HARARE – Warring factions in President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF will try to overcome crippling feuds and plot a more coherent strategy at a conference that opens in Chinhoyi this week, officials said yesterday.
However, the party’ failure to agree on the contentious outcome of provincial elections mired by charges of ballot fraud has increased doubts about their ability to overcome the deep divisions, frustrating internal efforts to close ranks and unite the fractured movement.
The meeting is provisionally set for Friday and Saturday and will come just after divisive provincial executive elections that saw Vice President Joice Mujuru vanquishing her rival Emmerson Mnangagwa faction, clinching eight of the 10 provinces.
Both factions are preparing for a takeover in the 2014 congress, but administration secretary Didymus Mutasa has said Mugabe has a right to seek re-election in the 2018 vote given that a new Constitution gives him a wide berth to run for two, fresh five-year terms.
Rugare Gumbo, the Zanu PF spokesman, told the Daily News that he has high hopes for the conference and said the party was going to the annual conclave united.
The revolutionary party’s “14th Annual National People’s Conference” officially started yesterday with a politburo meeting in Harare that started as soon as President Robert Mugabe arrived from South Africa where he attended the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, described at one time as the world’s most famous political prisoner released after 27 years in jail in 1990 and went on to become South Africa’s first black president.
He died last Thursday aged 95.
The Central Committee is scheduled to meet today.
Ahead of the conference, Zanu PF has been plagued by bruising faction battles which saw provincial elections blighted by violence, voter registration irregularities and logistical challenges.
But Gumbo told the Daily News that the party was going to Chinhoyi as one big family.
Quizzed on whether the irregularities and controversies that punctuated the provincial elections will not result in a contentious conference, Gumbo said the party’s highest decision-making body in between congresses, the politburo, had resolved the matter.
“Issues of provincial elections and controversies pinned on them are now over,” Gumbo told the Daily News.
“We are going to Chinhoyi peacefully, as one big party to discuss the way forward for the party.”
Discussions at the conference will centre on familiarising with the ruling party’s new economic blueprint Zim Asset, which proposes a cocktail of measures to revive the economy, including borrowing money from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, a group of large emerging market nations collectively known as Brics, and setting up a sovereign wealth fund.
ZimAsset also looks at the sale of bonds, securitisatin of remittances, re-engagement with international finance institutions and the creation of special economic zones.
“My government has formulated a new plan,” Mugabe, 89, said in the foreword to the 129-page document, which details a five-year plan stretching to 2018 for the economy.
The plan is designed to “enable Zimbabwe to achieve economic growth and re-position the country as one of the strongest economies in the region and Africa.”
Mugabe, who won a July 31 vote to extend his 33 years in power, is struggling to breathe new life into an economy that contracted by 40 percent between 2000 and 2008 after a controversial agrarian revolution that slashed exports, and skyrocketed inflation to record highs and strained relations with the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral financial institutions.
The conference will also seek to fill the post of Vice President post, left vacant after the death of John Landa Nkomo in January.
The 78-year-old Nkomo died after a long battle with cancer and the vacancy in the presidium has intensified jockeying for his post in a battle allegedly pitting current chairman and senior minister Simon Khaya-Moyo and resourced dark horse Obert Mpofu.
Khaya-Moyo is a clear favourite, and the conference will present an opportunity for his “coronation”, according to authoritative party sources.
Gumbo said people should stop speculating on the VP as the appointment was the sole prerogative of Mugabe.