Knife-edge tension at Zanu PF Women’s Conference

TENSION at the Zanu PF Women’s League conference yesterday was at knife-edge over the selection criteria of candidates to the national executive.

Some delegates almost exchanged blows at the party headquarters over what they described as the “imposition” of leaders at provincial level and the proposed list of people to take up the national executive posts in the wing.

Two women from Mashonaland West whose ascendancy is being attributed to the Saviour Kasukuwere camp had to run for dear life after another group of about 20 women from the same province threatened to beat them up.

The group, which was shouting obscenities at the two women, accused them of being elevated by the former youth leader and questioned why Kasukuwere was getting involved in women’s affairs.

“What do the youths want in women’s affairs? Why are they getting involved? Why are you allowing the youths to use you,” fumed one woman, who threatened to beat them up.  Security officers at the party headquarters, on realising that there were journalists present, rushed to quell the women.

There were reports yesterday that fresh elections for Mashonaland West might be held at the conference.

There are three factions in Zanu PF, led by kingpins, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Retired Army Commander Solomon Mujuru.

The third camp, supposedly aligned to President Robert Mugabe with Kasukuwere and Nicholas Goche as fronts, has teamed up with Mujuru, to block the ascendancy of Mnangagwa’s group.

Tension was also high on Wednesday evening as delegates queued for accreditation, with some singing derogatory songs against Politburo member Olivia Muchena, who is being accused of plotting with Vice President Joice Mujuru to have the current Women’s League boss, Oppah Muchinguri, removed.

Muchinguri’s post is by appointment by the Presidium and this year it will be up to President Robert Mugabe and his vice, Joice Mujuru to appoint the politburo at the national congress in December.

Allegations from Muchinguri’s supporters are that Mujuru was plotting to put down Muchinguri.

Muchena’s credentials were questioned, following her short stint as a top official in Abel Muzorewa’s government before independence.

Of all the provinces, Harare was the angriest as it still had not elected its provincial leadership and had to attend the conference  as observers.

The hostility among candidates was so obvious at the official opening of the conference  by the party president, Mugabe, at Harare City Sports Centre.

There was an absence of the usual exuberance associated with such Zanu PF meetings, which are normally full of fanfare with delegates breaking into song and dance at every opportune moment. It was a total contrast to the youth league conference , where the energy, excitement and verve was high.

Inside the venue, one could have been forgiven for mistaking the occasion for a funeral or any such sad occasion.

But the spirit outside was different, with angry delegates vowing not to be taken for granted and threatening to disrupt the conference .

One senior member of the executive, respected for her ability to excite crowds, just had no words to describe the atmosphere.

“Pane mweya wakashata pano (There is a thick fog of tension permeating). Handisati ndambofeela kuremerwa sezvandaita mukati muno (The tension is  unbearable). Ndirikutonzwa kuneta (I feel drained right now). I didn’t have the energy to sing or dance today,” she said.

Another delegate from Midlands province accused the national leadership of failing to deal with factionalism. She said some of the issues coming out at the conference  could have been dealt with at provincial levels.

Although the proposed final line-up was not yet out and was expected to be finalised last night, there was anger at the quick ascendancy of Minister of State Flora Bhuka, whom they said was being fast-tracked into the national executive.

Bhuka is tipped to get the secretary for administration post, after a fiercely contested election in her province forced politburo member Tsitsi Muzenda to step down.

However, there was talk that the Mnangagwa camp might refuse to have Midlands allocated the secretary for administration post.

Sources in Midlands told the Zimbabwe Independent that some people went as far as telling Muzenda to go back to her home area Gutu, in Masvingo, and that the fact that she was the daughter of national hero, the late Vice President Simon Muzenda was no longer relevant.

A member from Harare province said: “The whole system is flawed and is not fair. They want to put a young person to a top post when there are people who have been in the Women’s League for more than 15 years.

“A precedent has been set at national leadership that we elevate according to seniority. So what’s different about the Women’s League? People are angry but can’t complain publicly. ”

Meanwhile, the deputy secretary for the Women’s League, Eunice Sandi-Moyo is likely to retain her post unopposed.

Some delegates from different factions were even afraid of talking to each other, because if seen, they run the risk of being accused of jumping ship – a costly move to one’s plans to rise in the party.

President Mugabe in his opening address admitted that factionalism was one of the two threats to the party; the other being the MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai, which he accused of being foreign-funded to effect regime change.

Mugabe urged his supporters to remain united, as they prepare for the next elections, which he said would be held soon after an affirmative constitutional referendum.

“The constitution will go for 18 months. After that the constitution will be put to the people and if they accept it, we will go for an election within the 24 months outlined in the GPA (Global Political Agreement),” he said

Mugabe said his party maintains that the Kariba draft is the basis for the constitution-making process and will not budge from that position.

He, however, said they were open to suggestions and no one was disallowed from participating in the process.

 

Faith Zaba

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