The First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe yesterday castigated senior Zanu-PF officials stampeding for the party’s Vice Presidency, warning that their manoeuvres could be an exercise in futility as President Mugabe is empowered by the party’s constitution to appoint people of his choice.
Speaking at a rally in Gwanda on the sixth leg of her “Meet the People tour,” Amai Mugabe said she was disappointed with leaders who were declaring their interest in the top job through the media.
She said some party members wanted the President to step down, even before his time is up, saying they were driven by “supersonic” ambition.
“Some time ago, I said that God appoints leaders and has his list even if we bother ourselves,” said Amai Mugabe.
“You can declare your interest in this or that post, but God has a list of who will replace Mugabe and who will become the next Vice President, not this thing of sending names to newspapers, giving them a hundred names. Don’t we know the code of conduct?
“Now, I am embarrassed, even here in Matabeleland I am embarrassed also that we send names to the papers saying, ‘I want the position’.
“I hear there are five candidates and we hear them from the papers. Do we conduct party business in newspapers? Please you stop it! Stop it!
“If you jump too much and run with supersonic speed, you will kill your chances,” she said.
The fist-waving First Lady — due to assume the post of secretary for women’s affairs at the Zanu-PF National People’s Congress in December — walked the length of a football pitch with the incumbent Cde Oppah Muchinguri as she arrived at Pelandaba Stadium to the adulation of thousands of people, mainly women.
She spoke for just under one-and-a-half hours, her wide-ranging speech touching subjects such as legal protection for widows from their in-laws; giving women title to land; a call to action against child rape and farming tips.
But she dedicated ample time to cajoling senior party leaders to abandon the destructive path of factionalism and focus on delivering on Zanu-PF’s election promises.
Voters would not forgive leaders who make promises and then disappear to engage in power games, she said.
Some leaders, she told cheering supporters, were used to riding on President Mugabe’s back and not working for the country.
“Some people like to ride on the back of the President, they think that being VP (Vice President) means sitting in the office and Mugabe working for them,” said Amai Mugabe.
“We don’t want that, we want capable people. We don’t want a liability who spends time sitting with no ideas, that’s why I have said start with self-introspection.
“In fact, if you want to be fair to yourself, go to others and ask what they think of you. If people are honest and like you, they will tell you whether or not you qualify, but some people will just tell themselves that they qualify. They think it’s just a position that you can play with.
“We want people who will assist the President to work for this country.”
The national Constitution gives the President the prerogative of appointing his Vice Presidents, and the First Lady raised the possibility that it may not necessarily follow that leaders elected by the party as second secretaries will get an automatic promotion to the vice presidency of the country.
She warned: “This issue of factionalism is corruption. If you buy someone to support you, that’s corruption. What’s said in our Constitution is that the President makes the appointments. The President is the one who appoints these people.
“If you go around saying you are the one, and you are unstoppable, you are working against yourself. You are jeopardising your chances. Maybe you had chances because you are an intelligent person, but you are jeopardising your chances by your actions.”
The First Lady’s comments follow growing demands within Zanu-PF for an amendment to the party’s constitution allowing the President to appoint his deputies both in the party and Government.
This, say the reform advocates, will put a stop to factionalism as there would only be one centre of power.
Those calling for change also say the Zanu-PF constitution is not aligned with the 1987 Unity Accord between Zanu and PF-Zapu over how people could occupy the two VP posts.
Article 4 of the Unity Accord states: “That Zanu-PF shall have two Second Secretaries and Vice Presidents who shall be appointed by the First Secretary and President of the party.
On the other hand, Zanu-PF’s constitution does not allow the President to appoint his deputies.
Article 7 of the party’s constitution reads: “There shall be a Central Committee which shall be the principal organ of Congress and shall consist of… (a) President and First Secretary; (b) Two Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries one of whom shall be a woman; and (c) The National Chairman of the party.
“All of whom shall be elected by Congress directly upon nomination by at least six provincial co-ordinating committees of the party, meeting separately in special sessions called for that purpose.”
In essence, this means while the Unity Accord says the President should appoint his deputies, the Zanu-PF constitution in its present state says they should be elected.
Sitting behind the First Lady was Zanu-PF national chairman Cde Simon Khaya Moyo, touted as the front-runner in the race for the vacant post of Vice President.
Other hopefuls – Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, Politburo member Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu and Phelekezela Mphoko – were also in attendance.
Amai Mugabe said party leaders should understand that they could not have it both ways, saying they were behind the President in public and yet leading factions in private.
She warned some party members to desist from taking money from outsiders to destabilise the party and country.
Her comments appeared directed at the Mashonaland West chairman Temba Mliswa – who attended the rally – after newspaper reports that he took an American spy around the province and solicited for money.
The First Lady said if foreign sponsorship worked, the MDC-T would be ruling the country by now as it was given millions of dollars, but failed to win any polls.
“God destroys every dirty thing,” she said. “I said it that MDC will use the entire letter in the alphabet, splintering from MDC-A until MDC-Z. You see disorderly things? They’re not supported by God.”
Amai Mugabe said some whites who used to support the MDC hoping they would reverse the land reform when they got into government had lost hope in that party and were now funding some officials to destroy Zanu-PF from within.
“People are being used within our party,” she said. “The factional fighting you hear about is all about regime change, but using members within our party. I am asking that we stop doing such things because you are known.
“When people start talking, I think some have started, I don’t think you will ever be happy again…know that people are watching. The money won’t get you anywhere.”
As the First Lady finished her admonition, Mliswa, who was seated in a tent with Central Committee and Politburo members, was overheard saying: “Who are these people (working with MDC)? Name them, vadzingei (expel them)!”
Earlier, when the First Lady spoke about President Mugabe breaking with tradition in appointing his deputies, Mliswa suggested this would be illegal under the current Zanu-PF constitution.
“Why was he not appointing all along?,” Mliswa said in earshot of journalists and several party officials.
Amai Mugabe told of her anger after her rally in Manicaland on Friday last week was disrupted by drunk youths whom she said were sponsored by senior party officials in the province pursuing a factional agenda.
“You have a grown man or woman plying youths with beer, saying Amai Mugabe is coming for the rally, giving them mbanje so that when Amai Mugabe speaks they make noise,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s a good thing.”
Amai Mugabe warned party members, especially women, against being used to serve the interests of factions.
“Let’s not fool each other, choosing each other saying ‘you are capable’. Sometimes people lie; they are good at telling you that you are capable because they want to use you, especially if they are males.
“If you are a woman, they will put you at the front and say you are capable, but when you get there, they will hit you two-nil. They will abandon you after using you. So, women, let’s not allow ourselves to be used.”