Zanu PF bigwigs lock horns

HARARE - Daggers are out ahead in today’s politburo meeting, with Zanu PF top guns angling to influence rules for primary elections which are set to inflict further bruises to President Robert Mugabe’s bid to unite warring factions.

Insiders told the Daily News that the meeting, to be held today primarily to set rules for primary elections to select party candidates for the upcoming general election, could end inconclusively because of deep-rooted divisions on how to proceed.

Mugabe has already secured the ticket to represent the party as its presidential candidate.

But his bid to overturn a March 2008 defeat at the hands of rival-turned-coalition partner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai hinges on ending divisions rocking Zanu PF.

Yet, today’s meeting could serve to confirm that Zanu PF, which single-handedly ruled the country from 1980 to 2009 when Tsvangirai and the MDC’s electoral gains forced a coalition, is in tatters.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed today’s meeting.

“The politburo will definitely be there tomorrow,” Gumbo said.

The meeting was called off at the last minute last week amid reports of backroom deals between faction leaders, but party insiders say a consensus has to be reached today.

Zanu PF sources say the politburo was initially expected to meet on April 5 to discuss primary elections to select candidates for the general election, but the meeting was deferred because of rising turbulence in the party.

Zanu PF is caught in a political storm accompanied by threats by some of its senior members to break away and run as independent candidates if they fail to secure nomination at the primary polls.

The Daily News understands there are two contrasting proposals for primary poll rules, with administration secretary Didymus Mutasa suggesting that primaries must be open only to members of provincial executives, national consultative assembly and the central committee over the age of 40.

Insiders say party secretary for legal affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa is proposing that anyone who has served the party for a cumulative  five years be eligible to stand regardless of their age or station in the party.

There are proposals that incumbent members who did not meet the above criteria and had no disciplinary cases against them were also eligible to stand.

Insiders say given the new constitutional rules reserving 60 seats for women, the ruling party is proposing reserving one-third of the constituencies for women.

If the rules are set, aspiring candidates will then submit their applications for vetting and approval and only then can primary election campaigns start.

Zanu PF insiders told the Daily News yesterday that there was already fierce jockeying with aspiring legislators canvassing for support ahead of primaries for legislative elections President Mugabe wants in June.

Indications were that politburo, central committee and consultative assembly members outside Parliament would be given first priority in the selection of candidates to represent the party.

Mugabe himself is confronted with a major challenge of managing the delicate balance of rewarding allies and identifying the best candidates for elective positions.

Meanwhile, senior officers in the army, police and air force are also seeking to stand on a Zanu PF ticket in the forthcoming parliamentary elections in huge numbers — the first such move since independence in 1980.

Many fear the exercise may be a mere window dressing exercise as nomination tickets for certain slots may already have been handed to certain individuals.

The primaries, tentatively scheduled for this month, will be a key test for Zanu PF’s internal democracy.

Consensus is required at today’s meeting, party insiders say, and protagonists will need to forge compromise, and could be a step toward reining in warring factions.

Another strong signal will be whether the new line-up includes candidates with the strongest track record and who could spearhead the much-needed internal political reform.

The insiders said the politburo and the central committee meetings were also expected to deliberate on the party’s election manifesto that touches on land, indigenisation and empowerment, health, education and ways to uplift the youth.

A report would be presented before the two organs to highlight the state of the party, the restructuring of lower structures and criteria to be used in the nomination of candidates in primary elections, said the source.

An electronic membership card will also be launched in a move aimed at increasing transparency in the democratic processes and “plugging loopholes on the Zanu PF data base.”

Party insiders said the forthcoming primaries had the potential to further drive a wedge within the faction-riddled party, with so-called young Turks pushing for a clean out of a bunch of geriatrics in the name of “generational change”.

The attempt to get rid of the old guard could break many traditions in the party, including paying respect to elder leaders.

Critics say Mugabe has surrounded himself mostly with mediocrities, valuing loyalty over competence. The so-called “Generation 40” wants that to change this.

Party insiders also said so sharp were differences within Zanu PF that in some areas like Mashonaland West provinces there are as many as 12 cadres vying to represent the ruling party in one seat.

However, given the divisive nature of the primary elections and mounting fears of a repeat of the so-called “bhora musango” strategy, there are also suggestions that aspiring legislators be elected through consensus at district and provincial levels before their names are submitted to the national elections directorate.

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