Zanu PF's defining moment

HARARE - They could easily have been summed up as madcap days – February 11 and 13, 2009.

President Robert Mugabe, on February 11, 2009, swore in longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister and Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe as his deputies.

Two days later, Mugabe announced Zimbabwe’s first-ever coalition government by swearing in ministers drawn from Zanu PF and the two formations of the MDC.

For 28 years, Zanu PF had an unflappable rule which was brutally brought to an end by its failure to perform in the 2008 general and presidential elections.

And Mugabe’s birthday celebrations were dampened by supping and dining with the “devil” — having to share power with the opposition he had often addressed in disparaging terms and dismissed as no-hoppers.

But tomorrow, as Zanu PF officially kicks off its conference in Gweru, Mugabe and his colleagues will be putting in motion a strategy to reclaim power and return to the “good old days”.

Secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa has declared: “It’s a defining conference. It’s a conference that leads to watershed elections and we are well-prepared to discuss pertaining to that.”

The 13th Annual People’s Conference, gives the liberation movement the last chance to redeem itself after a pathetic performance in 2008.

“All preparations have to be made now. We do not need to have an election trump card now because whatever we have done in the past has been our trump card.

“The land is now in the hands our people. We are now looking to indigenise the economy. In the past, no black would own gold, silver and platinum.

“All these are now owned by our people. We are, therefore, creating jobs because all these mines (participating in empowerment programmes such as share ownership trusts) have minerals,” said Mutasa.

Zanu PF’s land reform and empowerment policies are seen as potential game-changers in the forthcoming elections as recent surveys suggested.

Surveys by the United States think tank — Freedom House and one by Afrobarometer — showed Zanu PF support surging at the expense of the MDC.

The Freedom House survey showed a decline in the mainstream MDC’s support base,  decreasing from 38 percent to 19 percent in 2012.

Zanu PF base grew to 31 percent from 17 percent during the same period on the back of “clearly enunciated policies of land reform, indigenisation and preventing foreign interference in Zimbabwe”.

“The survey results clearly show Zanu PF has crafted for itself a number of effective election and party choice platforms,” reads the survey.

Again, the Afrobarometer survey showed a sharp decrease in the Tsvangirai-led MDC’s support, plunging from 57 percent to 31 percent at a time Zanu PF’s rose from 10 percent to 31 percent.

This was in comparison to the 2008 survey.

It concluded that Mugabe, if Zimbabwe were to hold an imminent election, would garner 32 percent ahead of Tsvangirai on 31 percent.

But Mutasa said the party’s conference seeks to come up with an economic blueprint that would not only target employment creation but create conditions for sustenance of investment programmes.

The mainstream MDC last Thursday unveiled its economic plan which it says will create one million jobs and a $100 billion economy.

The blueprint — Jobs, Upliftment, Investment, Capital and Environment plan (Juice) will be at the centre of its election campaign.

Without a doubt, both parties will use the job creation as a drawcard in the watershed elections although Zanu PF needs to do more to lure disgruntled unemployed youths who see reason to go for Juice.

The unemployment rate is said to be 95 percent although national statistic agency — Zimstats says it is 10,7 percent according to its own methodology.

Zanu PF’s theme for its conference is “Indigenise, Empower, Develop and Create Employment”, which the MDC says was stolen from its Juice economic plan.  Mutasa, however said Zanu PF’s aim is not only centred on creating a specific number of jobs.

 “It should not be about creating a million jobs but all jobs in the country. We should be able to say in every sector, we created that job. We are poised to do that.”

Issues set to dominate the conference include the state of the economy, rules for primary elections, the constitution-making process and the elections.

Mutasa declared Zanu PF would stick to its demands in the new Constitution and key among them was to protect Mugabe’s powers.

‘The situation for us remains the same. We trust our president so much that we give him a carte blanche. Copac this Copac that is not our business, our position is clear,” Mutasa told the Daily News.

The crafty Mugabe appears to have pulled wool over the faces of his rivals in the two MDC formations by persuading them to agree to his plan of appointing a Cabinet committee to look at the draft constitution, instead of having Copac table it before Parliament.

Zanu PF is seriously opposed to devolution of power, the running mate clause and wants the presidential powers to remain intact.

The running mate clause has been viewed with suspicion by ardent Mugabe loyalists who felt it was inserted to try and resolve the hot succession issue.

Mutasa went ballistic as he sought to downplay the fractious nature of his party.

“That’s nonsense, I don’t understand what you mean. We are a united party, why should other parties want to say we are fractured?

“Why does it matter to them, anyway? We don’t mind MDC’s business because we are minding our own — by having baba Mugabe as our leader,” said Mutasa.

Factionalism has been Zanu PF’s biggest headache. Observers say the unresolved succession issue has bred factionalism to the extent of undermining its performance in the last elections.

While Mutasa said the issue of succession is closed and is not going to be discussed at the conference, the 2007 conference showed sharp divisions which led to Mugabe’s defeat in the March 2008 poll.

Quarrelling among factions which extended to the war veterans, led to the exit of Simba Makoni who went on to compete against Mugabe.

Makoni had the blessing of key Zanu PF figures, including the late decorated war hero, Solomon Tapfumaneyi Mujuru, according to former politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa, who also left the party to lead Zapu.

The former Finance minister failed in his bid to dislodge Mugabe but helped him by splitting the votes to force a run-off which Tsvangirai pulled out of when it became violent.

There has been no signs in the run up to the conference that the succession issue will come up.

“There is trust in President Mugabe that he can deliver the election.

“I don’t know why you keep talking up the succession issue.

“As a party, what we have learned is that all these parties (two MDC formations) didn’t understand our president. Now they understand there is no leader in Zimbabwe who is greater than president Mugabe. The MDCs respect the president”.

Mutasa maintained that the Zanu PF hierarchical structure was clear on leadership and other suggestions remained a mirage to those pushing their “luck”.

Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and vice president Joice Mujuru have long been touted as potential Mugabe successors and repeatedly mentioned as leading factions.

They both deny leading any factions and publicly, have thrown their weight behind the octogenarian leader.

Whatever the conference decides, Zanu PF knows there is no room for error because the MDC believes it has the people’s support to form its own government.

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