Much hype had been created in the months leading to the conference on what was likely to take place, with the party’s leader, President Robert Mugabe describing it as a mini-congress.
Zanu PF congresses are elective and so Mugabe’s statements fuelled speculation that indeed, there would be fireworks at the Bulawayo meeting.
Leaked US embassy cables showing that Zanu PF members were secretly confiding in American envoys that they wanted Mugabe gone, also added to the conjecture that indeed there would be blood on the floor at this year’s conference.
However, in the months leading to the event a clear trend has developed that the conference will be nothing more than the usual regurgitation of populist mantras as past meetings.
Zanu PF has already said they would not be drawn into discussing the leaked cables, meaning the congress would simply rubber stamp Mugabe as leader and presidential condidate in elections next year or 2013.
“The conference will express confidence in the continued leadership of Mugabe,” Gabriel Chaibva, a political analyst aligned to Zanu PF, said. As expected, the party will also reaffirm its desire to hold elections, while anti-western rhetoric will dominate deliberations, something which Chaibva seemed to reinforce.
While the political analyst said there would be something new at the party’s meeting this week, the themes such as elections, sovereignty and indigenisation have been a constant motif throughout the year and were the cornerstone of the party’s last congress in Mutare last year.
“They (MDC formations) no longer have a game plan to delay elections,” Chaibva charged. “Zanu PF is gunning for total and absolute victory at the elections.”
Zanu PF spokesman, Rugare Gumbo was noncommittal when asked if any major developments were expected. “There is nothing new except what we have always told you,” he said.
Gumbo said they were in the process of panelbeating the agenda ahead of the conference, whose official opening has been moved from Friday to Thursday.
Another missed opportunity
Charles Mangongera, a political analyst, described the forthcoming conference as a missed opportunity for the party to put its house in order.
“They have squandered another chance,” he said.
“They could have used it to deal with the succession issue and as a platform for leadership renewal.” Mangongera said since it was unlikely that the succession issue would be dealt with, he did not expect any changes in Zanu PF attitudes.
“I don’t see them changing attitude, instead there will be the hardening of positions,” he said. “They will insist on holding elections and an end to negotiations. It will be a vintage Zanu PF.”
However, while on the sidelines it is expected that wrangles between rival factions to succeed Mugabe will be at play, Zimbabweans will certainly not be any wiser as to who would succeed the country’s erstwhile leader.