PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has successfully evaded a potentially divisive Zanu PF extraordinary congress after consultations proved that the party was deeply split over the issue as self-interest took centre-stage.
It emerged some senior party officials were not thinking about endorsing Mugabe for a new five-year term, but were more interested in consolidating their power base in the succession race to succeed him.
High-level sources said Vice-President Joice Mujuru had done her groundwork to make sure the politburo agreed to an extraordinary congress, but other Zanu PF bigwigs including Mugabe himself dismissed the idea arguing there was no justifiable reason for an early congress since the crucial indaba was constitutionally due in December 2014.
While Mugabe and his loyalists wanted the extraordinary congress to secure a new five-year party leadership term to align it with his fresh state tenure secured at the July 31 general elections, some senior party officials aligned to Mujuru had seen the congress as the perfect opportunity to deal with the succession debacle as it would have forced the 89-year-old leader to indicate when he plans to retire.
It would have also enabled the Mujuru team to position itself for an eventual take-over when Mugabe eventually steps down.
The extraordinary congress would have ensured Mujuru’s close allies, party national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo and national secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa were catapulted to vice-presidency and party national chairmanship respectively.
This was part of a wider plot
This was part of a wider plot by Mujuru to consolidate her increasing power base after she played a key role in seconding her associates to powerful ministerial posts in cabinet.
Mujuru is strategically positioning herself in a tightly-contested race to succeed Mugabe who may not finish his new term due to a combination of age and ill-health.
There was heated debate before the politburo meeting centering on the implications on the party of the congress.Those opposed to the congress insisted the extraordinary meeting could cripple Zanu PF’s ability to deliver for the next five years, as it would further deepen the fissures.
“Going ahead with the congress and looking at 2018, it would have left Zanu PF more exposed,” said a politburo source. “Instead of concentrating on delivering on promises made during our campaign, they are pushing a factional agenda.”
The insiders said a special congress would mean holding of elections at branch, district, provincial executives, central committee and appointing of new politburo members.
The politburo agreed only elections for provincial executives, whose term expired in July, will be held at the end of this month in preparation for the conference slated for December 10 to December 14 in Chinhoyi.
“Holding a congress this year will mean we have to conduct elections at every level of party structures; therefore it was agreed that all vacant posts will be filled at next year’s congress,” said a politburo member. “Moyo will remain Minister of State until then; that’s when he can be appointed the country’s VP if he is elected by the congress. He has been endorsed by Matabeleland provinces so he should be patient.”
Mujuru faces a stiff challenge from Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Emmerson Mnangagwa — a strong contender for the presidency.
Zanu PF held an extraordinary congress in 2000 to endorse politburo members after Mugabe failed to announce the list at the 1999 congress, and in 2007 when the president called for the congress to declare and confirm him as the party’s presidential candidate. This was after his bid to extend his term to 2010 was rejected in Goromonzi at the party’s national conference in 2006.
As part of their scheme Mujuru, Moyo and Mutasa held several meetings including this week where it was agreed that Mashonaland and Manicaland provinces would support their Matabeleland counterparts in ensuring former ambassador to South Africa Khaya Moyo landed the VP’s post. In return Khaya Moyo was to secure Matabeleland support for Mutasa for the national chairmanship.
Mutasa told this paper last week he was interested in succeeding Moyo, “if given the mandate by the people”.
If Mujuru’s plan had succeeded, it would have meant having her allies in the presidium when she eventually takes over.
Factionalism reared its head when the Mujuru faction tried to go against tradition by imposing Mutasa, who is also the minister of State for Presidential Affairs, as the leader of government in parliament. Traditionally the position has been held by the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister.
National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda announced this week that Mugabe had appointed Mnangagwa as the leader of government business in parliament.
Mujuru and Mnangagwa have both consistently denied habouring presidential ambitions lately, but Zanu PF top officials insist they are the front-runners to succeed Mugabe when he steps down.