They said intense and often cut throat manoeuvring was taking place behind the scenes ahead of the conference as factions led by Vice President Joice Mujuru and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, as well as a host of party functionaries, move to position themselves for life after the 87-year-old Zimbabwean leader.
An increasingly Mugabe will be using the conference to confirm his candidature in presidential elections expected in 2013. But, according to South African-based thinktank, Southern Africa Report, Mugabe’s failing health is rapidly eroding his options and could prove decisive during the forthcoming conference.
Waiting in the wings
It said the ageing leader, who is said to be suffering from prostate cancer, was no longer his old energetic self and tires easily.
He allegedly chaired a regular Cabinet meeting in October for just 20 minutes before dozing off. And last month he resumed his regular visits to Singapore, where he has, in the past, received treatment for prostate cancer and renal complications.
“The relative silence ahead of this year’s conference, in sharp contrast to the usual chorus of endorsements of Mugabe, indicates the extent to which party functionaries among the 6 000 delegates are looking beyond his tenure,” the thinktank said.
Mugabe has flirted with the idea of transforming the non-elective conference into a mini-congress, “implying that it will include an elective component”.
The thinktank said Mugabe plans to pre-empt both Mujuru and Mnangagwa by invoking Article 6 of the Zanu (PF) constitution to have the conference “declare the president of the party elected at the congress as the presidential candidate of the party”.
Depending on the delegate strength Mujuru or Mnangagwa can marshal, Mugabe hopes to avoid a conference endorsement of either as vice-president.
A veteran of countless challenges to his leadership dating back to his brutal years in Mozambique, Mugabe hopes to continue to play the rivals off against each other until he is ready to nominate his successor.
Since the publication, through WikiLeaks, of a dossier of US Harare embassy cables demonstrated the extent to which Zanu (PF) members were confiding in the “imperialist enemy”, Mugabe has been even more reluctant than in the past to put his faith in any of his potential successors.
Upgrading the conference
Both Mujuru and Mnangagwa are, meanwhile, lobbying to have delegates vote to upgrade the conference to an elective congress (which constitutionally only takes place every five years).
Either way, Mnangagwa hopes to use the congress to regain ground lost to Mujuru at the 2004 and 2009 congresses, ideally replacing her with Women’s League leader Oppah Muchinguri. His supporters have been at pains to emphasise their lobbying is not directed at Mugabe himself, but only at Mujuru.
Mujuru’s power base has, however, been bolstered by a sympathy vote following the death of her husband, Solomon Mujuru in a mysterious fire in August.Post published in: News