The Zanu PF conference got off to a sluggish start in Mutare on Thursday amid reports party stalwarts were feuding over whether the country should hold elections next year.
Senior Zanu PF officials believe the country should not go for elections because this would upset the political stability and reverse the economic gains achieved under the shaky inclusive government.
Sources said although they did not openly oppose President Robert Mugabe during a marathon meeting held on Monday at Zanu PF headquarters in Harare, the general sentiment is against polls.
But there were indications that delegates could be whipped into line in support of President Mugabe’s stance.
President Mugabe has made it clear he wants elections next year because he is unhappy with the conduct of the other principals in the inclusive government. He accuses Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of undermining his authority by purportedly pandering to the whims of the West.
However, the MDC-T denies the accusations.
“All is not well because of serious differences over the issue of elections,” said one source.
The source said some Zanu PF stalwarts believe the party would lose to the MDC-T if elections were held next year.
The situation was compounded by serious logistical problems which resulted in funds for holding the conference being released on Wednesday evening.
The failure to release funds for the conference marked a change in the fortunes of Zanu PF, known to host congresses and conferences which are characterised by pomp and fanfare.
A delayed start to the conference gave further credence to the schisms in the political party around the timing of the next general elections.
The conference was full of surprises, starting with the holding of the central committee meeting in Harare whereas in the past it was held at the venue or close by.
Apart from holding the central committee meeting more than 260 kilometres away from the venue, this is the first time there were delays to the actual opening of the conference as delegates were expected to start arriving on Thursday.
But Didymus Mutasa, Zanu PF secretary for administration, played down the reported tensions between known factions saying the party decided to hold both the central committee and politburo meetings in Harare for logistical reasons.
“We decided to hold the central committee and politburo meetings in Harare and not in Mutare because it was more convenient,” said Mutasa.
“Logistically, all provinces are closer to Harare. There is no haggling in the party over elections. Zanu PF is a disciplined party.”
Charles Samuriwo, Zanu PF deputy spokesperson in Manicaland, said the inclusive government was an “unproductive” marriage and a “drain” on the nation.
“We got into the inclusive government because we thought it was going to work but it has proved otherwise as exposed by WikiLeaks,” said Samuriwo.
“WikiLeaks was just icing on the cake of what Zanu PF has always been saying about Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC. It’s nothing new. Tsvangirai has simply been exposed. We are going ahead with total control of our resources through indigenisation and empowerment.”
WikiLeaks is an online publication which publishes documents from anonymous news sources and leaks confidential information.
While Zanu PF has publicly been pushing for elections next year, fissures have emerged within the party as many are not sure if it would win polls less than 30 months after losing its absolute majority in Parliament to the MDC-T.
A source within the party said the delegates would have to provide for their breakfast and lunch as Zanu PF would only cater for dinner.
Zanu PF was running adverts in both the print and electronic media, advising delegates of the dates of the conference (December 15–18) but by yesterday, there was nothing at Marymount Teachers’ College, the venue of the indaba.
By Wednesday, construction and renovations were still underway.
Despite the hype about the conference, sources close to what is taking place said it was going to be a mere “talk show” to discuss what the party thought about the inclusive government.
Sources said some party stalwarts were agreed that the inclusive government had brought peace and tranquillity in the country and they wanted to fortify the status quo.
Pulling out of the inclusive government entails calling for early elections and sitting parliamentarians are uncertain of retaining their seats.
Even the party supporters themselves are against elections saying wounds from the bloody June 27 2008 presidential run-off had not yet healed.
This conference follows the district and provincial conferences held earlier before this week’s central committee and politburo meetings.
There was heavy police presence especially in the eastern parts of the city where Marymount Teachers’ College is located. Police were seen chasing commuters ordering them to use designated bus termini as they tried to clear the city of congestion in anticipation of the convergence of delegates.
Security personnel, especially those from the Closed Security Unit, were in Mutare as early as Tuesday with Munyaradzi Kajese, the Presidential Chief of Protocol, arriving on Wednesday.
There were few incidents when Zanu PF supporters, in party regalia, drove around the otherwise tranquil city singing and chanting party slogans.