PDM in VP ‘vacuum’
… as party faithful call for Van den Heever’s ouster after two-year absence
• By Tracy Tafirenyika and Hilary Mare
Aleadership vacuum has emerged at the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) with its vice president, Jennifer Van den Heever having been absent from her role for nearly two years, Confidente has been reliably informed.
Her absence, an internal source says, is beginning to be highly felt with some sections of the main opposition party calling for her immediate ouster and replacement.
One of the disgruntled party members that spoke to Confidente on condition of anonymity said that Van den Heever had been ill for close to two years and it was imperative that she be replaced if the party is to shake off the strong challenge posed by emerging minority parties.
“We have been without a vice president and she is not being replaced but she cannot perform her duties because she is sick. The party has not replaced her with anyone while there are a lot of candidates in the party that can perform this role. Why are they not giving the chance to the youth rather than leaving the position empty without functioning?” the source queried.
Van den Heever who is 60 this year currently serves as chief whip of the official opposition in parliament. She was elected to parliament in 2014 and has served on various parliamentary committees.
At the party’s 2019 elective congress, she garnered 219 votes to Elma Dienda’s 53 and Kuzatjike Kazombaruru’s 23 to ascend to vice-presidency.
I MAY NOT RETURN
Van den Heever this week acknowledged that she has been incapacitated highlighting that her main challenge was that she underwent major surgery.
“l had a very big operation and l have been off for quite some time due to sick leave and l am still recovering and l cannot perform my duties or anything. I don’t know if l can confirm if l will be able to return to the party or make the congress because of my health and condition.
“It is not because of my free will that l am unable to do all that and l’m still not sure if l will be back in parliament as well. I am not sure if l will be back as a PDM leader because of my health.
“Most of these things l know they are just coming from the youths and l would like to advise them to work hard in order to reach where l am. I worked hard for my position and l am a very dedicated person, l will always love my party until the end, but the youth must rise and show their actions rather than taking advantage of a sick person,” Van den Heever said to Confidente.
PDM secretary general Manuel Ngaringombe who spoke to Confidente this week denied that the absence of Van den Heever was cause for concern highlighting that elections will come soon where everyone can choose new leaders.
“All of us can get sick and every organisation has rules. Our VP is on an official sick leave. The PDM party is a democratic movement and we won’t tolerate or being told rumours from people. Leaders are elected for five years for the congress and in February 2024 all the PDM members will be re-elected. People are not being ignored there will be those elections soon (sic),” he said before acknowledging that Van Den Heever is indeed ill but may be back in June.
“It is true what you are saying and she will be on sick leave and she will be back in June and she is still communicating with us via Zoom meetings. The people that are saying her duties are being not performed how come if we have six leaders that are performing their duties?
“We have the president and a VP is a vice of a president so l don’t understand why people are disgruntled. At the moment we have not received any complaint yet and it will come to a time if she has to be removed or not but at the moment she is still our VP. Those people must tell us what are the roles that she is not performing so we know (sic).”
PDM youth league national spokesperson Maximalliant Katjimune said that disgruntlement must be channelled through internal structures and not through the media.
“Jennifer Van den Heever is still the vice president of the PDM elected at our national congress in 2019. She is currently on a brief sick leave and will be back to fulfil her mandate. Those concerns that are coming from the youths must be ventilated through the internal structures of the PDM and not through the social media,” he stated.