All eyes will be on President Robert Mugabe as he chairs a potentially explosive Politburo meeting on Friday, October 24 which is likely to determine the destiny for his number two, Vice President Joice Mujuru, and that of a number of senior ZANU-PF officials.President Mugabe’s wife Grace called on Mujuru to resign when she addressed war veterans at her Mazowe orphanage on Friday.
Ten years after she replaced the late Simon Muzenda as Vice President of the Republic in December 2004, Mujuru has been under serious attack from a section of ZANU-PF, which is questioning her suitability to succeed President Mugabe. The most vicious attacks have been led by none other than President Mugabe’s wife, Grace, who inferred during her whirlwind “meet the people tour”, that Mujuru was corrupt, divisive and behind the formation of ZANU-PF’s biggest rival, the Movement for Democratic Change, along with Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn led by Simba Makoni.
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Christopher Mutsvangwa has also laid into Mujuru’s path, calling on her to resign in the wake of the accusations. Several other senior ZANU-PF officials have had their names dragged into the mud, among them the party’s secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa; Mashonaland East provincial chairman Ray Kaukonde and Mashonaland West provincial chairman, Temba Mliswa, among others.
Both Mugabe and Mujuru have maintained stone silence on these and many other issues gripping their party. Their silence seem to have spurred on the attacks, with the State-owned Herald fomenting the attacks against Mujuru and her perceived backers. With congress only a month away, President Mugabe is under pressure to ensure that his party remains cohesive and coherent.
Politburo member Cephas Msipa has warned that ZANU-PF could split if nothing is done to stop the infighting. While Msipa has come under heavy attack from some Politburo members, among them Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere, many seem to agree with his observation that it is only President Mugabe who could put a stop to the wrangling.
President Mugabe is expected to read the riot act in attempts to disentangle the warring sides and getting them to focus on the economy, which is in a crisis. Already, the party is running behind schedule with its Central Committee elections, which should have been held last month. The contentious guidelines for the election of Central Committee members as well as the proposed amendments to the party’s constitution would be among the issues set for discussion.
The Politburo – ZANU-PF’s most influential organ – will receive the guidelines and dates for the elections for debate from its elections directorate while the legal affairs department headed by Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, will table the proposed constitutional amendments. Mnangagwa is linked to one of the factions fighting to succeed President Mugabe. The other faction is said to be headed by Mujuru.
While both Mujuru and the Justice Minister have both denied leading factions, it is quite apparent that the infighting that has broke out in ZANU-PF has everything to do with the bad blood, whether perceived or real, that has developed between them. Even the current fallout has all the imprints of factionalism with backers of Mnangagwa and Mujuru going off on a tangent.
Both camps are fighting for influential positions in the organs of the party in preparation for President Mugabe’s exit from politics. President Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, and at 90, he has entered the twilight of his political career. Previous ZANU-PF elections have been characterised by chaos as both factions go for broke.
With Central Committee elections within sight, the fight for positions has taken an ugly turn. At the meeting, members will also discuss measures to be taken against those who have already hit the campaign trail for central committee positions in defiance of orders barring them from doing so until they have been given the green light by the leadership.
ZANU-PF spokesman, Rugare Gumbo, said the guidelines would be forwarded to the provinces once adopted so that they can have their conferences where they would elect members they feel deserve to be in the central committee. The provinces will have their conferences in the coming weeks if the Politburo furnishes them with the guidelines and dates for the elections.
At the conferences, the provinces will nominate their preferred candidates for all presidium positions and the nominees will contest for the positions at congress should they fail to garner at most seven nominations required for one to win uncontested.
The four ZANU-PF presidium positions are; first secretary, second secretary, third secretary and national chairman.
“We will also discuss the proposed constitutional amendments as well as issues to do with unity in the party,” Gumbo said. High on the Politburo’s agenda is the issue of Mujuru, who has been a subject of vicious tongue-lashing from the First Lady.
At her rally in Mujuru’s stronghold, Bindura, Amai Mugabe called on Mujuru to beg for forgiveness from President Robert Mugabe if she wanted to salvage her career. She also claimed that President Mugabe was fed up of Mujuru. Reports also suggested the Mnangagwa camp, was lining up Gender Minister, Oppah Muchinguri, to challenge Mujuru for the vice presidency at the congress which is scheduled to run from December 9 to 14.
The Mnangagwa camp, informed sources said, was mounting a spirited effort to have the Vice President ousted; a situation which party members say puts President Mugabe in a fix especially considering that it now involves his own wife. Anti-Mujuru slogans such as ‘pasi negamatox’ were chanted, creating the impression that the Vice President was well on her way out.
But some ZANU-PF members who spoke to the Financial Gazette this week said the plots were likely to hit a snag because Mujuru enjoys massive support in key party structures, including the Politburo and therefore was standing on such solid political ground that congress would re-elect her.
The First Lady came up against stone faced members in Bindura and Marondera while addressing the last two provincial rallies and was forced to suggest that they had been coached to stiffen during her address as party members showed no amusement at all.
Upon the first family’s departure for Rome, Italy at the Harare International Airport recently, it was apparent that there is no love lost between the First Lady and Mujuru. The First Lady snubbed Mujuru altogether as they shook hands with senior officials who had come to the airport to bid them farewell.
Gumbo rubbished reports that the Politburo would deal with Mujuru. “It’s all nonsense. There is nothing like that. The meeting is about setting dates and guidelines for the forthcoming central committee elections and not about admonishing leaders,” said Gumbo.