THERE was acrimony at Zanu PFâ€™s politburo meeting on Wednesday after the partyâ€™s faction leaders engaged in protracted verbal exchanges ahead of their crucial congress in December.
The bickering reflected power struggles in the party over its unresolved leadership succession crisis. The jockeying has of late been taking place at various levels of the party, including the Womenâ€™s Parliamentary Caucus.
The succession race is expected to intensify at various forthcoming events leading to the congress in December. Zanu PF will hold its Youth Leagueâ€™s congress from July 17-19, Womenâ€™s League August 26-29 and the main congress from December 8-13.
Informed politburo sources said the clashes on Wednesday pitted the two long time rival camps, one led by retired army commander General Solomon MujuruÂ and the other by Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Apart from pushing to take over the party, the Mnangagwa faction wants to oust Vice-President Joice Mujuru at the womenâ€™s congress. The battling began at the Womenâ€™s Parliamentary Caucus two weeks ago.
Sources said this weekâ€™s tussles revolved around the issue of provincial party elections in Harare and a report on the issue presented by chairman John Nkomo and another given by acting political commissar Richard Ndlovu who took over after the death of Elliot Manyika last year.
Harare province has become a theatre of war for Zanu PF as factions battle for the heart and soul of the party in the capital. Both camps want to take control of the province as part of their strategic plan to win at least six out of 10 provinces which makes it possible for them to either directly challenge Mugabe or push their candidates to higher posts.
Harare, both the administrative and commercial capital of the country, was used by the Mujuru camp as a platform to launch an unprecedented rebellion against Mugabe at the volatile 2006 Zanu PF Goromonzi conference where he was for the first time blocked from extending his presidential term to 2010 without going to elections.
The Zimbabwe Independent first exposed Mugabeâ€™s plan and the Mujuru factionâ€™s counter strategy.Â Â Â
Mnangagwa and Mujuruâ€™s wife Joice are known by insiders to be planning to succeed Mugabe. The two clashed in 2004 for the position of vice-president and Joice Mujuru won with Mugabeâ€™s backing before they fell out two years ago.
Sources said the Wednesday politburo debate got so heated that Nkomo lashed out at his rivals in a fearless charge and ended up threatening to walk out in protest. Had it not been for Mugabe, the party leader since 1977, who stopped him storming out, Nkomo would have left the meeting.
Nkomo, whom colleagues say is bad-tempered, almost walked out of the Zanu PF extraordinary congress in Harare in 2007 while the proceedings were unfolding live on ZBC, but was stopped by Mugabe. Nkomo was in that incident supported by Vice-President Joseph Msika.
In the run-up to the 2007 congress, former Zanu PF politburo stalwart Dumiso Dabengwa, supported by the Mujuru group, had openly fought for Mugabeâ€™s removal. Â
Dabengwa and Simba Makoni, another former politburo member who later went on to challenge Mugabe in last yearâ€™s presidential election, initially won by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai before the Zanu PF leader forced his way back into office via a campaign of brutality and violence in a run-off, confirmed efforts to remove Mugabe before the 2007 congress. Â
Sources said the Wednesday meeting was dominated by the battle over Harare. They said some of the issues on the agenda of the meeting such as the state of the party ended up being postponed due to the protracted and turbulent proceedings.
The sources said the meeting started on a controversial note with Ndlovu distributing a â€œshocking reportâ€ on the state of the party. The report was later withdrawn after Mugabe, who described it as â€œoutrageousâ€, intervened. The sources said Ndlovu had taken a risk to tell the truth about Zanu PF in his no-holds-barred report, warning Mugabe and others that the party had virtually collapsed and had left a vacuum in the political landscape which was being filled in by the opposition MDC.
Sources said the report alarmed Mugabe because of its details and ramifications for the partyâ€™s unity, cohesion and future. They said Mugabe ordered the report to be withdrawn and be suppressed because it would expose Zanu PF as a â€œdead organisationâ€ awaiting to be buried at the next elections.
Nkomoâ€™s report on restructuring and the Harare province caused major ructions. Zanu PF is always in a restructuring mode, especially before its annual conferences and congresses every five years.
Nkomo presented a report specifically on Harare after he was last year tasked to investigate acts of violence and mayhem which rocked the Zanu PF Harare provincial elections in the run-up to the Bindura conference last December. The probe came after Zanu PF MP Hubert Nyanhongo defeated former provincial chairman Amos Midzi in polls marred by violence and intimidation.
After the elections fiasco, Zanu PF tasked Nkomo to set up a committee to probe the incident. When Nkomo presented the report, it was greeted with dissent and triggered the clashes.
Those throwing stones at the politburo meeting from the Mujuru faction included General Mujuru himself and his wife Joice, Nicholas Goche, David Karimanzira, Tendai Savanhu and Saviour Kasukuwere.
They targeted Nkomo and Ndlovu and the Mnangagwa faction in the broader fight.
The Mujuru faction is said to have rejected Nkomoâ€™s report which would have led to fresh elections in Harare if adopted because the restructuring had left the structures geared in favour of Nyanhongo and Mnangagwaâ€™s wing.
Although Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa claimed Nkomoâ€™s report was â€œwell-receivedâ€ at the politburo, sources said there were bitter exchanges. Mutasa however admitted â€œdivisionsâ€ in Harare which are generally to be found in all provinces and across party structures.
There were suggestions by the Mujuru faction Ndlovu was being sponsored by the Mnangagwa group as he slept in five star hotels while on party duty without getting money from the partyâ€™s treasurer.
Nkomo is said to have indicated this was untrue as Ndlovu had actually faced serious accommodation problems while on duty. Â
Sources said the Mujuru faction persisted and blocked Nkomoâ€™s report, attacked Ndlovu and struck at the heart of the Mnangagwa camp, which is vigorously pushing to take over Harare to occupy a vast swathe of the Zanu PF provinces, forcing the party to revisit the Harare dispute.
Nkomo and Ndlovu, who are not necessarily Mnangagwaâ€™s allies, fought back but in the end were forced to redo their assignment. The Mujuru group also forced one of its key allies, Goche, into Nkomoâ€™s committee, creating an opportunity to influence the next report and possibly outcome of the Harare elections.
The infighting is expected to escalate when Zanu PF meets in dates yet to be set to discuss the contentious state of the party and processes leading to congress in December.
BY DUMISANI MULEYA