THE Zanu PF politburo has warned President Robert Mugabe’s would-be successors that no leadership challenge would be entertained until the party’s next elective congress in 2014.
Zanu PF is struggling with deep divisions over its next leader, made worse by concerns about Mugabe’s age and speculation over his health.
Mugabe turned 88 this year but has repeatedly dismissed media reports of failing health, insisting his is in more than fine fettle for a man his age.
The assurances have not stopped ambitious lieutenants from positioning themselves for the top job leading to bitter divisions in the party which have cascaded down to the districts.
But spokesman Rugare Gumbo warned on Wednesday: “If there is anyone who is interested in the leadership of the party, they should wait for the party’s congress in 2014, where they should express their interests.
“They should mobilise support following laid-down party procedures rather than threatening people. That is not democracy and it is retrogressive to the party.”
Despite recently distancing themselves from a challenge for the party leadership, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice President Joice Mujuru are said to be the main contenders to take over from Mugabe.
The two lead bitterly opposed groups in the party that have been blamed for deepening divisions which were recently exposed in the recent district committee elections in Masvingo and Manicaland which were marred by clashes between supporters and allegations of vote buying.
Gumbo said the politburo had made it clear that the current leadership structure should be respected until the party’s next elective congress.
“We have the presidency where we have President Mugabe as the first secretary of the party and Vice-Presidents Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo as second secretaries,” Gumbo said.
“We also have the presidium which includes the national chairman (Simon Khaya Moyo) and the secretary for administration (Didymus Mutasa). Any other person claiming to lead the party outside that hierarchy is just a destabilising force.”
And in remarks that suggest Mujuru probably suspected senior officials were trying to undermine her position, Gumbo said the Vice President had reminded last week’s politburo meeting that she was elected with the unanimous support of the party’s provinces.
“She talked about the protocol of the party and that she was elected by all the party’s 10 provinces, and that is not a secret,” he said.
Mujuru’s could be trying to shore-up her position after her succession prospects were dealt a serious blow with the death of her influential husband and former army chief, General Solomon Mujuru.
A privately-owned weekly claimed that she had been like “a tiger” during the stormy meeting and spoke strongly against those trying to undermine senior leaders and destabilise structures through ambitious agendas.
Meanwhile, Gumbo said senior party officials should set aside their personal ambitions and work towards ensuring victory in elections which Mugabe insists must be held this year.
“Let us focus on strengthening the party rather than destabilise it, that is the position of the Politburo ... Our role is to strengthen the party to ensure that it is strong ahead of the elections,” he told the state-run Herald newspaper.