President Robert Mugabe still maintains a tight grip over Zanu PF and singlehandedly dictates the direction and pace the party follows despite his advanced age, if events at the just-ended conference were anything to go by.
President Mugabe will turn 87 in two months, but despite his age, he presented a robust and alert appearance as he last week stirred his party’s two-day conference in Mutare.
He took the opportunity to silence critics within his party when he declared the country would hold elections next year.
This was despite reports some within his inner circle were resisting the move to go to the polls.
Some Zanu PF stalwarts argued holding elections soon could upset political stability and adversely affect economic recovery.
The Zanu PF first secretary and president warned those who dared deviate from resolutions made at the conference, saying similar machinations resulted in him losing the 2008 presidential election.
His threats to seize companies owned by British nationals did not go down well with some from within his inner circle who however spoke in undertones.
“These threats will negatively affect the flow of direct foreign investment which we desperately want,” said one senior Zanu PF official from Harare Province.
President Mugabe said Zimbabwe would this time retaliate and impose restrictive measures against British interests in the country.
Some of the measures will include barring British investment in the country and taking over existing interests.
“If we take a decision let’s not hear anybody opposing that decision. You have to accept what the majority of the people have decided,” President Mugabe warned.
Indeed all the 4 335 delegates, who included bigwigs opposed to elections, remained silent. There was no debate on the issue.
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha believes the President was abusing systems within Zanu PF and manipulating his colleagues in his favour.
“(President) Mugabe is definitely a very powerful figure in Zanu PF. He is very much in control of political processes as they occur in Zanu PF especially when they relate to issues of power and the utilisation of power in the country,” said Zhangazha.
“The second key aspect is that Zanu PF functions on an understanding of the principle of collective responsibility. That means once a decision has been made, regardless of the differences before that decision was made, they will all rally in support of the decision.”
Zhangazha said such systems within Zanu PF were deliberately put in place to ensure anybody who dare challenge the collective decisions would either be pushed out or would quit the party.
Another political analyst, Charity Manyeruke, said while President Mugabe’s continued hold on power was being bolstered because his lieutenants have invested a lot in him there was need for reforms within Zanu PF to allow younger leaders to come to the fore.
Manyeruke said President Mugabe was trusted largely because of his stance which “promotes our identity”.
“What people see in Mugabe is that ability to bring this (national identity) to Zimbabweans. (President) Mugabe has promoted Pan-Africanism from day one.
Young people get lost in the global world. What they want is to be accommodated in political parties,” said Manyeruke, a University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer.
But as President Mugabe appears to have cowed his critics from within his party he remains cautious, perhaps fearing a repeat of the March 29 poll.