PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is today expected to officially open Zanu PF’s national conference under the cloud of a deepening economic crisis characterised by food and fuel shortages.
The annual conference which started yesterday in Esigodini in Matabeleland South, will last until Sunday.
The ruling party’s constitution has not been amended for some time but insiders expect a conclusive decision on the succession issue after the 2004 debacle which resulted in the elevation of Joice Mujuru to the vice-president’s post and a purge of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s supporters.
Mujuru was being challenged by Mnangagwa, which caused a serious rift in the party.
Mugabe has already indicated that he will step down in 2008.
The amendment of the constitution is on number six out of nine issues on the conference agenda. The conference, which is expected to be attended by 5 000 delegates, will review the general state of the party and progress of restructuring.
Zanu PF is also set to discuss “the diplomatic offensive and the financial report” of the party.
The party will review the state of the economy which encompasses mining, manufacturing and tourism.
On Tuesday, Mugabe hinted the government would be putting in place policy instruments such as the Empowerment Bill, the National Empowerment Fund and the Empowerment Charter.
“The instruments seek to create a comprehensive institutional framework for indigenisation and empowerment programmes, facilitate financial assistance to further indigenise the economy and forestall negative tendencies of the empowerment that previously manifested themselves in the form of economic malpractices and corruption,” Mugabe said.
At the meeting, Zanu PF will also discuss the land reform programme.
There will be progress reports on land audits and the A1 and the A2 land allocations.
The meeting will also review the impact of the Constitutional Amendment Number 17 and assess “preparations for the current agricultural season”.
Zanu PF will also review state of the social services which includes Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle, health, education and transport. A resolution should also be passed on the state of social services.
The meeting will also co-opt new members into the central committee and the politburo but the issue of Mugabe’s successor is not likely to feature.
“Even if succession arises it will not be on the public agenda because there are no vacancies, the president is only retiring in 2008 and therefore there is no sense of urgency,” Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst from the University of Zimbabwe, told Reuters yesterday.
Tensions still exist from last year’s Zanu PF row over a successor to Mugabe. The dispute nearly split the party in two a few months before crucial parliamentary elections, which Zanu PF went on to win despite the internal turmoil.
Mugabe persuaded his party faithful to endorse his preferred candidate for the vacant post of second vice president in Zanu PF party and government, a post seen as a step up the ladder to his own position.
Mugabe then cracked down on senior members of a faction which had lobbied for Mnangagwa, suspending several from the party and demoting others both within Zanu PF structures and government, quelling any lingering murmurs of discontent.
But the veteran leader has not publicly anointed a successor.
“The faction leaders from last year’s debacle have retreated and it is still too early for them to re-enter the gladiator (arena) because the dust has not settled,” Masunungure said.