HARARE - President Robert Mugabe is struggling to contain serious power struggles within Zanu PF which have reached a tipping point following chaotic provincial elections.
The 89-year-old last week met with senior party officials in a bid to resolve the fall-out between factions battling to succeed him.
The meeting was held at Zimbabwe House.
The veteran leader was briefed of the irregularities and chaotic manner in which Zanu PF provincial elections were held in three provinces.
A faction led by Vice President Joice Mujuru was accused of cheating and vote-buying in the polls, a charge the faction strenuously denies.
Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, are front-runners in the race to succeed Mugabe but both deny leading any factions.
Provincial elections were held in Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland Central where John Mvundura, Jason Machaya and Luke Mushore were respectively declared winners, amidst accusations of vote-rigging through the use of fake voting slips.
Mugabe was briefed of the events in Mashonaland Central where six districts did not vote.
Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema, who was the presiding officer in the hotly-disputed election, was yet to give his report when the Mashonaland Central results were announced on radio.
Citing irregularities and the outstanding vote in those six districts, senior Zanu PF officials recommended the nullification of the results.
The State media, in particular, the Herald, ran a billboard announcing Mugabe had nullified the results. However, the story was not reported in its news pages.
Mugabe was said to be still digesting the Mashonaland Central report during his visit to the Far East.
“(The) politburo has not as yet received results from Mashonaland Central province. Equally, the politburo is still to receive a report which accompanies the same," Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba told the media.
“It is only when the politburo has been favoured with both the results and the accompanying report that it is in a position to study both before taking a decision.”
To underline the extent of the chaos, Rugare Gumbo, Zanu PF secretary for information and publicity, contradicted an instruction given by Mugabe to his spokesperson, Charamba, to advise the media that the politburo was still to receive results of the Mashonaland Central provincial elections.
In a statement issued on Friday, Information minister Jonathan Moyo advised that the president’s directive as conveyed through Charamba was the correct and only official position regarding the status of the results of the Zanu PF elections for the provincial executive in Mashonaland Central.
“There can be no executive authority in Zanu PF higher than the party’s President and First Secretary,” said the statement. “Any suggestion or claim to the contrary is mischievous to the extreme.”
But Didymus Mutasa, secretary for administration, who has been accused of fanning divisions by his rivals, appeared to suggest Mashonaland Central results stand.
Mutasa said the Herald was not always right and does not speak on behalf of the party.
He said all announcements were made through party spokesperson Gumbo, dismissing assertions that elections in Mashonaland Central had been nullified.
Tensions are simmering in the province and top Zanu PF officials who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday said they have beefed up their security.
“People have reasons to be scared and have thus beefed up their security as they fear the worst. I have personally increased the number of my bodyguards,” said one official.
To further complicate things, Zanu PF has set up an ad-hoc committee to supervise the party’s remaining seven provincial elections, after the vote was sullied by fraud allegations.
Simon Khaya-Moyo, Zanu PF national chairman, told a news conference at the party headquarters that the seven provinces will vote on November 23.
“The vice president and second secretary Joice Mujuru chairs the committee with the national chairman Simon Khaya-Moyo, secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, and the secretary for commissariat Webster Shamu, as members,” Khaya-Moyo said.
The committee, ironically, is the one that is accused of organising the disputed polls on the provinces that have held elections so far.
Provincial elections are due in Harare, Bulawayo, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South.
“Politburo members and members of the central committee will be deployed from the party headquarters to supervise the elections,” Khaya-Moyo said.
Provincial team leaders are ministers Ignatius Chombo, Obert Mpofu, Dzikamai Mavhaire, Nicholas Goche, Sydney Sekeramayi, David Parirenyatwa and politburo member Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.
Zanu PF holds an elective congress in December 2014 where Mugabe’s successor is likely to emerge. Members of the provincial executive play a pivotal role in the election of members of the presidium.
According to Zanu PF’s constitution, an endorsement for any of the presidium positions which includes the president, first and second vice president and national chairperson, requires six out of 10 provinces.
Mujuru, who has publicly said she was ready to succeed Mugabe, has an edge over Mnangagwa in the current setup.
If Mugabe were to leave office, retire or be incapacitated, Mujuru, according to the new Constitution, will complete Mugabe’s term.
While she can complete Mugabe’s term, the party at either an extraordinary congress or congress, can elect a new leader who might not necessarily be Mujuru.
The provincial chairmen and their executives are key to securing presidential aspirants victory at the congress.
So far there are no concrete indications that the election results in the Midlands, Manicaland and Mashonaland Central will stand.
Monica Mutsvangwa and Larry Mavhima, who both lost controversially in the two polls respectively, have appealed against the outcome.
Mavhima and Dickson Mafios’ grievances are similar, with both complaining that some wards did not vote.
This is the second time that Zanu PF has violated its standing rules guiding the conduct of its elections.
In June, the party held chaotic primary elections which were not completed in one day as stipulated in its rule book.
Zanu PF has been forced to bend its rules to hold staggered elections when traditionally all the elections have been held simultaneously.