All set for Zanu PF conference

GWERU - It is all systems go for the long-awaited 13th Zanu PF national people’s conference that officially opens in Gweru tomorrow.

The run up to the conference has been a rocky road marked by uncomfortable questions about the source of the $6,5 million used to build the conference centre and bitter presidential succession battles, but indications from provincial elections held a few weeks ago are that President Robert Mugabe is the leader of choice.

Zanu PF sees the 13th conference as a watershed event — the crossroads that will consolidate Mugabe’s grip on Zimbabwean politics.

While largely retaining the ageing leadership, new and adapted social, political and economic policies are expected to be adopted.

These will chart the course of the organisation as it rolls out a campaign for the forthcoming crunch poll.

Right now though, all minds are focused on the logistics of the event, that has been dubbed the largest non-elective conference in the history of Zanu PF.

A large banner has been erected along the Harare-Gweru road announcing that “All roads lead to the Zanu PF conference.”

There will be at least 5 000 delegates in attendance, observers from allied organisations, local and international guests, support staff, service providers and dozens of national and international journalists covering the event.

The Daily News crew yesterday witnessed the presence of a large contingent of security personnel sweeping the venue to ensure the safety of the high profile delegates, including government ministers and foreign diplomats.

Security presence included the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, the police service, local municipal police and emergency and disaster service personnel Zanu PF has deployed dozens of trained marshals to act as guides, helping to usher delegates around the venue at the monstrous conference centre, which is perched about 10km outside Gweru along Mvuma Road.

The politburo, yesterday declared its satisfaction on the preparations.

However, work has not been completed on the erection of the main conference structures.

Large white tents have been pitched for the plenary venue, which seats 5 000 people; the dining area which can serve thousands at a time and various structures for support services.

An inspection of all the facilities has been completed, and these are ready for occupation by delegates, many of whom are already here.

Delegates received their accreditation yesterday, at the Cecil John Rhodes Primary School in the city centre.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said they were confident that all political preparations and logistical arrangements are in place for a productive and successful conference, one which will stand the organisation in good stead as it advances to the watershed 2013 poll.

The city of Gweru was completely unprepared for the invasion by delegates attending a conference seen as one of the biggest events in its recent history.

An entrepreneurial spirit has emerged, with lodges and restaurants sprouting up to accommodate the influx of visitors especially in high density suburbs such as Senga.

As a result of the high demand, accommodation in Gweru has rocketed, with rooms at lodges that were going for $25 shooting up to between $40 and $50 per night.

All hotels are fully booked.

All eyes will be focused on Gweru over the next four days for indications on the perpetuation of the same face of Zimbabwe’s political landscape. - Gift Phiri, Politics Editor

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