HARARE - President Robert Mugabe continues to play Russian roulette around the urgent question of his potential Zanu PF successor, stunning his party’s congress delegates yesterday by postponing to later this week the naming of the much-anticipated new politburo team and members of the party’s all-powerful presidium.
The wily nonagenarian, who has systematically suppressed all potential successors since Zimbabwe’s independence from the UK in April 1980, said he needed more time to go through the list of new central committee members from which he would choose the party’s politburo and his colleagues in the presidium — the two vice presidents, national chairperson and secretary for administration.
“I could not rush to choose people. I would want time to look at the new names, new people that have come in to the central committee and see which hands we could put to the politburo.
“So if the people shifted they should not cry foul, if they dropped out we say sorry, oh well and good bye, and there will be many goodbyes.
“We will set up the politburo next week. I haven’t studied the names.
I haven’t seen what the provinces gave us. I don’t want to rush it. So be patient. But mid next week by Wednesday or Thursday we will make an announcement.
“We will let you know. We cannot go far without it. We will choose two new vice presidents, the chairman and secretariat which will be presided over by the secretary.
“I don’t want to rush it so be patient... Only heads of department will constitute the politburo, deputies will remain in the central committee. We will do a reshuffle, there will be disappointments but we will try and avoid factions — those who were working in factions are out.
“I would also want to warn those in the central committee that if you are going to be chosen to the politburo, drop this nonsense about ‘these are my people’. I want you to learn from the troubles we have had. Trouble iyi yatiparadzanisa naanaMai Mujuru (the trouble that has separated us with the likes of Vice President Joice Mujuru),” Mugabe said.
He also underlined his continued appetite for the leadership of the party and the country by declaring boldly that he would be around for “as long as I am still sane”, with good memory, willpower and strength.
The only thing that was certain last night, is that the embattled Mujuru is now definitely out after Mugabe did not include her in his list of 10 presidential appointees to the party’s central committee.
Sources told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Mujuru and his children will today attend the burial of national hero Lloyd Dube at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
Also out in the political wilderness are Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, Labour minister Nicholas Goche, Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema, Postal Services minister Webster Shamu and Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire among many other hitherto heavyweights who are now effectively just ordinary card-carrying members — which puts their Cabinet posts in jeopardy.
This will be the first time since independence that Mujuru won’t be part of the senior leadership of the party and the Cabinet.
Perhaps ominously for Justice minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who many believe is in the pound seats to succeed Mujuru, and later Mugabe, the nonagenarian said no one who led or belonged to a faction would be appointed to a higher position.
A central committee member said last night that it was entirely unexpected and strange that Mugabe had not appointed the new members of the politburo and the presidium as traditionally this was done during congress.
“This is very confusing. It’s also the first time, if my memory serves me right, that the presidium has not been either elected or appointed at congress.
“Maybe President Mugabe is not happy with the calibre of those who were gunning for the top post, which could mean that we may be in for a surprise later this week.
“If Mugabe wanted Mnangagwa as his deputy, why didn’t he appoint him there and then?” the central committee member said.
Another senior party official said the congress was in effect “a wasted week” as only two people had been confirmed to the politburo — Mugabe and his wife Grace — which proved that “the First Family are the only ones worthy of holding office in Zanu PF”.
“What was also disappointing is the fact that we had months of incessant attacks and abuse of a sitting Vice President by State media, accompanied by a raft of trumped up charges, yet no final determination on her fate was made.
“Add to all this the fact that we are departing congress without a clue as to who will succeed Mugabe, who will be 95-years-old when we gather again at the next congress, and you can imagine the disappointment for some of us.
“Finally, nothing constructive was decided on the economy that remains stuck in the doldrums and is ‘bleeding jobs like confetti’, while more than 12 000 ruling party elites feasted on caviar and champagne all week,” the miffed senior official said.
Delivering his closing remarks at the end of the party’s damb squib “elective” congress, Mugabe, however, made it clear that he would replace Mujuru and former secretary for administration Mutasa mid week, while former chairman Simon Khaya Moyo’s political career is also on the line.
“Some have already chosen through their own irregular acts to bid us farewell. Those who are not here have said good bye,” Mugabe said, in reference to Mujuru and her allies.
“I don’t see us having them back in the central committee. We are not sending them away except for those who we expelled.
“Those we didn’t expel we get them out of the central committee, out of the management of the provinces and they become ordinary card-carrying members.
“They will not have been dismissed or expelled. So they will become ordinary members. They will have more time to do their farming, to grow maize and potatoes but if they choose to be members of the party they must start to learn what Zanu is and what it is to be a Zanu PF member,” Mugabe added.
“I’ve just been told that the people of Marondera are complaining that the people we appointed into the central committee are (Ray) Kaukonde’s people. We will remove them.
“Go back to Marondera and choose those you think are the best. We will even second senior party officials. You must sit down and re-do the exercise. Kaukonde ran away to South Africa, he is no longer here,” Mugabe claimed derisively.
Mugabe also took a dig at Shamu and Mutasa, saying they had failed to properly run the commissariat and secretariat respectively.
“There is an issue of lack of real planning in our management circles.
There is lack of systems, a dire lack of systems in our management,” he said
“The department that should do that secretariat, our main administrative body, was so chaotic, is so chaotic.
“The commissariat doesn’t seem to know what to do and what not to do, touching this and touching that, and at the end of the day as you are touching almost everything you find that the thing that you touched is nothing.
“There is nothing that you handled well. You touched this, you touched that and what you did is nothing. There is nothing. We do not want to have that.
“Now we don’t want to rush to establish departments. Some of the departments yes will continue but actual to choose people. I could not rush to choose people,” Mugabe said.