Crunch Zanu PF meeting today

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF, which has been spoiling for elections ahead of the full implementation of agreed reforms, will today hold a crunch Politburo meeting where rules governing its stalled primary elections are likely to take centre stage.

This comes as Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the octogenarian leader must call for polls by July 31 and the key election date, and timing issue, has caused serious strife in the government of national unity, in a development that has also sucked in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

On Tuesday, Zanu PF heavyweights Rugare Gumbo and party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa gave a clear affirmation that the issue of primary elections, among other key issues, would take centre stage, but insisted this was an internal matter.

“We are certainly going to discuss… how we are going to handle the primary elections,” Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday.

However, party insiders said a highly-charged and dramatic gathering was in the offing as the ex-liberation movement battles factional-driven fights around the criterion, and choice of certain characters for its primary elections.

As it is, reports that Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s party legal committee has recommended that acceptable candidates must have “consistently served” the party for five years, be 40 years-plus in age and a host of other requirements have proven to be divisive, as some people perceive this is a war against the so-called Young Turks.

Already, speculation is rife that people like Tsholotsho North Member of Parliament and serial political flip-flopper Jonathan Moyo may be affected by these regulations.

On the other hand, a march by some serving and retired security men as well as the preservation of certain seats for women — under an envisaged quota system — has also proven to be points of hot discussion.

“Given the circumstances we are in, there is no way (we) can afford not to look at the issue of primary elections and how they are going to be held considering women’s representation, which the party considers important,” said one source, who indicated that different factions were also coming up with various proposals to be debated today.

He warned, though, that Zanu PF was critically racing against time and the point rings true considering the court deadline is drawing close, and shambolic state of its structures.

As it is, Zanu PF has somehow “ducked” a broader and Sadc-led meeting in Mozambique to discuss the Zimbabwe election issue, especially in terms of its funding and preparations thereof.

Another insider said they were bracing for another night of “long knives” as the party has previously failed to have fruitful outcomes out of its lengthy meetings.

With an increase in internal fighting, the Zanu PF Politburo — the highest decision-making body between congresses — has had to shelve no less than three meetings after failing to agree on certain issues pertaining to the election.

Besides the sabre-rattling around fresh polls — given impetus by Centre for Elections and Democracy in Southern Africa director Jealousy Mawarire’s May 31 court victory — the ex-majority party is locked in a mortal combat with its coalition government partners led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, and other forces.

Although Mugabe and his hierarchy have instructed people to stop campaigning until an official announcement on the primary election dates has been made, many aspiring individuals remain undeterred — a development that has escalated party infighting ahead of the make-or-break harmonised polls.

Buoyed by the 60-seat quota provided for in the new Constitution, the party’s Women’s League is demanding safe seats for its members, while dozens of current and retired soldiers, and police officers are also vying for power on a Zanu PF ticket, thus setting the stage for a volatile meeting.

Also today, the Politburo is expected to flesh out a proposal by a cabal of ambitious youngsters coalescing under the banner of “Generation 40” to retire the old guard — another point of a bruising battle in the faction-riddled party.

Apart from spelling out who qualifies for primaries and subsequently Parliament in the impending elections, the meeting is also expected to adopt criteria for the vetting and approval of candidates for the crucial primary poll. - Fungi Kwaramba and Mugove Tafirenyika

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