As Zanu (PF) faces unprecedented disputes over its future leadership, Youth Development Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, has been laying the groundwork for young people to be recruited, ostensibly for lessons in patriotism and nationhood.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC has backed the plan, saying it is a provision of the GPA.
The announcement last week was taken by observers to mean that special units – made up of ruling party youths and war veterans now under the control of the defence ministry – would be deployed in the rural areas, where 70 per cent of voters live, ahead of the next elections.
A document seen by The Zimbabwean says the youth corps would be "trained in self-defence". A former CIO operative, Kasukuwere's tactics have been among the most ruthless used to secure victory for Zanu (PF) in the June 2008 presidential run-off. He is also accused of masterminding the 2008 airport attack on MDC ICT minister Nelson Chamisa.
One senior party official said: "When Mugabe says the MDC will never form a government, you must never assume he is joking. He means it and will go to considerable lengths to achieve it."
The Zanu (PF) national people's conference in Bulawayo this week, attended by 6,000 party faithful, is not expected to produce the challenge to Mugabe's 31-year rule that some have predicted. "It is Mugabe's conference," said a European Union diplomat.
"It was all about putting him in pole position for 2012. He will get the endorsement he is after and that could explain why he is showing signs of wanting to end the chaos in the countryside."
A fragile peace truce between the parties last month is holding and daily reports of violence that had been steadily coming in from the rural areas for the past few months have subsided for now.Post published in: News