Dumisani Muleya/ Constantine Chimakure
THE ruling Zanu PF is at war with itself over the forthcoming special congress in December that might see President Robert
Mugabe tightening his grip on power or emerging badly bruised by internal fights.
Inside sources said this week the Zanu PF power struggle has intensified in the run-up to the congress, scheduled for December 12-14, over which the party is now deeply divided. While Mugabe and his loyalists — now supported by the faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa and the war veterans — want the congress to endorse him as the party’s presidential election candidate, the rival Zanu PF camp headed by retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru is anxious to replace Mugabe at the critical gathering with one of his deputies, Joice Mujuru.
This has left the party split down the middle.
Zanu PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira said earlier this week the congress would “have the election of the presidency as the main thing”, meaning that Mugabe’s position and those of his two deputies, Joseph Msika and Mujuru, as well as party chair, John Nkomo, would be up for grabs.
However, Mugabe diehards, including war veterans, do not want this. They want the congress to be convened only to endorse Mugabe as party candidate. But the sources say Mugabe’s loyalists are missing the point that there is more to the congress than just endorsing the leader because if it was only about this, there would be no need for an extraordinary congress as the party’s annual conference, which was due in terms of the Zanu PF constitution, has the power to “declare the president of the party elected at (the previous) congress as the state presidential election candidate of the party”.
Mugabe and his supporters have of late been desperately pulling out all the stops to mobilise a critical mass to crush the Mujuru camp which is now retreating. A senior member of the Mujuru camp claimed this week his group had never opposed nor tried to oust Mugabe.
“We never opposed President Mugabe’s leadership of the party. Mugabe indicated during the 2004 congress he would wanted Mujuru to take over from him and it was on that basis that we started campaigning for Mujuru to be the party leader,” a senior politburo member in the Mujuru camp said.
“If Mugabe is standing we will back him, but in the event that he steps down along with Msika, naturally Mujuru should take over. That’s what we are saying.”
The climb-down by the Mujuru faction came as General Mujuru himself told the Zanu PF politburo on September 5 people were lying to Mugabe that he wanted to oust him from the party leadership.
The retreat is a sign of mounting pressure on the Mujuru camp hard-pressed to show its moral fibre to confront Mugabe at the congress.
Although the Mujuru faction now seems to be losing ground, it has been pushing for Mugabe to go since it blocked his bid to extend his term of office to 2010 at the Goromonzi conference in December last year. The camp also played a major role in scuttling Mugabe’s plan to secure approval as the party candidate during the central committee meeting on March 30.
In the run-up to that crucial meeting designed to prop up Mugabe as Zanu PF leader, the Mujuru faction had dramatically raised the stakes in the power struggle by unexpectedly mobilising key former Zanla general staff members to tell Mugabe to go, but the president refused to see them.
After that Mugabe went on the offensive. To deal with Mujuru’s faction, he closed ranks with the Mnangagwa camp and the war veterans. Mugabe had earlier in February expressed outrage at the Mujuru camp, accusing it of losing the plot and trying to oust him. Mugabe also secured the support of a retinue of senior party officials such as administration secretary Didymus Mutasa, commissar Elliot Manyika, and politburo members Nicholas Goche, Saviour Kasukuwere and Oppah Muchinguri.
While Mugabe’s support seems intact, Manyika, Goche and Kasukuwere are said to be rooting for Simba Makoni to replace Mugabe should he be available and if the opportunity arises. This complicates matters because the Mujuru faction also has a soft spot for Makoni. Although Makoni has no power base to use as a springboard for a presidential bid, he generally has cross-cutting appeal in and out of the party.