HARARE – A hastily-arranged special session of the Zanu PF central committee that catapulted Emmerson Mnangagwa to the party presidency in 2017, ousting Robert Mugabe, was unlawful, a Zanu PF member has sensationally charged in a court filing.
Sybeth Musengezi, a card-carrying member for 20 years, wants the High Court to declare the resolutions of that central committee meeting “null and void”, and for a special congress to be ordered within three months to “regularise the top leadership positions in the party.”
The 36-year-old argues that Mnangagwa, who had been sacked as vice president, was thrust as leader by an unlawful central committee meeting convened by unknown people including Patrick Chinamsa and Obert Mpofu, in violation of the party’s constitution.
He accused the parties of taking advantage of the unfolding military coup, dubbed ‘Operation Restore Legacy’, to topple the late former President Robert Mugabe from power.
“The implementation of the strategy to topple Mugabe from the position of president and first secretary of Zanu PF commenced with unknown individuals convening a purported special session of the Central Committee of Zanu PF at the party’s headquarters on Sunday, November 19, 2017,” Musengezi said.
The meeting resolved that the top leadership of the party was incapacitated to execute their duties in terms of the constitution, and Mpofu was elected to preside over the proceedings as he was the most senior member of the party present.
Musengezi said the resolution document betrays the unconstitutionality and unlawfulness of the purported special session of the Central Committee not least because the Zanu PF constitution says only the first secretary (president), second secretary or the chairperson can preside over a central committee meeting.
Musengezi said the meeting was not convened by the then secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, and Mugabe was not incapacitated at all to preside over a lawfully convened session of the central committee in terms of the party constitution.
“He (Mugabe) was at all material times seized with the internal affairs of the party in his engagement with the commanders of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces as evidenced by the subject of his televised speech on the evening of November 19, 2017, at the end of which he bid the whole country a good night with the famed Asante Sana remark,” he said.
A day later, Mugabe was evidently not incapacitated because he managed to cap hundreds of university students at the Zimbabwe Open University graduation ceremony, says Musengezi. He said Phelekezela Mphoko, then the vice president and Zanu PF second secretary, also was not incapacitated.
“If anything, the ZDF justified its intervention in the internal affairs of the party on the basis of protecting Mugabe from criminals around him. This, therefore, means that the president and first secretary of the party were fully protected and available to convene and preside over the lawfully convened session of the central committee,” Musengezi argues.
“The conclusion is therefore inescapable that the alleged incapacitation of the top leadership of the party to preside over a lawfully convened session of the central committee was a figment of the imagination of these members bent on violating the clear provisions of the constitution of Zanu PF in the furtherance of their preconceived strategy to unlawfully topple Mugabe and to foist on the party Mnangagwa in absentia as the president and first secretary.”
He said it was illegal for Chinamasa to purport to usurp and discharge the functions of the secretary for administration.
“From the narrative above, it becomes clear that the purported special session of the central committee was unconstitutional and therefore illegal. It follows, therefore, that all the purported resolutions passed at the impugned meeting are also unlawful and invalid.”
Musengezi also told the High Court that the central committee does not have the power to reinstate a member who was expelled from the party, without that member following due process under the party constitution.
He said it was therefore illegal for the committee to purport to reinstate expelled members as well as Mnangagwa in absentia to the position from which he had been lawfully dismissed.
“It was scandalous and it gives credence to the inference that it was all part of a preconceived strategy to further the achievement of the well-documented ambitions of Mnangagwa of toppling and succeeding Mugabe both as president and first secretary of the party and as president and the head of state of the country,” he argues.
He said as a direct result of the unconstitutional and unlawful special session of the central committee, Mnangagwa was purportedly elected in absentia to the position of president and first secretary of Zanu PF and to the position of acting president and head of state of the country. He said the conduct of those who convened the meeting robbed Zimbabweans of freely choosing their president.
Musengezi said Mnangagwa was “handpicked by not more than 201 party members gathered outside the provision of Zanu PF constitution.”
Zanu PF, he argued, is supposed to hold its elective congress every five years but Mnangagwa has failed to do so, two years after it became due. He petitioned the court to grant a declaratory order and consequential relief that the events of November 19, 2021, be declared null and void.
He begged the court to order the party to go back to November 19, 2017, and direct Mphoko as the lawful vice president and second secretary to take necessary steps in terms of the party constitution to convene the special congress to regularise leadership within three months of granting of the order.
Musengezi has cited Zanu PF as the first respondent in the matter, while Mnangagwa is second, secretary for administration Obert Mpofu (third), acting political commissar Patrick Chinamasa (4th), former vice president Phelekezela Mphoko (fifth) and former secretary for administration Ignatious Chombo as the sixth respondent.
Musengezi wants respondents who oppose the application to pay costs of the suit.