By Takura Zhangazha*
Watching and listening to President Mugabe’s Independence Day speech there was one line that struck me. It was brief but it made mention of succession. Paraphrasing it, the President said something akin to succession being sorted out by the new constitution. He did not make evident reference to his own party. But one can hazard an assumption that given the apparent divisions the issue has caused, he was indeed referring to his own party.
The last time succession was broached in Zanu Pf was prior to national independence. It was not placed on the table because of the incumbent leader’s advancement by way of age, but more because of differences in strategic considerations as to the direction the liberation struggle should take. Agreed there were personality differences, but these came to be expressed largely through the lenses of ideological and strategic values and principles.
At the moment however, the succession debate in Zanu Pf appears to be motivated by the fact that its leader is now advanced in years and therefore will inevitably have to pass on the leadership baton stick of both party as well as executive government.
And, given the slight hint by President Mugabe at the 34th independence commemorations, Zanu Pf has three succession plans. One that resides in the constitution and another two to be found in a direct political reconfiguration of itself.
The first and most evident plan is initially premised on Section 101 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. This section states, among other things, in the event of the President’s death or resignation, the First Vice President assumes office for the remainder of the term of office of the previous incumbent. It is however circumvented by the Sixth Schedule, Part 4 (14), which gives transitional provisions for the first ten years after the July 2013 election. Especially as regards, the succession of the President. In this Sixth Schedule , the successor to the President must be elected by the party from which the previous president emanated from. In the current case, this party is Zanu Pf.
So as it is constitutionally given, unless she fails to get the ruling party to send her name as presidential nominee to the Speaker of the House of Assembly within ninety days, First Vice President Mujuru between now and the next general election in 2018, is the apparent successor to President Mugabe. Even more-so given the fact that there is currently one Vice President in office.
The second succession plan is perhaps the one that is causing the factionalism in Zanu Pf. Its key factor and trump card would be a change of the personality that currently holds the First Vice Presidency of the party. This, before the current incumbent departs from political office for whatever reason.
In this regard, the faction that is resisting First Vice President Mujuru’s potential presidency has its sights set on the next Zanu Pf elective Congress which is due later on this year. In this, they intend as far as is permitted by President Mugabe to campaign for a new First Vice President of their party. Should they succeed, their candidate would then be in a stronger position line to ascend to the post of president of Zimbabwe between now and 2018. Especially after receiving party endorsement, a matter that has great value in Zanu Pf.
In this same said second option, there would be the possibility of getting a second Vice President (a vacant office both at national and party level) elected at their congress. This candidate would then be able to be appointed Acting President prior to the departure from office of the incumbent and therefore serve for at least 90 days before having to face approval by the ruling party and the House of Assembly.
It is an option that however has high political risks, which include exacerbating already existent divisions but also not having the blessing of the incumbent. It is one that they are least likely to explore to the full. Instead, they will use it as a negotiating platform for the third succession plan.
This third succession plan is dependent on the ability of the two major factions within Zanu Pf to agree to share power after the departure of President Mugabe. It also entails the ruling party’s willingness to amend the Chapter Five of the constitution in two respects.
Firstly, they could take the model of their erstwhile allies, the Russians, and introduce the office of a Prime Minister that works concurrently with that of the President. This would mean the contesting faction would need to accept an initial Mujuru presidency in exchange for a potential reversal of roles as has been the case with Russian President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev.
Secondly they could amend the constitution to share powers between the offices of the President and the two deputies. This latter amendment is less likely due to the evident inability of the Zanu Pf leadership to want to share the spoils and its longstanding tradition of having a singular executive authority.
In the final analysis however the incumbent leader of Zanu Pf has made it apparent that succession is inevitable. Both by way of his public statements as well as in his signing of Constitutional Amendment Number 20 into law. The three succession plans I have outlined here are mere analysis based on the structural tenets of the constitution as well as an analysis of the existent factional politics in the ruling party.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) If you decide to use this article, please advise of any amendments by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org