SOUTH African and African National Congress (ANC) vice-president , who on Wednesday declared his presidential ambition, will attend the ongoing Zanu PF annual conference in Masvingo as succession wars rock both Zimbabwe and its powerful southern neighbour.
The businessman and former trade union leader, who has served as President Jacob Zuma’s deputy since 2014, is now expected to tussle with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the reins of the ANC next year although Zuma’s term ends in 2019.
He is attending the Zanu PF conference at a time Zimbabwe’s ruling party is heavily divided along factional lines as the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe (92) hots up.
Although Mugabe, in power since Independence in 1980, has indicated his willingness to continue leading the country and even stand as the party’s presidential candidate in 2018, Zanu PF officials and close family members fear he is unlikely to have the capacity to stand.
Mugabe has been slowed down by old age and ill health.
His succession is unlikely to be discussed at the conference but indications are that factional battles will take centre stage, as rival camps seek to out-manoeuvre each other.
Mugabe will officially open the conference today amid reports that Mashonaland Central province will push for the adoption of its resolution for the party to abolish the “one centre of power” policy which allows the party president to hand-pick his deputies.
Using the policy, which was adopted at the party’s 2014 congress, Mugabe appointed Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.
Party insiders say the resolution is being pushed by Zanu PF’s G40 faction which wants an election so as to remove Mnangagwa, seen by some as unpopular albeit a frontrunner to succeed Mugabe in Zanu PF’s succession race.
Mnangagwa and his backers, who have the support of the military, are locked in a war of attrition with the G40 faction which has coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe.
In the run up to the conference Mashonaland Central province, through its chairman Dick Mafios, announced it had resolved that the party should scrap the one centre of power principle, arguing it was undemocratic.
The resolution was supported by key G40 members among them Mphoko and politburo member Jonathan Moyo.
The Mnangagwa faction is resisting the move saying it is an attack on Mugabe.
Zanu PF sources said officials from the two camps have been plotting against each other ahead of the conference.
Youths sympathetic to the G40 faction have been campaigning for the resolution to be adopted.
“The Youth League has been around (in Masvingo) since last week. They have been supporting Grace and the bid to scrap the one centre of power policy,” said a party official.
The national Youth League executive last week endorsed the scrapping of the one centre of power principle in an attempt to have it on the conference agenda.
Party insiders also said that Mnangawa’s sympathisers have been mobilising its members to resist the policy.
“The running and organisation of the conference has been in the hands of Mnangagwa loyalists,”one insider said.
“The deputy secretary for administration in Zanu PF, July Moyo, is the acting secretary for information in the absence of Simon Khaya Moyo, who is on sick leave, hence his team has been in the province.
While the G40 plotted to push for its resolution the Mnangagwa faction has been countering the move by lobbying party supporters to reject the resolution.”
As ANC and Zanu PF stalwarts converge in Masvingo today, both parties face serious internal ructions triggered by unresolved leadership succession.
While on Mugabe’s part the uncertainty has largely been due to old age, Zuma is facing growing resistance from party officials and the populace due to a number of scandals which have damaged his image.
Last month he survived a bid to oust him after tourism minister Derek Hanekom tabled a motion calling for his sacking at a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee.
He was backed by several other ministers, including Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi.
Zuma has faced a string of corruption allegations, with a recent report highlighting his links with the wealthy Gupta family accused of state capture and plundes. He is accused of letting the Gupta family wield undue influence in his government.
Also last month, the Constitutional Court ruled that President Zuma had breached the constitution by failing to repay government money spent on his private home in Nkandla.
A High Court has also ruled that he should be charged with 783 counts of corruption in relation to a 1999 arms deal.
Zuma has denied taking bribes, and has appealed against the ruling.
In August, the ANC lost control of the key cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria in local elections, for the first time since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.
Analysts indicated voters punished the party for poor service delivery, corruption, and its failure to act against Zuma.
Zuma’s allies say he should be allowed to complete his term.