targeting key members of the rival Generation 40 faction.
The party’s constitution entitles Mnangagwa to appoint the two vice presidents, the national chairperson, heads of the politburo and its committee members and the deputies to the heads of departments.
Mnangagwa has found himself in a fix over who to appoint as his deputies.
Chiwenga is seen topping the list, which includes former Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, ex-War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube; Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo; minister of Defence, Security and War Veterans Kembo Mohadi and Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda.
Mnangagwa also finds himself with the need to appease the feminine folk displeased by his recent Cabinet appointments which only had four women out of 22 Cabinet ministers.
The ruling party’s women’s league has recently been clamouring for the restoration of the quota system in the presidium. It would therefore be interesting to see if Mnangagwa would budge, in which case he might have to pick from some of the seasoned female heavyweights such as Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Edna Madzongwe, Eunice Sandi-Moyo and Angeline Masuku, among others.
Analysts told the Daily News that it will not be surprising that Chiwenga could secure one of the vice presidents’ post after the army chief played a pivotal role in a military operation, which toppled Mugabe and ushered in Mnangagwa.
The appointment of air marshal Perrance Shiri and Major General Sibusiso Moyo into Mnangagwa’s first Cabinet have largely been interpreted as his show of gratitude to the military for clearing his way to State House.
As such, he might reward Chiwenga with the vice presidency.
Social commentator, Rashweat Mukundu, believes there is a high possibility that Chiwenga will emerge as vice president at the congress.
“He is raising a wave of popularity not only in Zanu PF but nationally and Zanu PF may look at him as an asset come the 2018 elections,” said Mukundu.
Political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said with the inclusion of generals Moyo and Shiri as ministers, common sense can be that generals (Philip) Sibanda and Chiwenga will be VPs.
“They can’t have their juniors be ministers when they are out,” said Saungweme.
“As you know, ministers are senior to commanders in hierarchy and command structure. But it seems Ngwena wants these to be elected at their congress this month as opposed to appointing.
“He can appoint them as VPs anyway if he wants without any legal issues. By the way Chiwenga and Sibanda also meet the Zanu PF equation for VPs as they represent Zipra and Zanla as well as the Ndebele-Shona balance the party has always done for VPs.
“They can’t let others eat from their coup sweat. Mnangagwa’s Cabinet showed us that it was prize-giving season for the boys involved in a coup that include war vets, military and other Lacoste members.
“Chiwenga and Sibanda can’t lead a coup to let others eat or for them to remain stagnant. Chiwenga and Sibanda VPs is a possibility,” opined Saungweme.
Political analyst, McDonald Lewanika, said it was very possible that Chiwenga will be the vice president or one of them.
“To all intents and purposes, the post is the commander Defence Forces’ for the taking, and if he wants it there will be no dark horses. But if it’s not something he wants, then others who may be worth considering in the spirit of the Cabinet already set and bridging the divide in Zanu PF, would be colonel Tshinga Dube, and Sydney Sekeramayi.
“Madzongwe was once touted as potential VP but the fact that this was initially to replace ED this may make her consideration a tough sale, as is Sekeramayi’s.
“It is unlikely that ED will step out of Zanu PF for the VP pick, the only danger that is there is that if Congress is allowed to choose a VP for ED that vice president as a product of congress election rather Mnangagwa’s appointee will be a very powerful if not dangerous VP.
“On the bright side it would also assist in checking ED’s power as he will have as second in command, another popularly elected member,” said Lewanika.
Another analyst, Eldred Masunungure said it would be unwise for Mnangagwa to appoint Chiwenga to the position of vice president as it would endorse the notion that the military are effectively calling the shots.
“I think it will be imprudent for Chiwenga to be appointed VP at this stage. It will become abundantly evident that ZDF is being rewarded for the cardinal role it played in the ascendency of the incumbent president.
“We all know the president was fired from Zanu PF; he was in the wilderness politically and physically after he fled to South Africa. He was rehabilitated courtesy of the military intervention.
“(Now) the military has already been rewarded with two Cabinet posts which I think is adequate. He needs to ensure that the military is unified as an institution and is not unduly fractured… So if he is thinking about it (appointing Chiwenga as VP) it will be imprudent and unwise maybe in a new term,” said Masunungure.
Masunungure did not rule out the politics of ethnicity which remain a pivotal variable in the politics of Zimbabwe.
He said by this token Mnangagwa may not need to look to Mashonaland Central or Mashonaland East for a VP as many may think they already had their share.
“Frankly he would need to think about the traditional source in Matabeleland by virtue of the unity accord. Perhaps (Kembo) Mohadi could be a serious candidate for Matabeleland and then outside Matabeleland he would need to think of the women quota.
“As it is Muchinguri is a serious candidate. She is female, a war veteran and comes from province that has never had a VP. So he can kill several birds with one stone,” Masunungure said.
There have, however, been some voices that have been calling on Mnangagwa to appoint the most senior pre-Unity Accord Zapu official, Dumiso Dabengwa despite the fact that he now leads his own party.
These include Mnangagwa’s own special advisor, Chris Mutsvangwa, who recently told a press conference that Dabengwa should be one of the vice presidents.
Mutsvangwa argued that this would help the country’s liberation movement. Daily News