A CRUCIAL Zanu PF politburo meeting this month will decide the extent to which the party wants the government of national unity to be extended after President Robert Mugabe insisted its term ends next month.
Insiders say most party bigwigs will support an extension of not more than six months.
Sources in the politburo told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that top on the agenda for their next meeting expected before month-end was the lifespan of the Government of National Unity.
They said Mugabe, who together with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara, has the final say on when elections should be held, would obviously consult his cronies first so that they can come up with an agreed party position on how long the GNU should be extended.
The sources said everyone was in agreement that they did not want an “open-ended” extension with no timeframes for the implementation of the agreed principles, such as electoral and other necessary reforms, that were needed to pave the way for a free and fair election.
Sadc facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma, has said there should be a clear roadmap leading to the elections at the expiry of the Inclusive government. Among other things, the roadmap should include the completion of constitutional reforms, security sector reform, and media and electoral reforms.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed that the next politburo meeting was likely going to discuss the extension of the GNU.
“Yes, we are likely to discuss and come up with a party position on how long the GNU can be extended,” Gumbo said in an interview on Wednesday.
“However, it is still up to the principals to decide when the next elections would be held. But I am sure the president will come to us and we will discuss and come up with a position on the way forward.”
Gumbo concurred with the other politburo members, saying they wanted an extension which was not more than six months and should be issues-based with a timetable or a framework of things to be implemented before the elections.
“We are agreed that we don’t want an extension of the GNU. We don’t see ourselves going beyond August — we will go by what the president said that we cannot go beyond six months,” he said.
Asked if six months was realistic considering the snail’s pace of the constitution-making process due to lack of funding and an alleged deliberate ploy to stall the process in order to delay elections by a certain section in the GNU, Gumbo said Mugabe has since ordered the acceleration of the process.
Although there might be some members opposed to early elections, senior Zanu PF officials said they could not openly express this view which is contrary to what Mugabe has been advocating.
Mugabe has said elections should be held soon after the referendum, irrespective of whether the draft constitution is accepted or rejected.
Meanwhile, election campaigning in Zanu PF has intensified with those vying for parliamentary and senatorial seats already fighting it out.
“The campaigns had become so dirty in some instances. Generally it had become so divisive. People were decampaigning sitting MPs in their presence hence the announcement by Cde (national commissar) WebsterShamu that electioneering should stop until primary election dates are announced,” said Gumbo.
Zanu PF said it would field serving and former security forces as candidates in the next harmonised elections.
Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa confirmed the development in a telephone interview with the Zimbabwe Independent on Monday this week.
“The party (Zanu PF) is composed of all sectors of people including war veterans,” Mutasa said, “They were the root of the party in Mozambique. We cannot stop them from contesting if they so wish and they have the support. If the people want them, we cannot deny them that space.”
Minister of Defence and Zanu PF legal secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa last October told parliament that there would be many security officers competing for political office as most of those who joined the army in 1980 were reaching retirement age.
“We should not lose sight of the fact that the majority of those that were integrated into the Defence Forces in 1980 are now reaching retirement age,” Mnangagwa said in reply to a question on serving security forces participating in politics.
The minister added that security services personnel like any other citizen had freedom of association and assembly and could join political parties of their choice.