Mugabe insisted last week he would not quit power until after all foreign-owned businesses have ceded majority ownership to blacks.
Sources in the party said Mugabe has instructed the two leading contenders in the race to succeed him, Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, to stop plotting against each other and instead concentrate on ensuring that the party becomes united ahead of elections.
The sources said this explained why Mujuru pledged before Mugabe two weeks ago that she would not run for presidency as long as he remained in power.
The same week, Mnangagwa also dismissed reports that he had entered a secret pact with Mugabe to take over the leadership of the country. The claim was also rebuffed by Zanu PF secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa and party spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, who said Mnangagwa was too junior in the party to be the top contender for the post.
“Mugabe has separately promised Mujuru and Mnangagwa that he will back them if he wins the election,” said a Zanu PF politburo source. “This is why you have seen the two faction leaders displaying loyalty to Mugabe, both claiming that they are not interested in occupying the highest office in the land, yet deep down they are itching to take over from him.”
Another source said Mugabe still believed he was the only one in the party with a realistic chance to beat Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T in elections.
He said Mugabe was eager to hold elections this year with or without a new constitution because he fears that if the polls were delayed, it would become almost impossible for him to campaign next year due to old age and deteriorating health.
“Mugabe has promised the party he will win the elections by whatever means necessary, even if it means the creation of a GNU 2,” said the official.
Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, said the issue of succession would be discussed by the politburo at the “appropriate” time.
“The politburo is the policy-making body outside congress and this issue of succession will be discussed at some of our forthcoming meetings,” he said.
Political analyst, Shakespeare Hamauswa, said Mugabe had stopped the succession debate after realising that divisions within the party would likely worsen if the issue continued to be raised.
“Mugabe probably thinks that discussing succession is not good for a party which is going for elections. This will cause further divisions and reduce his chances of winning,” he said.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Professor John Makumbe, said Mugabe wanted to win the next elections and thereafter hand over power to whoever Zanu PF selects as the next party leader.
“What he does not know is that the proposed new constitution might say a new president must be elected in 90 days of his leaving office and he or she may not come from Zanu PF,” he said.
But former Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (Zanla) commander, Dzinashe Machingura said Mugabe would never appoint a successor as he now behaved like a king with divine power to rule for life.
“Since Mugabe assumed power in Zanu PF in 1977, there have been no real elections in the party. We have now regressed into a system of chieftainship, where the issue of succession is only discussed after one’s death,” he said.