Politburo meets over primaries

The Zanu PF politburo will today hold a crunch meeting to finalise primary elections guidelines and other related issues which have divided the party for months, leaving the party’s de facto decision-making organ unable to deal with the issue.

Report by Elias Mambo/Brian Chitemba

The central committee will also meet tomorrow for its first gathering in 2013 after its meeting slated for March was postponed amid mounting tensions triggered by factional fights raging in the provinces.

Sources said the politburo is also expected to debate findings of an investigating team on problems rocking Bulawayo and Manicaland.

A Zanu PF probe team led by party chairman Simon Khaya Moyo, commissar Webster Shamu, and deputy secretary for security Kembo Mohadi was recently dispatched to the troubled provinces.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed the party’s crucial meetings today and tomorrow as pressure mounts on its top leaders to finalise primary elections guidelines postponed since February and also quell renewed infighting ahead of crucial general elections.

Politburo insiders say the proposed rules and guidelines for primaries were delayed because of the constitution-making process and also that they were not favourable to the factional designs of sitting bigwig MPs facing ouster by ambitious “Young Turks” pushing to replace them.

In 2008 Gumbo, former Education minister Aeneas Chigwedere, ex-deputy Finance minister David Chapfika and former soldier Claudius Makova, among other bigwigs, lost in the primaries.

Some were saved after the politburo intervened on their behalf. A number of senior party officials currently fear defeat in primaries, while there is debate on waiving rules for some officials who do not meet the selection criteria.

“The proposed rules will not by design ring-fence the current MPs, so this has created problems within the party where factions are fighting to position themselves in the primaries,” a senior party official said. “President (Robert) Mugabe has emphasised the need to avoid the blunder made by the party during the 2008 elections in which primaries divided the party and led to the fielding of more than one candidate in some constituencies.”

The official said the politburo wants to ensure the party is protected against infiltration by “mischief-makers” who believe in bhora musango (sabotage), hence the need to have clear guidelines, a code of conduct and strict vetting.

Aspiring candidates have accused the party’s old guard of deliberately delaying the vetting process to deny them time to campaign. Zanu PF has banned aspiring MPs and senators from campaigning until dates for primary elections are set.

However, Gumbo denied accusations his party was trying to frustrate aspiring candidates. “It is misrepresentation of facts,” Gumbo said.

“The politburo is still working on modalities and rules for the primary elections. As soon as all those things are done, the field will be levelled,” he said.

The issue of primary elections rules and regulations have been on the agenda since October last year when the politburo rejected political commissar Webster Shamu’s proposal for them to be held in November after the Copac Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference on the new constitution.

Shamu’s proposals were strongly resisted by people believed to be in the faction led by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who argued the issue had been tabled out of the blue.

Shamu is believed to belong to the faction led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and there were suspicions he wanted primary elections at short notice to aid his camp by catching the Mnangagwa faction unprepared.

The Zanu PF politburo’s failure to conclude the primaries guidelines in April was said to have been fuelling internal political tensions over the issue as ambitious young aspirants are itching to secure tickets to stand in the general elections to be held between June 29 and October 29.

The ongoing factional fights burning in provinces forced the politburo to delay conclusion of primary polls rules several times in a frantic bid to quell resurgent factionalism ahead of crucial general polls.

Zanu PF insiders say problems bedevilling Manicaland and Bulawayo provinces will also take centre stage as the party frantically tries to combat factionalism. In Manicaland, Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa is pushing to oust provincial chairperson Mike Madiro who is reportedly in the camp led by Mnangagwa. Mutasa is said to be in Mujuru’s camp in the race to succeed Mugabe.

In Bulawayo, tempers continue to flare over the removal of provincial chairman Killian Sibanda at the instigation of Zanu PF national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo who orchestrated the appointment of his homeboy Callistus Ndlovu.
The changes are seen as part of a wider succession race in which Khaya Moyo is setting his base to become vice-president, replacing the late John Nkomo, ahead of his fierce rival Mines minister Obert Mpofu.