PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is expected to use today’s Zanu PF politburo meeting to quash manoeuvres by a clique in his party lobbying to turn the forthcoming national conference into a special congress in a desperate bid to stop his candidacy.
Report by Everson Mushava
Sources yesterday said strong opposition is building against Mugabe, who railroaded Zanu PF into endorsing his candidacy in presidential elections set for March next year at the party’s previous two conferences held in Mutare and Bulawayo.
Those pushing for a special congress in Gweru next month want the 88-year-old veteran politician to be removed as party leader and candidate in the crucial polls arguing that he is no longer marketable.
Mugabe weathered a similar storm on the eve of the March 2008 elections when Zanu PF factions pushed former Financeminister Simba Makoni to challenge him at the December 2007 party congress.
Makoni pulled out of Zanu PF to challenge the long-serving ruler in the 2008 elections after Mugabe refused to step down at the congress.
He was backed by fellow politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa who went on to spearhead his presidential campaign in Matabeleland. There were reports that other party heavyweights such as the late army general Solomon Mujuru secretly backed Makoni only to chicken out at the 11th hour.
According to sources, consensus is building in Zanu PF that Mugabe no longer has the stamina to face candidates such as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T), Welshman Ncube (MDC) and Makoni in next year’s polls.
“A group of the party’s old guard wants the conference to be turned into an elective congress since this would be the last conference before elections,” one of the sources said.
“When the commissariat is calling for an end to imposition of candidates, this must also include Mugabe.”
But the sources expect Mugabe to use his powers to thwart the moves to remove him at the conference next month.
The politburo is also expected to come up with dates and a theme for this year’s conference. A heated discussion is expected on new regulations for primary elections, amid reports that the old guard is trying to frustrate aspiring candidates by delaying the process.
The sources warned that if Mugabe managed to block the special congress, he would face a repeat of the 2008 embarrassment where Zanu PF candidates openly decampaigned him ahead of the polls.
In what became known as Bhora Musango, the Zanu PF candidates only campaigned for themselves and told their supporters to vote for a candidate of their choice in the presidential race.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said those pushing for the special congress were ignorant of the party’s rules.
“We are going to hold the conference and if we are going to hold any congress, it will be after the Gweru conference,” he said.
However, Gumbo said reports of opposition to Mugabe’s candidacy were being spread by Zanu PF’s enemies.
“It is not for individuals to decide, but for the people,” he said.
“I think it’s mere rumour or propaganda from the MDC to destabilise the party.”
Mugabe has been at the helm of Zanu PF since the 1960s and is now one of the longest serving African leaders as he came to power in 1980 at Zimbabwe’s independence.