However, General Mujuru in an interview yesterday challenged anyone claiming that he heads a faction to prove it, adding that it was a creation of the media.
“Ask whoever was saying that to prove that such a faction exists,” he said. “I don’t have a faction. What faction, where is it, who is in it? It is all 100% lies and non-existent,” he said.
“You know what, it is not pleasing to read day in and day out that I lead a faction.”
But central committee members who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent this week insisted that the Mujuru faction was using businesspeople to lobby President Robert Mugabe not to have elections next year.
This comes after Vice-President Joice Mujuru held two meetings with the business community — one organised by Ernst & Young and the other by Zanu PF members — said to be in her faction dubbed “Business Talks to Zanu PF” at Celebration Centre in the capital.
In both meetings, the businesspeople bluntly told Mujuru that they did not want early elections next year, arguing that it would disrupt economic recovery.
The businesspeople said it was not in the national or business interest to have elections next year.
Instead of early elections, the business community said government should find ways of re-engaging the Commonwealth and the West.
They said politicians should be concentrating on delivering food to the people’s tables and not elections and name-calling.
One central committee member said: “It is very clear that they are (Mujuru faction) trying to lobby the president using the business community because none of them can oppose him publicly. If you look at this whole thing to do with elections, it is the people from Mujuru’s faction that don’t want elections.
“They would rather have the elections in 2013 or thereafter because the longer we take, the higher the chances their candidate has to take over from President Mugabe. By 2013, the president might not want to contest. Do the maths — who is next in line.”
Another central committee member said those protesting informally were from Mujuru’s faction.
“All those people you see (pointing at some politburo members from Mashonaland Central and East) don’t want elections. You can go and ask them and if they are frank with you they will tell you that we should not have elections next year,” he said adding that “their fear is that, if the president stands next year and wins, he might step down and choose his successor, who might not be Mai Mujuru.”
While Zanu PF has publicly been pushing for elections next year, fissures have emerged within the party as many are not sure if they would win polls less than 30 months after they lost a two thirds majority in parliament to the MDC-T.
However, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo dismissed these sentiments as “factional propaganda”.
“This is not true. Mai Mujuru categorically and specifically told the businesspeople that it was an issue of the principals who will say when elections will be held. She has never had the dialogue with the intention of delaying the elections,” Gumbo said.
“It is just factional propaganda which is intended to try and discredit someone. We have all been speaking the same language on elections.”
He said Mugabe had told Finance minister Tendai Biti to provide US$200 million for the referendum and elections next year.
Gumbo, however, said it was Biti who did not want to have elections because he only set aside US$50 million under unallocated reserves.
He said although the election issue was not debated at two politburo meetings this week and central committee meeting on Wednesday, the matter was on the agenda at the conference in Mutare.
Gumbo was, however, quick to point out that not much debate on the elections should be expected at the conference.
“People will oppose when the chef (Mugabe) is not there and in the corridors but never in an open forum. If there will be any debate, it will be at the conference but I still don’t see anyone standing up and opposing early elections,” he said.
Meanwhile, top Zanu PF officials told the Independent that there is a deliberate ploy to stall the constitution-making process in order to delay elections.
The politburo members said although at their level they are opposed to an early election, they could not publicly express this view which is contrary to that of their principal.
Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have for months been calling for early elections. Mugabe has said he could not extend the government of national unity by more than six months and would want elections to be held soon after the referendum, irrespective of whether the draft constitution is accepted or rejected.
“Don’t expect elections next year,” said one politburo member. “We will not publicly oppose but will delay them by delaying other processes that should lead to the elections. We will just make sure that the constitution-making process is delayed and all other processes that are supposed to ensure free and fair elections.”
“But what you should expect next year are by-elections, for which Biti set funds for.”
Biti set aside US$40 million for by-elections where seats have been vacant since 2008.
Meanwhile, the conference got off to a sluggish start in Mutare yesterday amid reports there were serious logistical problems which resulted in funds for holding the conference being released on Wednesday evening.
The failure to release funds for the conference marked a change in the fortunes of Zanu PF, known to host congresses and conferences which are characterised by pomp and fanfare.
A delayed start of the conference gave further credence to the chasms in the political party around the timing of the next general elections.
Zanu PF’s 11th conference was full of surprises starting with the holding of the central committee meeting in Harare whereas in the past it was held at the conference venue or close by. Apart from holding the central committee meeting more than 260 kilometres from the venue, this is the first time when there were delays to the actual start of the conference as delegates were expected to start arriving yesterday.
But Didymus Mutasa, Zanu PF politburo secretary for administration, played down the reported tensions from known factions saying the “revolutionary” party decided to hold both the central committee and politburo meeting in Harare for logistical reasons.
Faith Zaba/Kelvin Jakachira/Leonard Makombe