HARARE – Government business will literally come to a halt as the who’s who in Zanu PF, including Cabinet ministers, abandon their stations this week to attend the party’s annual peoples’ conference in Gwanda.
The conference comes as the country battles shortages of fuel and medicines, among other things, due to the scarcity of foreign currency.
Amidst the crisis, prices of basic commodities and services have shot through the roof beyond what the majority poor can afford.
It also comes as succession demons have resurfaced, with the party’s senior officials locking horns over who should take over from President Emmerson Mnangagwa — a few months after the 76-year-old strongman won a hotly-disputed five-year mandate to lead the country.
Political observers have described the conference as nothing more than a platform for ruling party bigwigs to wine and dine while the majority of Zimbabweans continue to suffer.
Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst, said the Gwanda conference was nothing but a gathering of bigwigs planning to consolidate power.
“They will be more of merry-making rather than solving the current crisis,” he said, adding that politics is still looming large in Zanu PF despite Mnangagwa’s claims that priority was now on business.
“Less than six months after the election, president is now being nominated for the next election which is worse than (former president Robert) Mugabe. The country is facing economic crisis but Zanu PF is concentrating on who is going to become the next president. The outcome will not likely solve the crisis that Zimbabweans are facing,” added Masunungure.
Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said the conference will measure whether Zanu PF is now committed to solve the country’s problems or not.
“The conference will not solve the crises. The big question will be to see how the party articulates support for Mnangagwa’s reforms. Will the party show collective commitment beyond the usual choreographed fealty?” Pigou asked rhetorically.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said it is difficult to see viable solutions coming from Zanu PF due to greedy and endemic corruption that has become party of Zanu PF moral fabric and modus operandi.
“Innovative proposals to solve the political and economic woes are stifled by corruption, Zanu PF plunder and opaque culture. Unless there is political will for true transformation this meeting of bigwigs of the party is another of many useless talk shows,” he said.
Insiders say things were again not looking good in the ruling party, with a group that included some of Mnangagwa’s long-time loyalists starting a search for Mnangagwa’s successor.
This has angered other leaders of the party who want to deal with this matter at the conference.
There are some who also want the old Zanu PF guard — which includes other former Cabinet ministers who were shunted to the party’s headquarters after the July 30 elections to leave their positions at the conference.
Mnangagwa re-assigned these “chefs” to the party’s headquarters in a desperate bid to breathe new life in government and to strengthen the former liberation movement’s administration.
The Zanu PF leader’s idea was apparently to emulate the Chinese Communist Party’s model, which has also been adopted by South Africa’s African National Congress.
Another bone of contention in the ruling party is that top former army chiefs have occupied influential positions in the party, among them Constantino Chiwenga, who was retired from the army to take up the position of vice president and second secretary of the ruling party and government.
Sitting along with Chiwenga in the party’s supreme decision-making organ in-between congresses, the politburo, are decorated former army chiefs, retired Air Marshal Perrance Shiri and retired lieutenant general Sibusiso Moyo, who are committee members.
The party’s commissariat is now headed by retired lieutenant general Engelbert Rugeje, whose appointment was at the expense of Victor Matemadanda, the secretary-general of war veterans, who was stripped of that role at the ruling party’s extraordinary congress held last December.
The history of factionalism in Zanu PF is as old as the party itself.
Factionalism became more pronounced in the 1990s when Zanu PF was torn between factions loyal to Mnangagwa and retired army general Solomon Mujuru (now late).