THE five-day Zanu PF Youth League conference that begins in Harare on Tuesday has divided the party along factional lines as bigwigs line up their supporters to take charge of the crucial party wing.
Zanu PF sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that party heavyweights positioning themselves to succeed the octogenarian President Robert Mugabe were jostling to influence the election of the Youth Leagueâ€™s deputy secretary and members of the national executive council.
The secretary of the league is appointed by Mugabe. The secretary and the deputy automatically become members of the politburo.
â€œThe bigwigs are fighting to control the league and eventually use it to mobilise support for their ambition to later assume the partyâ€™s presidency,â€ a senior Zanu PF official said.
Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa leads a faction battling to succeed Mugabe with two other camps headed by retired army commander Solomon Mujuru and Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere.
The Zanu PF sources said the Mujuru and Kasukuwere factions had entered into a pact to influence the election of the leaders of the Youth League and block the ascendancy of any member of the Mnangagwa group.
Besides the league the factions also want to determine the leadership of the Womenâ€™s League, the composition of the central committee and the politburo.
The sources said there would be a fierce battle between the factions over who should be elected deputy secretary of the league to replace Kasukuwere who would be ineligible to seek re-election after Zanu PF resolved to implement its constitutional provision that bars people over 30 years of age to be members of the league.
The Mujuru-Kasukuwere alliance, the sources said, was backing Shurugwi MP Anastancia Ndhlovu to become the leagueâ€™s deputy secretary, but the Mnangagwa faction opposes her because she defected from their camp.
The sources said Ndhlovu last week met Mnangagwa to seek clearance and support from the Midlands province to run for the post. The Defence minister gave her the nod although he reportedly appeared non- committal.
â€œMnangagwa told her to go ahead and contest the election, but he emphasised that Ndhlovu should not make it appear as if the decision to run for the post came from him,â€ another source said.
Mnangagwa and Ndhlovu were expected to meet again this week.
The source said Ndhlovu had confided in her colleagues that she had free access to Mnangagwa, but members of his faction were not in support of her since they perceive her as a defector to the Kasukuwere faction.
The sources said the Midlands province was planning to block the nomination of Ndhlovu, although she was likely to get the backing of other provincial youth leagues reportedly under the Mujuru-Kasukuwere alliance.
The provincial youth leagues held their conferences in July and it is not yet clear which faction will hold sway in the provinces to conclusively determine the national Youth Leagueâ€™s leadership.
Mnangagwa, the sources said, was battling to get a suitable candidate to square up with Ndhlovu, who is the Youth Leagueâ€™s current deputy secretary for administration.
In terms of the Zanu PF constitution, the Youth Leagueâ€™s responsibilities include mobilising the youth for â€œfull participation in the political, social, cultural and economic affairs of the countryâ€ and to â€œmobilise the youth in support and defence of the partyâ€.