Editor's Memo: Dismantle Zanu PF elite cohesion

IN a fortnight, the ruling Zanu PF party will hold an elective congress. It’s a crucial event; it’s an important event on the former liberation party’s political calendar. This year, the Zanu PF 7th national people’s congress will be held in Harare where delegates are expected to elect party president and First Secretary who will represent the organisation in next year’s national elections.

Incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who turned 80 recently, is likely to retain his position, unopposed. The long-time politician rose to power after the late former president Robert Mugabe stepped down from both government and Zanu PF, in 2017. The circumstances leading to Mugabe’s graceless fall are still under scholarly debate; whether it was a coup or not.

But most of Zanu PF top leaders are around the 65-years retirement age in public service. Some are way older. There is no retirement age in politics. However, laws of nature may take a toll on any elderly person due to the rigours of politics and/or public administration. Mugabe forced himself to work until he was in his 90s. The undesirable result was that he failed to competently run the country. The effects of his ruinous policies are still biting - many years after his demise.

While the old guard, mainly liberation war nationalists, played an unforgettable role in bringing the 1980 independence from the colonial yoke of the British empire; some 42 years later, it is prudent to open the succession debate. It’s important for sitting leaders to groom youngsters with a potential of being tomorrow’s presidents, ministers, parliamentarians and councillors.

The Zanu PF constitution Article 5 section 23 provides that the national congress is the supreme organ of the party, which makes policy decisions, elects the president and members of the central committee. Therefore, at the forthcoming congress, it’s important for Zanu PF to choose more young blood for central committee positions.

Politburo members are picked from the central committee and most likely too, members of parliament and cabinet ministers come from the central committee — borrowed from the Chinese Communist Party.

As Zanu PF members choose central committee members, they should, for once, elect people based on merit. Let meritocracy rule the day. A younger generation of politicians with integrity and honesty must be chosen as they are likely to occupy key positions in government. Those with a tainted political and business record should not come anywhere near power. Zimbabwe needs fresh minds and solid characters who have the capacity to implement economic reforms to attain the ambitious 2030 vision of an upper-middle-class income economy.

Those who have come of age, physically and politically, must be given less taxing roles — more of advisory and allow young Turks to take the front seat.

Some of the previous Zanu PF central committee and politburo members were arrested on allegations of corruption. This provides a case for the Zanu PF delegates to meticulously choose reputable leaders. Does age matter at this stage? Yes, it does! A young and vibrant crop of leaders is needed.

This is an uncomfortable topic in Zanu PF. It has been taboo to discuss Zanu PF succession. Mugabe hated it. In fact, Mugabe had a strong dislike of anything that threatened his firm grip on power — a major characteristic of an authoritarian. President Mnangagwa has appointed young leaders — men and women - in his cabinet but more can be given crucial responsibilities. Those who have failed in the current government must not be given another chance in the 2023-2028 term. The elite cohesion of the old guard has to be dismantled to pave way for a new generation of leaders.

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