The move is said to be meant to enhance the former liberation war party’s chances of overturning a combined victory by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations in the 2008 harmonised elections.
This comes as it emerged that the party’s election machinery has been oiled for a possible election this year despite apparent agitation for a national vote to be held after electoral and constitutional reforms expected to be completed next year.
ZANU-PF has already started laying the ground for possible primary elections before the end of August. This would be a month in advance of an expected referendum on the national constitution as agreed by principals to the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the document that culminated in the formation of the inclusive government and laid the ground rules for the democratisation of the country’s political arena.
The Financial Gazette can exclusively reveal that pressure has been brought to bear on the party’s old guard – blamed for weakening ZANU-PF by fanning internecine factional fights within the party’s rank and file – to pave way for new blood to revatilise and unify the fractious party ahead of make-or-break national polls.
The feeling among members of a crack team led by Retired Air Marshal Henry Muchena, appointed ZANU-PF director early this year, is that the socialist-leaning party has lost ground to rivals because of the imposition of tired political figures with nothing new to offer to an expectant electorate.
Muchena’s team is therefore determined to open the floodgates to young Turks that are impatiently skulking in the periphery for a chance on leadership positions.
ZANU-PF critics say the party’s major letdown has been its failure to renew itself by attracting young leaders to understudy the current crop of leaders and subsequently take over.
But there are also fears that the restructuring could widen the rift between the young Turks and the old guard if not handled properly. rom Page 1
Despite benefiting from the land reforms, most members of the old guard still survive on politics and are still to sort out their retirement plans, hence, they are unlikely to step aside without a fight.
Muchena’s team, whose brief is shrouded in secrecy even among some of the most senior members of the party, has assured President Mugabe that the primaries would this time around produce an outcome reflecting the will of the people.
ZANU-PF bigwigs claiming Godfather status in their respective provinces have been rebuked for undermining the party by imposing candidates against the will of the people and have been told to stay away from the primary election process to avoid embarrassment.
Insiders within the party said the message from Muchena’s team has been loud and clear: No one would be allowed to meddle in internal party elections after the current crop of leaders failed to secure President Mugabe victory in the 2008 elections.
President Mugabe lost to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in March, but the MDC-T leader failed to garner enough votes to be declared a winner, forcing a run-off in June that was won by the incumbent after the former trade unionist pulled out because of alleged violence against his supporters.
In the last election, the party witnessed a discrepant voting pattern that suggested factionalism had undermined the vote against the party’s Presidential candidate.
Sources indicated that the party’s election directorate has been placed on notice for possible primary elections to be superintended by Muchena’s team.
Muchena was seconded to the party headquarters early this year even before his resignation from the Air Force of Zimbabwe to contain factionalism, which has distressed President Mugabe, endorsed at the last congress as the party’s Presidential candidate in forthcoming elections.
Muchena, a veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation war, is working closely with a cabal of trusted retired and serving service chiefs to ensure that top provincial leaders are proscribed from interfering with the primary election process.
The move comes as hostilities between the army and former opposition leader, Prime Minister Tsvangirai, escalated, with the army insisting that President Mugabe should rule for life.
The military has already sounded early warnings that it would be going for broke to thwart any prospects for Tsvangirai in forthcoming polls, statements that have bolstered the MDC-T’s call for reforms within the security sector.
Tsvangirai, the MDC-T leader, admitted late last year that his party had failed to earn the recognition of the former fighters and the serving security chiefs despite guarantees of protection should his party assume power.
Top services chiefs have recently intensified their resistance against a possible MDC-T leadership in the country, with several of them making public pronouncements against the Prime Minister.
Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, who indicated in a recent interview with a weekly newspaper that President Mugabe should rule for life, described Tsvangirai as “a major security threat” in the country.
In a retaliatory attack, Tsvangirai told a party rally that Zimbabwe’s service chiefs were “day dreamers” and that they wanted to intimidate him out of the inclusive government so they could “call a snap election with no election guidelines and roadmap”.
“They (military) should stop scaring us and intimidating us with empty threats because we are not scared,” Tsvangirai said.
ZANU-PF secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, confirmed the party was seized with the issue of elections and that a Politburo meeting that was planned for yesterday to discuss the issue had been called off because of the absence of President Mugabe.
The Politburo is ZANU-PF’s decision-making body in-between congresses.
“It’s what we were going to discuss at the Politburo meeting, but we’ve not sat down because the Politburo meeting has been called off,” said Mutasa.
He indicated that once the Politburo discussed the issue of primary elections, it would be tabled immediately before the Central Committee and then the National Consultative Assembly. These meetings, said Mutasa, would be held “one after the other”.
“That resolution (not to impose candidates), was agreed at the ZANU-PF conference in Mutare in December,” said Mutasa.
The Central Committee is the policy-making organ of the party while the National Consultative Assembly comprises of members of the Central Committee, National Assembly of the Women’s League and their deputies, the 10 provincial executive councils and former members of the Central Committee on account of their contribution to the liberation struggle or development of the country after independence.
The assembly receives, hears and debates any major matters of policy as the President or the Central Committee from time to time determine. It also makes recommendations to the Central Committee on any matters of policy relating to the party or government.
It meets at least twice a year.
Rugare Gumbo, the party’s spokesperson, said he could not discuss issues that had not yet been tabled before the Politburo.
“We have not deliberated on that (primary elections) because the Politburo did not meet so I can’t comment,” said Gumbo.
ZANU-PF’s secretary for the commissariat, Webster Shamu, said he could not comment on the issue unless he is authorised to do so by Gumbo.