ZANU PF has roped in the services of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to draw up strategies to revive its waning support base in Matabeleland ahead of the next elections.
A CCP delegation met the Zanu PF politburo, central committee and district coordinating committee members from Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South on Tuesday to formulate ways of enticing the electorate.
Zanu PF lost control of the Matabeleland provinces after the MDC first contested elections in 2000, and the party believes that borrowing CCP strategies would help revive its flagging fortunes.
The CCP’s Centre for International Exchanges director-general, Wu Shumin, advised Zanu PF to address relevant issues facing the Matabeleland region, saying the party would only be electable if its policies solved problems facing the region’s electorate.
Zanu PF is unpopular in Matabeleland due to perceived marginalisation and unfulfilled development projects, and the Gukurahundi atrocities committed by the Zanu PF government in the 1980s believed to have resulted in the deaths of about 20 000 people.
Shumin advised the party to address poverty, unemployment, housing shortages, deteriorating healthcare, rampant corruption and industrial development. Bulawayo has particularly been hit by de-industrialisation which saw the closure of 87 companies leaving about 20 000 jobless.
The CCP backed the controversial indigenisation programme saying it would gain Zanu PF political mileage because the black majority had been disenfranchised for decades.
“The party’s greatest strength lies in connecting with the people and there should not be a time when it is alienated from them,” said China Executive Leadership Academy official Liu Jingbei.
“Successful parties derive their strength from vibrant grassroots structures and discipline among members,” Jingbei said.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF has tasked its politburo members to come up with a raft of recommendations on how the party can win the next elections to ensure that President Robert Mugabe holds onto his 32-year rule.
The party’s national commissar Webster Shamu wrote to all politburo, central committee and national consultative assembly members instructing them to analyse Zanu PF’s performance in the 2008 elections and give him feedback urgently.
Zanu PF officials told the Independent that the 2008 election analysis and recommendations were a waste of time, particularly in Matabeleland where Mugabe has never been popular with the electorate.
“Who will vote Zanu PF in Matabeleland?” asked a senior party official from the region. “We can’t win in this region because people feel marginalised and if Mugabe rejects devolution then forget the Matabeleland vote.”
Senior party officials in Bulawayo met at the provincial headquarters on Sunday, but failed to come up with any recommendations as they were soon sucked into a bitter debate over district structures.