PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is over the next two weeks expected to appoint a new politburo for his Zanu PF party in a move that might see the introduction of new members.
The Communist-era politburo comprises 49 members and acts as the secretariat of the central committee between congresses.
The move might see the introduction of new members and give clues to the political direction Zanu PF wants to take in the aftermath of its congress in December.
The Zanu PF congress made crucial resolutions that pre-empted the ongoing political negotiations between the party and MDC formations, while threatening the survival of the inclusive government in the process.
Inside sources said Mugabe would appoint members of the politburo after his return from an African Union summit in Addis Ababa. Mugabe and the three members of the party’s presidium, Joice Mujuru, John Nkomo and Simon Khaya Moyo, met on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s politburo meeting to discuss various party issues including the forthcoming appointments. The politburo will meet again next week to discuss current party issues.
Zanu PF’s Soviet-styled politburo, whose full name is the political bureau, has 49 members who include the party leader, two deputies, a chairman, 19 heads of department and their 19 deputies, as well as 10 committee members. Mugabe appoints the politburo, although there have been muted calls for them to be elected. The politburo’s main function is to act as the administrative organ of the 245-member central committee which was expected to meet today but had its first session of the year postponed.
Sources said Mugabe is likely to make a series of new politburo appointments –– including at least 10 changes to fill vacancies left by those who quit the politburo or who died –– and other planned replacements to rejuvenate his ageing team dominated largely by deadwood.
Sources said Mugabe could make drastic changes which might see old-guard members, particularly Nathan Shamuyarira, whose health is said to be failing, being retired. The sources said Jonathan Moyo, who returned to Zanu PF recently and was greeted with a warm welcome at the party’s congress last month, could come in to replace Shamuyarira. Since the current politburo was appointed after the turbulent 2004 party congress, a number of its members have either resigned or died.
Those who quit Zanu PF and the politburo citing the party’s leadership and policy failures include Dumiso Dabengwa and Simba Makoni. Thenjiwe Lesabe has also reportedly left or is considering leaving. Several former PF Zapu senior members, some of whom are in the politburo, could be replaced because of their doubtful political loyalties and claims that they were sympathising with Dabengwa.
Other politburo members died. These include vice-president Joseph Msika, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, Air Marshal Josiah Tungamirai, Ruth Chinamano and Elliot Manyika who was the party’s political commissar. The replacement of Manyika has been a talking point in Zanu PF as several officials are said to be interested in the post. Those often linked to this include Webster Shamu and Saviour Kasukuwere. Moyo has also been mentioned in connection with the position, although most Zanu PF officials want him to take over from Shamuyarira to revive the decaying information and publicity department.
Sources said there was heightened anxiety and tensions within Zanu PF as senior party officials are lobbying and jostling for positions. It is said the old guard does not want members like Moyo to bounce back into the politburo fold and have been lobbying behind the scenes for their exclusion.
Following the divisive nominations for the top four positions in the party ahead of its congress on December 9-13 last month, Zanu PF was left reeling from worsened fractures and infighting. The faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa is still particularly bitter after it was routed by the rival camp led by retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru.
High-level divisions have also been clear in the party.
They manifested most recently after congress through initially Nkomo’s absence at Unity Day celebrations last month at Border Gezi Training Centre in Mount Darwin in Mashonaland Central province where Joice Mujuru presided and Mujuru’s absence at Nkomo’s congratulatory party at Trade Fair Grounds in Bulawayo last Saturday.
Behind the scenes members of the party’s warring factions have also been expressing rancour and firing brickbats at each other.
A senior politburo member said there were growing worries and panic in Zanu PF by those who fear they might be dropped from the politburo and hence removed from the crowded feeding trough in the party.
Senior Zanu PF officials are known for using their positions and status to peddle influence and amass wealth. Despite that most of the party’s senior members have no veritable or transparent sources of income, they are however rich and have wealth and properties beyond their legitimate means that they cannot account for.
The late Zanu PF politburo supremo Edison Zvobgo once called for an investigation into senior party and government officials, saying some of them who in 1980 were very poor were now rich beyond measure due to corruption and outright theft.
“There is growing anxiety on who is going to be in the new politburo which should have been appointed last month. The new politburo is coming in two weeks and some people will be left out,” a senior politburo member said. “The old guard wants to remain ensconced in there while young members want to come in.”