The Zanu-PF Youth League Conference, which was scheduled to end yesterday, dragged well beyond midnight as delegates failed to agree on the best people to fill the posts of deputy secretary of the organ and its secretary for adminsitration.
By 1am Sunday, President Mugabe – who was expected to have addressed the conference closing earlier on Saturday – was still in a briefing getting an update on what was happening.
The conference was divided over the deputy secretary’s post with one side rooting for Kudzai Chipanga and another for Tongai Kasukuwere.
Varaidzo Mupunga and Lewis Mathuthu were both vying to become secretary for administration.
In 2009, top leadership posts in the organ were filled by consensus, and the precedent was applied when selecting other executive posts yesterday morning.
Matters, however, got to a head after delegates failed to agree on candidates for the top positions.
To broach the divide, the National Commissariat department headed by Webster Shamu subsequently arranged a vote, with thousands of delegates comprising district chairpersons, provincial as well as national executive members voting via secret ballot.
The process pushed back other programme items such as presentation of winners and President Mugabe’s closing address.
Kasukuwere’s and Chipanga’s supporters also provided different lists of their preferred officials to occupy the top 10 positions, further delaying the endorsement of candidates.
By 11pm, voting was still being conducted and by midnight the ballots had not yet been counted and President Mugabe, who had arrived earlier in the evening was in a briefing with the relevant party national and Youth League officials.
In all, ten posts were up for grabs.
Chipanga’s camp was rooting for Harare’s Mupunga (secretary for administration), Masvingo’s Yeukai Simbanegavi (finance), John Mushayi of Mashonaland East (political commissar), Bulawayo’s Mpe Malinga (external relations), Tungamirai Matonhodze from Mashonaland West (security), Matabeleland North’s Aleck Nyakuwara (transport) and Matabeleland South’s Evelyn Mpofu (information).
The camp would then fill the other two posts of secretary for legal affairs and indigenisation to be filled by their top two losing candidates for the other positions.
On the other hand, Kasukuwere’s camp was going for Mathuthu of Midlands (administration) and generally agreed with the Chipanga side on who should fill the other posts.
Cdes Chipanga and Kasukuwere were both upbeat that they would come out tops in their battle for the deputy secretary position.
Chipanga, who is also Makoni West legislator in the National Assembly, said: “This time around there was no consensus on the top positions; there was no other way except to go for elections.
“I think so far the elections have been conducted fairly, we expect the results to come out later in the night.”
Kasukuwere said the elections were conducted freely.
“The elections are going on well in a friendly environment,” he said. “But we are concerned with some of the voters who we believe are way above 50 years of age, who, we believe, were allowed to vote.
“But at the end of the day, we hope the party emerges stronger after the election.”
The ruling party caps participation in the Youth League at age 35, with the organ selecting its own deputy secretary and all other posts and President Mugabe appointing the secretary at the National Congress.
Absolom Sikhosana is the incumbent secretary and the National Congress will be held in December in Harare, but before that the Women’s League will hold its own conference to also elect its own officials. As with the Youth League, the women’s secretary is appointed at Congress.
Contacted for comment, Zanu-PF National Chairman Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo said the Youth League results would be announced last night.
“Certainly results will be announced tonight. Voting for the last province is currently taking place and we do not want to drag this process until tomorrow.
“I have actually been in touch with the President and I can confirm that he will come tonight.”
Earlier, Ambassador Khaya Moyo castigated factionalism and urged youths to elect their leadership on the basis of merit (see story on page 2).
Opening the conference on Friday, President Mugabe fumed about disorganisation in the event and warned of dire consequences for those implicated in the chaos come the National Congress in December.
This was after it emerged that some delegates did not have food and transport with some officials telling the President that the party did not have money to cater for these basic issues.
President Mugabe revealed that he and First Lady Amai Mugabe had to donate up to 30 head of cattle and milk from their farm to cater for the delegates.
“I am seeing all that is happening. But when it comes to Congress don’t cry … I cannot have a Central Committee or even a Politburo which is that inept,” President Mugabe said in reference to the administrative bungling.
The Youth League Conference, and the Women’s League event scheduled for the coming week, were always going to be tense affairs as officials posistion themselves ahead of December’s National Congress.
This tension has been in the context of reported factionalism in Zanu-PF related to the Presidential succession issue and pitting ruling party bigwigs against each other.
A resolution by both the Youth and Women’s leagues to have First Lady Amai Mugabe heading the latter organ come Congress has reportedly thrown the alleged factions into some state of disarray as some officials had not forseen this development.
The rammifications of such an appointment – which has precedence in late national hero Amai Sally Mugabe’s leadership of the Women’s League in the late 1980s and early 1990s – are intriguing.
Incumbent Women’s Secretary Oppah Muchinguri has been at the forefront of campaigning for her replacement.
Insiders say this means she will likely contest for a higher post, probably that of party Secretary for Administration which is currently occupied by Didymus Mutasa.
In turn, that means Mutasa will either choose to square off against Muchinguri or himself turn his sights higher to be National Chair as Khaya Moyo is tipped to go for one of the two Vice President posts.
However, going for the National Chair position could be problematic for Mutasa as there is an unwritten arrangement in Zanu-PF since the 1987 Unity Accord that the position goes to a member of the former Zapu.
Mutasa has in the past said he would be interested in the VP post or any other that members of the party nominate him for.
President Mugabe has said the people are the final arbiters on who who should occupy which post.
Analysts have said there are two schools of thought in the party on how a member rises through the ranks.
One says that Zanu-PF’s constitution should be strictly followed, with people naturally ascending by virtue of incumbency.
The other believes that such a linear approach does not best serve the interests of the party and that the values and principles that inform Zanu-PF’s constitution should be the uppermost consideration when nominating candidates for leadership.