Mugove Tafirenyika 11 July 2017
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe looks certain to ambush his rivals,
currently in sixes and sevens over coalition talks, through an early
proclamation of poll dates in order to catch them napping, the Daily News
With the opposition parties haggling over who should lead their mooted
grand coalition, Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have made considerable
progress in putting the building blocks for early 2018 elections, in which
the main highlight is likely to be the contest between MDC leader, Morgan
Tsvangirai, and the ageing veteran nationalist.
The Zanu PF youth league has since set the party’s campaign machine
rolling with the ongoing youth interface rallies attracting bumper crowds
for Mugabe, who want to extend his rule at the helm of government beyond
the current 37 years.
So far, the 93-year-old Zanu PF leader has addressed youths at
well-attended rallies in Marondera (Mashonaland East), Mutare (Manicaland)
and Masvingo. He will soon be taking the next leg of the youth interface
rallies to Matabeleland North, where he will address his storm troopers at
Somhlolo Stadium, in Lupane.
This comes as Zanu PF has also begun to revamp its administrative systems
through a restructuring of its grassroots organs to enhance their
vibrancy. The party’s secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, is
spearheading the exercise and has been moving around the provinces holding
workshops with provincial secretaries for administration and chairpersons.
Chombo has so far been to almost all the provinces, including Mashonaland
East, Manicaland and Mashonaland Central.
In his address to the Mashonaland West Provincial Coordinating Committee
(PCC) meeting, Chombo hinted that Mugabe could call for early polls,
calling on Zanu PF officials to stand ready for anything.
He said the party needed to conclusively deal with all pending
disciplinary cases to give it ample time to heal the wounds created by the
rifts over Mugabe’s succession.
“This is July and the President is not forced by anyone to declare
elections in June (2018). He can choose any date next year,” Chombo said.
“Let’s be ready, expecting that the elections may come in February or
March, which means we must be ready. We don’t want to be under pressure
and be caught unaware”.
Chombo called on factions that are battling for the soul of the party in
the event that Mugabe leaves the political stage to close ranks to ensure
“What the President said at the youth interface rallies should be taken to
heart by every member of Zanu PF. I am saying here that if you have been
in a faction, steer away from it,” he said.
With Mugabe turning 94 next year and showing signs of tiring and ill
health, Zanu PF has been sharply divided into two major antagonistic
camps, the Generation 40 (G40) believed to be fronted by politburo members
Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere on one side and Vice President
Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Team Lacoste on the other.
The G40 camp is rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa’s presidential ambitions
while Team Lacoste wants Mugabe to hand over power to the Midlands
godfather before elections.
Team Lacoste has the backing of the country’s liberation war veterans.
Mugabe’s call for unity ahead of elections has seen the lifting of
suspensions for several party cadres who had either been charged for
allegedly fanning factionalism or had votes of no confidence passed on
them for the same offence.
In Manicaland, for example, the regional leadership revoked a vote of no
confidence that had been passed on provincial chairperson Samuel Undenge –
an alleged G40 loyalist.
The same happened to dozens of ruling party cadres in Matabeleland
provinces who were in the same predicament as Undenge.
Other bigwigs whose cases are set to be fast-tracked for finalisation
include Kasukuwere and his half brother – Mashonaland Central provincial
chairperson Dickson Mafios – who stand accused of creating parallel
structures in their bid to grab power from Mugabe.
Highly-placed Zanu PF insiders revealed yesterday that while the
opposition parties were taking comfort in the fact that Zanu PF is
currently at war with itself over Mugabe’s succession, they could be in a
for rude awakening.
With credible opinion surveys released so far seemingly confirming Zanu
PF’s dominance over its rivals, Mugabe is seen calling for early polls.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said
it was only natural that ahead of an election the incumbent will
“strategically announce the dates.
Masunugure warned that if Mugabe’s rivals do not start campaigning now,
they will be caught flatfooted and will be in for a through beating come
“The opposition must expect the incumbent to only announce election dates
when it is convenient for him and when he thinks his rival are least
prepared,” Masunugure said.
“The opposition should have been ready as of yesterday but unfortunately
they are busy haggling about issues that do not matter to the electorate
so they will most likely be caught off-guard.
“The MDC, for example, has not yet woken up from the slumber that was
induced by their 2013 defeat and their structures don’t seem to be ready
for the job at hand, and that is tragic,” he added.
According to the Constitution, Zimbabwean elections cannot be held later
than August 21, 2018 when the life of the current term of Parliament comes
to an end.
Section 158 of the Constitution provides that “a general election must be
held so that polling takes place not more than 30 days before the expiry
of the five-year period specified in section 143”.
“The President must by proclamation call and set dates for a general
election to be held within the period prescribed in section 158,” the
This means that the election would, at the earliest, have to be held on
July 23, 2018 and the latest on August 21.
Constitutional lawyers canvassed by the Daily News yesterday said it was
still within Mugabe’s rights to hold the elections much earlier.
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said while Mugabe can proclaim dates any
time in 2018, much will depend on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s
“I don’t think Mugabe will proclaim election dates too early as to be
deemed as having ambushed his rivals because Zec may not be prepared to
hold the elections. Did they say they are ready now? I don’t think they
are,” Mandaza said.
“In any case, the president will have to dissolve Parliament first and
give 30 days’ notice, which makes it all complicated”.