A powerful clique has emerged in the ruling Zanu-PF party and is plotting to oust Vice President Constantino Chiwenga on the grounds that he has been bedridden for long and is therefore incapacitated to continue in that post.
Chiwenga is the former Commander of the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe and he played a crucial role in ousting founding President the late Robert Gabriel in November 2017, paving the way for Emmerson Mnangagwa to move back and ascend to President.
Barely two years later, Chiwenga is holed up in Beijing, China, where he was airlifted after he had fallen seriously ill that he could not eat, leading to extreme loss of weight.
The renewed push to remove Chiwenga comes at a time he is on a recovery path, although he is likely to remain holed up in Beijing for some time.
A report in the Zimbabwe Independent, quoting sources within Zanu-PF, says that Chiwenga recently underwent two operations to clear his blocked oesophagus.
The report says there is already massive jostling in Zanu-PF for Chiwenga’s position, with Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri emerging as the front runner.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa reportedly wanted to appoint Muchinguri-Kashiri the Vice President in November 2017 and she had been informed and had reportedly prepared her acceptance speech when the military dramatically demanded that the position be given to them.
Reads the report in part: “Information gathered this week indicates that he is still not able to eat solid food, although he can now talk, walk and do light exercises.
“Chiwenga’s associates say he was poisoned by political rivals during the coup.
“Zanu PF insiders say Chiwenga’s rivals want to take advantage of his prolonged absence from office to oust him from power on charges of incapacitation.”
In past months, there have been reconfiguration in Zanu-PF, with known Chiwenga allies being reassigned and removed from the military. Several of them were appointed Ambassadors in foreign missions, the report says.
The report quotes a Zanu-PF official as having said: “We have a group that is plotting the removal of the VP, while he is still away because they fear he may escalate the succession fight.
“They want to use Section 97 of the constitution which provides for the removal of a Vice-President on conditions of incapacitation. The idea is for them to get some members of the opposition to move the motion in parliament and then support it. But the general and his allies will not go down without a fight.”
Section 97 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe on the removal of President or Vice-President from office: “(1) The Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by at least one-half of their total membership, may resolve that the question whether or not the President or a Vice-President should be removed from office for— …(d) inability to perform the functions of the office because of physical or mental incapacity; should be investigated in terms of this section.”
“(2) Upon the passing of a resolution in terms of subsection (1), the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders must appoint a joint committee of the Senate and the National Assembly consisting of nine members reflecting the political composition of Parliament, to investigate the removal from office of the President or Vice-President, as the case may be.
“(3) If — (a) the joint committee appointed in terms of subsection (2) recommends the removal from office of the President or Vice-President; and b) the Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by at least two-thirds of their total membership, may resolve that the President or Vice-President, as the case may be, should be removed from office; the President or Vice-President thereupon ceases to hold office.”