HARARE – The die is cast for a potentially explosive general election with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC set to hold its primary elections this week, while Zanu PF finalises its primary elections guidelines today — setting the stage for a bruising battle among party heavyweights.
Today, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF holds a politburo meeting that will see the party finalise guidelines that could further divide the ex-majority party ahead of watershed elections due later this year.
This comes amid dogfights with reports indicating that wars to succeed 89-year-old Mugabe are at a crescendo and will viciously play out during primary elections.
Dates for elections, likely to be the hardest fought since independence in 1980, are still a subject of haggling between coalition partners in government.
Fresh from a two-day policy conference, the MDC will on Saturday plunge into its first set of primary elections where sitting MPs will either be confirmed or rejected by their constituencies.
Party chairman Lovemore Moyo, said primary elections are the final lap towards polls.
Moyo, who is also Speaker of Parliament, said the primary elections signal the beginning of a massive campaign period before elections.
“It is an internal process that the party has to undertake in order to prepare for the next elections. This is the beginning of the electoral process in earnest given that we cannot alone decide dates for elections,” he said.
Moyo added that primary elections are being held to give “winners sufficient time to campaign”.
“We are not worried that some people may choose to pursue personal interests if they lose and we will go with the primaries as part of our preparations for the general election,” he said.
Across town, Zanu PF is seeking to finalise the issue of election guidelines which have been a persistent headache and could widen rifts in the liberation war movement.
Rugare Gumbo, Zanu PF spokesperson, said if the party clears the hurdles on guidelines, then primary elections would be the next port of call in order to rush towards polls which the party insists will be held end of June, notwithstanding infeasibility of the timetable in the context of required processes.
“We are meeting tomorrow (today) to discuss the remaining issues about our guidelines and it is possible to complete the process tomorrow. After that, the stage would be set for primary elections and then elections,” said Gumbo.
In preparation for elections, Mugabe and his Zanu PF, who insist that elections would be held on June 29, have dispatched restructuring teams that have been touring provinces in an exercise that has so far claimed several casualties.
In Manicaland, the Mike Madiro led executive was disbanded while in Bulawayo the former guerrilla movement imposed Callistus Ndlovu as the chairperson much to the disgruntlement of the previous chairperson Killian Sibanda, who is now the vice chairperson.
Sensing that his bid for another five year term could be jeopardised by infighting, Mugabe has repeatedly called on his party members to unite.
But insiders say this is unlikely given the sharp differences and say Mugabe could go into the election with a campaign limping from internal dissent.
Mugabe has repeated pleas to party officials not to jump the gun, officials who include so-called young Turks, women and the old guard hoping to be repaid for years of loyalty have not stopped their campaigns.