Tichaona Zindoga: THE INTERVIEW
zanu-pf, emerging from a chaotic era where its constitution was being violated or disregarded for political expediency and arbitrary actions, is seeking a return to constitutionalism to restore order and lay out procedures that ensure a harmonious, rules-based running of the organisation. The man tasked with that role is Paul Mangwana (PM), the party’s new Secretary for Legal Affairs. In a talk with The Herald’s Political Editor, Tichaona Zindoga (TZ) this week, Mangwana begins by noting some of the anomalies of the past era.
PM: Over a period of time, the constitution was being mutilated. I will give you a number of examples, the national political commissar (a position that was held by Saviour Kasukuwere) in his individual capacity has no disciplinary powers. If you go to our 2014 constitution which is the current constitution in place, he is but only one member of the disciplinary committee but Kasukuwere had ascribed himself power to suspend provincial chairmen. There is no provision for the dissolution of a province in the constitution but he could just fire a chairman, dissolve a province, he could do whatever he felt like. That is why he ended up putting stooges and establishing his own power base.
I am going to bring it to the attention of the leadership that if we are to avoid falling into the chaos that characterised the previous leadership, let’s start by taking measures to adhere to the constitution, putting into place structures that are in line with the provisions of the constitution not structures born out of personal preferences. To start with, you have to train people to comply with the constitution. What I did recently was to call all vice chairpersons and train them on how to dispense justice and deal with disciplinary matters. Together with secretary for legal affairs, although not prescribed in the constitution, vice chairmen are supposed to be secretaries in the legal disciplinary committees.
We had a workshop, where I had to take them through the constitution itself understand the provisions, timelines required to do disciplinary matters, how to prefer charges. We had to train them how to manage disciplinary issues in the provinces. This avoids arbitrary suspensions and firing of one another which in the provinces was happening using the term redeployment which does not exist in our constitution.
Once the constitution is adhered to, there will be peace in the party and there will be no room for factionalism.
TZ: How do you deal with parallel structures that were created by the former political commissar and will you not be creating room for further factionalism? And, are you not creating another avenue for disharmony in the provinces?
PM: You have to understand that the position you are occupying had a rightful owner. It is like someone is unfairly dismissed from employment and then you are appointed to run his place. If he wins his appeal and the court says they must be reinstated you have to revert to your old position as they take over. They should wait for the next election if they want to contest for the positions.
TZ: But the issue of constitutionalism has been a problem in Zanu-PF and how do you get people to understand that processes must be followed?
PM: My position is that the secretary for Legal Affairs must do his work. All disciplinary matters must come for confirmation to the National Disciplinary Committee. So the key role of my office is to ensure that whatever processes that may have taken place in subordinate organisations are in full compliance with the constitution. Whenever they flout the constitution, we nullify the process. If we continue doing that over a period of time, they will know that due processes have to be followed.
TZ: Another issue is the principle of one centre of power, I know that you are one of the people who were active in its drafting. How do you reconcile the new dispensation with that kind of provision?
PM: The one centre of power principle basically says there must be leadership in a party, but power in terms of the resolution of the Central Committee is supposed to be exercised collectively. The thinking is that anybody who is appointed President must learn to work with the various committees created by the constitution.
Although the constitution has provisions for the President to act, the expectation is that first of all, he consults his Presidium. He also should work together with his Politburo and thirdly certain decisions must be approved by the Central Committee which is the highest policymaking body. But that principle was abused whereby it seemed like the ex-President only consulted his wife. The central committee realised that there was abuse of the principle and it led to the dictatorship. In their meeting I think on November 19 it was done away with. That requires a change in the party constitution so that we don’t have a situation where the President does appointments on his own without regard to democratic principles of election.
There has not been an agreement as to what does doing away with one centre of power may entail. In my view, it may be in the worst case scenario meaning that all positions in the party must be elected but now there was nothing wrong in the President appointing the Politburo. The politburo is the committee with which he implements the decisions of the party, what then went wrong was that the Politburo instead of being the implementing body of Central Committee policies, it became more powerful than the Central Committee. The Politburo started making policies and changing the constitution at will, when the Central Committee was the one with the power to do so.
TZ: Are we likely to see the Central Committee taking initiative to amend the constitution with respect to the one centre of power principle?
PM: Certainly, because the Congress resolved that we have to do away with the one centre of power. Although there was no explanation, so internal processes have to take place as to what extent are we removing the one centre of power. We then also need to align the constitution of the party to the Constitution of the country, especially with regards to term limits. If the national constitution says a President shall be elected for two terms to run a country and if the party constitution says the party president elected at Congress is the Presidential candidate you may have a situation where the party then elects a President who has served two terms who no longer qualifies to be national President. There is no harmony between the party constitution and the national Constitution. It is one area which needs to be revisited as to how you harmonise that.
As the legal committee of the party, we are already seized with these matters. What we need is to create consensus with the top echelons of the party, make the proposals and then convince others including the President himself.
TZ: There are other issues like the women’s quota. How alive are you to that matter?
PM: Very much, I think that is the reason why Cde Oppah Muchinguri was appointed National Chairperson. It was in fulfilment of the quota system, basically the constitution says in the Presidium one of the positions must be occupied by a woman. The Zanu-PF Presidium is made up of the President, two Vice Presidents and the National Chairperson. So already that has been complied with. What we have to do is, going downwards the minimum in our party is that women must occupy at least 30 percent of positions. If it has to be increased to 50 percent, fine and good.
TZ: Lastly, as constitutionalism takes root, as you promise, in Zanu-PF can we expect the same from the Zanu-PF Government since people out there worry about a lot of issues, including human and property rights?
PM: Once you adhere to the adoption of constitutionalism and everything is subject to the tenets of the constitution and property rights are provided for in the national constitution in terms of Section 71 subject to certain conditions. But then Section 72 makes a provision to say where as far as land reform is concerned, that right can be taken away to satisfy the requirements of land distribution. As long as you are following the constitution then you are being constitutional. So far, the constitution of the country has been respected and I think this new Government has made an undertaking to follow the constitution and I see them going forward in that way.