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Congress offers relief to some

Gift Phiri

TO the more than 9 500 party faithful who attended the ruling Zanu PF National People’s Congress, the event was nothing less than a chance to revel in the ruling party&#

8217;s extravagance.

The profligate congress wound up in Harare on Sunday amidst a degenerating economy, food shortages, record poverty and unemployment. Analysts said long-suffering Zimbabweans, bussed from the country’s 10 provinces, took advantage of the four-day congress to escape the gnawing poverty back home and at least get a chance to have three square meals a day while it lasted. Hundreds of delegates were booked into the five-star Harare Sheraton Hotel where they were served expensive cuisine courtesy of the ruling party. They chanted ruling party slogans and denounced the MDC with renewed vigour. An estimated $20 billion was blown during the special assembly.

The congress, held once every five years, had nothing to do with resolving the country’s intensifying political and economic crisis but more about solving power struggles within Zanu PF.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer and political commentator Heneri Dzinotyiwei said the congress did not concern ordinary Zimbabweans but was aimed at silencing discussion on President Mugabe’s retirement and quashing a power struggle over his succession.

“Clearly it did not concern ordinary citizens,” Dzinotyiwei said. “The congress failed to come up with solutions to the country’s political and economic problems. It had more to do with power struggles which obviously have nothing to do with the problems that ordinary Zimbabweans are facing.”

Instead of coming up with solutions to an excruciating five-year economic downturn, Mugabe chose to expend his energies on purging the party’s ranks of a group of Young Turks challenging the largely octogenarian old guard’s grip on power.

The chief victim of the Young Turks was his Information minister Jonathan Moyo, a scourge of the free press who, with several others, was axed from the party’s powerful central committee.

Moyo was accused of plotting against Joyce Mujuru, a veteran ally of Mugabe who was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new vice-president on Monday. The president seized the opportunity to deliver a calculated rebuff to an increasingly erratic and unpopular minister whose main role is to vilify the regime’s opponents and wreck Zimbabwe’s free media.

National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku said besides positioning a woman to occupy one of the vacant vice-presidential post, nothing else would change.

“It was just a talk show that was insignificant to the ordinary person,” Madhuku said. “It was a non-event that endorsed the candidacy of the same coterie of Zanu PF’s old guard. At least if there was a change in leadership, we would expect a change in direction and policy. Otherwise as it turned out, the congress was a non-event that should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.”

Madhuku said the reappointment of Joseph Msika as the other vice-president and party chairman, John Nkomo, in the four-member presidium, with Mujuru as the only new addition, warranted these sentiments.

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