But party insiders say the country’s leader, who has been in power for 31 years, was stunned by recent disclosures by the whistle-blower website, WikiLeaks, that his close allies spoke to US diplomats about his political exit.
With elections beckoning, the reality is that a string of his top officials in his party believe he is now a liability and want him to go before presidential polls slated for next year. Insiders say he would like to stand for re-election, but because of the WikiLeaks exposures, the President is now weighing his options.
The diplomatic cables — covering the period 2004 to 2010 — were relayed to Washington from Harare, containing details of secret meetings US diplomats held with top army officers and Zanu PF officials.
The meetings took place without the knowledge of Mugabe and his supposedly omnipresent spies. The general consensus is that although the top Zanu PF leadership wants Mugabe — who has cancer, according to the cables — to go, no-one is brave enough to tell him that to his face.
Party insiders say Mugabe is not too sure how to deal with his enemies from within, especially those officials he thought would keep party secrets under lock and key.
On the 7th floor of the imposing Zanu PF headquarters overlooking the capital, Harare, party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo has been making a study of the documents. In the right hand corner of his office is a bookshelf and a file written in bold letters “Wikileaks”.
“The people who were talking to the Americans clearly take themselves and the Americans more seriously than they take us. My feeling is that (the WikiLeaks) issue might have ruffled feathers,” he admits.
So are heads going to roll at the annual conference in December when Mugabe is expected to seek Zanu PF’s endorsement to serve another five-year term?
“We will cross the bridge when we get there,” Gumbo said. It is not even clear, he says, if Mugabe’s future will be on the agenda as “according to party constitution, the president of the party is a candidate for any (presidential) elections that are held”.
“He is likely to be endorsed,” he added. The top party officials implicated in the diplomatic cables of plotting against Mugabe have powerful party constituencies which he cannot afford to alienate by punishing them.
Vice-President Joice Mujuru is wife to late army general Solomon Mujuru, a kingmaker, believed to have pressured Mugabe to step down during party meetings.
Mujuru has a huge support base within Zanu PF, as does party legal affairs secretary and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is understood to have muted the idea of forming a new party to challenge Mugabe. Dozens of others were named in the cables and Mugabe has indicated he would like them investigated.
But there seems to be limited options for Mugabe. He may be damned if he acts and damned if he does not. If he does not, he will come out as a weak leader and his party will go into elections divided. If he does act, he will also divide the party.
For a lawyer and author Petina Gappah, it is good to hear senior figures question Mugabe’s continued leadership, but she questions their motives. “The people who were talking to the Americans clearly take themselves and the Americans more seriously than they take us,” says Gappah.
“If anything, this is a God-sent event which will go a long, long way to unite people, scare cowards. That makes me angry,” she says.
Political commentator Brian Raftopolous sees the closed-door chatter as a historical problem for the party, now in its 48th year.
“Succession issues have never been dealt with openly in Zanu PF. There has also been violence and death and all kinds of skulduggery. It’s really the inability of a liberation party to transform itself into a democratic party,” he says. — BBC