PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Wednesday put an end to the succession debate in Zanu PF ahead of its December congress by asserting that he will stay put and declaring that there will be no change of guard in the partyâ€™s top leadership until there is â€œbetter unityâ€.
Impeccable sources in Zanu PF told the Zimbabwe Independent that the ageing Mugabe told his partyâ€™s central committee that he will not vacate office when â€œenemiesâ€ were waging a war against him â€“â€“ halting the succession debacle that has threatened to split the party down the middle over the past five years.
Mugabeâ€™s declaration, the sources said, also laid bare last monthâ€™s appointment by the politburo of a committee headed by national chairman John Nkomo to come up with a succession plan.
There are two factions in Zanu PF battling to influence the partyâ€™s successor to Mugabe who has been at its helm since 1977.
Politburo member, retired army general Solomon Mujuru, allegedly leads a faction pushing for his wife Joice to replace Mugabe, while another camp, reportedly headed by party legal secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa, wants the defence minister to take over from the octogenarian president.
The succession crisis in Zanu PF reached a crescendo on May 20 during a politburo meeting when bigwigs attributed problems besieging the party to infighting and divisions by senior officials bent on grabbing power from Mugabe.
Party heavyweights who clashed during the heated meeting were, among others, Vice-president Joice Mujuru, Solomon Mujuru, Mnangagwa, administration secretary Didymus Mutasa, womenâ€™s secretary Oppah Muchinguri, and politburo members Rugare Gumbo, Thokozile Mathuthu and Saviour Kasukuwere.
The clash prompted the convening of another politburo meeting on May 28 where Nkomoâ€™s committee, among others, was appointed to come up a succession plan.
The plan, Zanu PF sources said, would not be in place before the partyâ€™s six-day congress that begins on December 18 and that Mugabeâ€™s declaration on Wednesday had put an end to the succession issue for the time being.
During the central committee meeting â€“â€“ which also discussed the constitution-making process, the work of the all-inclusive government and the recent trip to Europe and the United States by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai â€“â€“ Mugabe spoke about jostling for power in Zanu PF.
The sources said the 85-year-old Mugabe claimed there were also exogenous forces who wanted him out of power.
One of the sources quoted Mugabe saying: â€œThe British are saying Mugabe must go, but I am saying, where are they saying go? I will not go. When people are united, when people have ownership of their resources like land, there is no reason why we will not decide to have a new leadership. But not when enemies are waging a war against you. You donâ€™t go.â€
The source added that Mugabe implied that there should be no change of leadership in Zanu PF â€“â€“ a move that may result in Joice Mujuru retaining her post as vice-president of the party at the congress and avert current efforts by Muchinguri and members of the Womenâ€™s League from ousting her.
This also entails that ailing Vice-President Joseph Msika, whom Mugabe described in the central committee meeting as â€œvery weakâ€, would be forced to retain his position. Nkomo would also remain national chairperson.
â€œWe must be united. People (in Zanu PF) are preoccupied with planning who will be where, by such a time. That will be decided when we are better united,â€ Mugabe was quoted saying.
Last week, the Independent wrote that the Mujuru camp wanted to seek an audience with Mugabe to stop the ouster of Joice and other members of the faction from the politburo and the central committee during the congress.
Mugabe, according to the sources, said the push for a new constitution was another ploy by the MDC and the West to effect regime change.
â€œYou see how the West hates you, how they hate me and they hate Zanu PF. You see the love between the MDC and the West,â€ the source quoted Mugabe saying. â€œAll these issues about a new constitution are processes by people who think this is what will get them into power.â€
Other sources in Zanu PF said despite Mugabeâ€™s declaration on Wednesday, the succession crisis was expected to intensify at various forthcoming events leading to the congress in December.
Zanu PF will hold its Youth League congress from July 17-19, the Womenâ€™s League congress on August 26-29 and the main congress from December 8-13. Sources said Mugabeâ€™s position may influence the outcome of the youth and womenâ€™s congresses.
â€œFrom a constitutional point of view, Mugabeâ€™s declaration is null and void as the provinces nominate people to occupy offices in the presidium,â€ one of the sources said. â€œBut as you know, whatever Mugabe says goes. No one can challenge him in the party.â€
Before Mugabeâ€™s declaration, sweeping changes were expected to take place in the youth and womenâ€™s leagues that would have resulted in Muchinguri being elected vice-president of the party at the main December congress ahead of Mujuru who is accused of working with the Tsvangirai-led MDC-T and of backing last yearâ€™s independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni.
Muchinguri was expected to fight it out with cabinet minister Olivia Muchena to head the Womenâ€™s League and automatically secure membership in the politburo as secretary for women affairs. Muchena is linked to the Mujuru faction.
The leadership of the Youth League is also expected to be overhauled in line with the partyâ€™s constitution that states that office bearers should be below the age of 30.
BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE