CONGRESS: Zanu-PF crafts post-Mugabe survival strategy

By: 
Memory Mataranyika
Source: 
City Press

All eyes will be on this week’s congress, which will decide the party’s future.

Robert Mugabe Square, an open area near the Magistrates’ Court in Harare, has been chosen as the venue for Zanu-PF’s congress, which takes place this week following the ousting of the square’s namesake in November.

It is expected that those in attendance will endorse Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as leader of the party. Analysts predict that Mnangagwa will then set out to purge the party of Mugabe loyalists and consolidate his own power in Zanu-PF.

A glossy white tent will be pitched on the square to shelter delegates from possible rain when the congress starts on December 14. More tents – decked out in the green, yellow, black and red colours of the Zanu-PF flag – will be pitched on the sides of the main tent.

Sydney Sekeramayi – the G40 faction’s preferred candidate to succeed ousted president Robert Mugabe – has been dropped from Cabinet by Mnangagwa. 

Insiders say the new leader is under pressure to reward those who remained loyal and played a key role in his eventual takeover from Mugabe, following a military intervention last month.

On Thursday, Sekeramayi called for unity ahead of the congress and urged the party to stop purging members who were pushing for the elevation of former first lady Grace Mugabe.

“We should avoid the purging of members. We are going to congress to endorse our president [Mnangagwa] as the president and first secretary of Zanu-PF,” he said.

Zanu-PF spokesperson and Energy Minister Simon Khaya-Moyo told City Press on Friday that as many as 6 000 delegates, drawn from across the country’s 10 provinces, were expected in Harare for the congress.

“Everything is set for the congress and preparations are well on course,” he said. 

Included on the agenda for the congress will be the endorsement of Mnangagwa as the party’s candidate for next year’s elections.

Mnangagwa has adopted an economic liberalisation policy framework since being sworn in last month. 

His allies in the party say he is expected to further enhance these policies when they are proposed for endorsement by the party.

The congress is also expected to see the elevation of two senior party stalwarts to deputise Mnangagwa. 

Some of the frontrunners touted to land one of the two posts for vice-president include Defence Minister Kembo Mohadi, Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri and the president of the Senate, Edna Madzongwe.

Sources say General Constantine Chiwenga, commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, could be appointed one of the vice-presidents as the military stamps its presence in the political framework. 

So far, the military has scored two ministerial positions. Major General Sibusiso Moyo is now foreign affairs minister, and Air Marshal Perence Shiri is agriculture minister. 

“It is not yet clear if the women’s quarter appointment to the presidium will be passed, but there is pressure from the Zanu-PF Women’s League for one of the vice-presidential posts to go to a woman” said a senior Zanu-PF official.

“Then there is also the issue under the unity pact with the former Zapu [opposition party] from Matabeleland regions, which also have to make it to the presidium.”

In 2013, Khaya-Moyo was tipped for the post of vice-president, but lost out to former diplomat Phelekezela Mphoko. Mphoko has since been ousted from Zanu-PF after Mugabe’s exit.

While most analysts told City Press that the Zanu-PF congress was now a mere formality after Mugabe’s exit, a few said Mnangagwa would “consolidate his position as leader of the party through the appointment of loyalists” to influential posts. 

But Khaya-Moyo was coy about the budget for the congress and the appointment of the two vice-presidents.

“The election of vice-presidents is the prerogative of the president. The budget is ours, and I cannot give you a budget figure unless you want to give us money for the congress,” he quipped.

The congress was initially scheduled to confirm Mugabe as Zanu-PF’s candidate for next year’s elections. It was also meant to provide a platform for the rise of Grace Mugabe to the position of vice-president, putting her in line to succeed her husband.

But the tide has since changed, and war veterans and military strongmen are now expected to get influential posts within the party. Leader of the war veterans Victor Matemadanda has already been confirmed as political commissar of Zanu–PF.

Matemadanda has pledged to reform Zanu–PF in a bid to win voters over ahead of the 2018 elections. This week’s congress will provide some idea regarding how the party will proceed under Mnangagwa’s leadership. 

Whether Zanu-PF retains its position as a revolutionary party, however, remains to be seen.

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