By Sij Ncube
HARARE, December 07, 2015 – ALL roads literally lead to the 15th Annual Zanu PF national conference at the hot resort town of Victoria Falls in Matabeleland North as President Robert Mugabe’s party takes stock of the past year and strategies for the New Year but critics say the gathering is much ado about nothing.
According to Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo, the conference kicks-off with a politburo meeting Monday followed by a meeting of the central committee Wednesday, before Mugabe officially opens the week-long political jamboree on Friday.
More than $3 million has been budgeted for the conference being hosted at the majestic Elephant Hills Hotel and Conference Centre in which about 7000 delegates from the ten political provinces of the country are expected to attend the conference despite most of them wallowing in poverty.
Critics, however, have been quick to point out that since Mugabe and Zanu PF’s controversial re-election in July 2013, the administration has failed to revive the comatose economy. Instead, it has presided over the closure of companies and dismissal of more than 20 000 workers in 2015 alone.
The Zanu PF economic blue print, Zim-Asset, taunted as the only solution to the country’s economic melt-down, has failed to inspire confidence in the market, let along create the 2,2 million jobs Mugabe and Zanu PF promised the electorate in the run-up to the 2013 polls.
Ironically, the conference is going under the theme; Consolidating People’s Power through Zim-Asset.
But critics are adamant instead of reviving the economy, Mugabe has expended his energy in trying to deal with divisive factionalism in Zanu PF as different factions fight internecine battles to succeed him when he eventually decides to exit the political scene.
Ricky Mukonza, a Zimbabwean political analyst based in the United Kingdom, does not see much coming out of the conference both from an economic and political point of view.
Mukonza says from an economic point of view, ZANU PF as the governing party is expected to come up with solutions to the country’s economic challenges but the ruling party has a deficiency in this area, firstly because it caused the problems through bad governance and secondly it does not show any signs or intentions to change its approach in addressing the causes of the problems.
“From a political point of view, the issue of leadership is of interest. It is contended from some quarters that the solution of the Zimbabwean problems lies in leadership change. This change could be either within ZANU PF itself or replacement of ZANU PF as a governing party. I do not see ZANU PF changing its leadership at the Vic Falls conference. From that point of view it can be reasoned that the conference will not result in any meaningful change for both ZANU PF as a political party and Zimbabwe as a whole. It would as usual an occasion for other ZANU PF leaders to compete to outdo one another in praising and worshiping Mugabe,” he said.
Harare-based popular political blogger and analyst, Takura Zhangazha, agrees the public expects clarity on the ruling party’s economic recovery plans.
However, Zhangazha is quick to say these expectations will not be met due the high politicisation of events in the run up to the conference and allegations of factional battles over succession.
“The reality is that the conference will not address succession issues nor will it have resolutions that deviate from the overall economic plan that is Zimasset. So in the final analysis, the public will be entertained but still end up disappointed,” he said.
South Africa-based journalist-cum political analyst, Trust Matsilele, however, says in a dictatorship such as in Zanu PF and government under Mugabe, there is no need to expect surprises, predicting the improved elevation of Grace Mugabe and some overtures that might point to her possible succession of her 91 year old husband.
“The conference will also redefine the role of VPs that they are ceremonial and have no executive powers besides that nothing at all, this is Zanu PF, a party lacking ideas of how to move the country forward,” said Matsilele.
An African diplomat, speaking strictly is not named, concurred, saying if Grace’s Masvingo speech is anything to go by then we will see the entrenchment of Mugabe’s grip on ZPF.
At the Masvingo rally Grace charged that she was senior to Mugabe’ s deputies, Emmerson Mnagangwa and Phelekezela Mphoko by virtue of being the wife of the president, an assertion the diplomat noted is ill-advised as the position of the First Lady is not recognised in the Zanu PF and the country’s constitutions.
He added that it is so clear that when Grace said Mugabe “can get to 100 and push him in a wheelbarrow” intimates the First Family has no confidence in either the two deputies.
“My reading is that the Mugabes are not at the moment interested in the succession. Since Grace’s entry into mainstream Zanu PF politics, the party has never been so divided and if this trend continues unabated it is tantamount to losing control of the party. To end that Mugabe will need to reinforce his grip on power,” he said.
Vivid Gwede, another political analyst, predicts the conference would be characterised by the perennial ritual of endorsement of the party leader who have been at the held since the 1970’s as the major outcome.
“This will happen despite that at 91 Mugabe shows signs of needing rest. There will also be the non-ideologically factional manoeuvres, which have become a second nature of the party. All these dynamics are just power schemes that do not have anything to do with solving the myriad problems that the people are facing,” said Gwede.
However, United Kingdom-based journalist, economist turned political analyst; Bekithemba Mhlanga said the week-long event is much ado about nothing or more of the same.
“The congress will pass fairly quietly – even a schizophrenic institution like Zanu PF knows the limits of unending battles,” said Mhlanga.