PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will this week address Zanu PF’s national conference in Gweru looking to rouse the party rank and file for a final hurrah as he readies to fight what would likely be his last election next year.
Zanu PF has since endorsed the 88 year-old to run again in March and aides say he will tell about 6,000 delegates from around the country that he has one final mission: keeping his party in power and completing the economic empowerment of the country’s historically disadvantaged black majority.
Indeed, the possibility that the March poll will likely be Mugabe’s last gives added significance to the election, especially after long-term rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, nearly brought the veteran leader’s lengthy stay in power to an unhappy end in 2008.
The MDC-T leader stunned Mugabe with a solid trouncing in the first round of the Presidential ballot, before pulling out of the runoff claiming his supporters were being brutalised by Mugabe's henchmen.
Regional peers then refused to endorse Mugabe’s second round ‘win’ resulting in the Zanu PF leader being subjected to the ignominy of sharing power with a man he disparages as a lackey of Western imperialists.
But this time round Zanu PF appears to be pulling all the stops to prevent a repeat of the 2008 debacle. The party looks to be flash with cash and is openly flaunting its riches to the annoyance of partners in the coalition government.
Mugabe is set to address the party faithful at a newly-built US$6 million conference centre just outside Gweru. Officials insist that the facility belongs to the party and dismissed allegations that it was built from diverted diamond funds.
Said deputy Midlands chairman Larry Mavhima: “This is not a Government project, but a private project, a Zanu-PF project. We have our right to privacy and are not accountable to MDC formations or anyone but ourselves.
“That (diversion of diamond funds) is absolute rubbish; hogwash! If anyone can prove that I will personally borrow US$1 million and give that person.
“This money was raised by people in this province who want to see Midlands developing. If we have stolen the money then those people should go and report to the police.”
Early last month, the MDCs were also left seething after Mugabe launched a US$20 million agricultural support scheme aimed at helping poor farmers around the country acquire inputs for the new farming season.
The scheme was brazenly launched at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare, suggesting it was a party, instead of government programme.
Complained MDC legal affairs secretary and Education Minister David Coltart: “Zimbabweans have a right to know who the ‘well-wishers’ are and where their money comes from. Is it clean? Parallel governance at its worst.”
In addition, Mugabe will also be buoyed by progress made in implementing the party’s indigenisation programme which forces foreign companies to not only cede majority ownership and control to locals but also fund the equity transfers.
Dismissed by critics as unworkable and likely to cause disastrous investment and capital flight from a still-recovering economy, the programme, spearheaded by Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, is in fact looking to be unstoppable.
Most of the country’s major mining companies are already implementing compliance plans approved by Kasukuwere and insist that they remain committed to Zimbabwe despite initial murmurs of disapproval and, in some cases, outright threats to either completely pull out of the country or suspend expansion programmes.
Kasukuwere, who has vowed to force the policy on other sectors of the economy, briefed a politburo meeting in Harare Wednesday on the programme which will anchor Mugabe’s campaign for the March elections.
“We were given a presentation by Kasukuwere and his staff. They presented a documentary called broad-based empowerment concept. It is an excellent document. We want it presented at conference,” said party spokesman, Rugare Gumbo.
“We will have intensive discussion on indigenisation. The conference will concentrate on broad-based empowerment concept which fits well with our theme - ‘Indigenise, Empower, Develop and Create Employment’.”
Mugabe also goes into next year’s elections aided to no small measure by the misadventures of his main rival.
Tsvangirai was recently damaged by embarrassing revelations about his private life which also came on the back of an international survey suggesting support for the MDC-T leader ad his party had collapsed across the country.
US-based international research group Freedom House warned that Mugabe would likely command the support of 31 percent of voters in a presidential election, ahead of rival Morgan Tsvangirai on 19 percent, an alarming prospect for the MDC-T.
Said South African academic, Susan Booysen, who devised and conducted the survey: "I've heard people saying MDC-T is just not doing work in the constituencies and is spending too much time in the palace. They're taking for granted they're the crown princes. They are not capturing the desire for change.
“Perhaps they think they are crown prince that need only wait for Mugabe to go for it to fall in their lap. This is a wake-up call for them that there is no honeymoon.”
Tsvangirai this week claimed that improvements registered in education, health and other social services were down to his party’s involvement in the coalition government. He added that the MDC-T was also responsible for the country’s economic recovery; but it remains a jobless recovery as unemployment is still very high.
Mugabe also suggested during the launch of the input support scheme that he would use the MDC-T’s not always edifying performance in government against the party as campaigning for the March ballot gets into full swing.
Said the Zanu PF leader: “This animal (inclusive Government) wants to eat, but when we say the food comes from farming, the other side (MDC) says they are incapable, but the Zanu PF side continues to say we should farm, we should get inputs.
“How is this animal supposed to survive? How is the nation supposed to survive? Are you (MDC) not getting this message?
“They say we don’t have money, but they are the ones in charge of the Finance Ministry. Hatina mari, hatina mari. Saka hatina mari, hatina mari, ihurumende yerudziyi? Hatina mari, naizvozvo hatina fertiliser, naizvozvo hatigone kurima.
“If it were a Zanu PF Government without these other partners, do you think you can tell that to the people? A government can dare not say we have no money to give people to grow food for the country.
“We can’t say that. We must have the capacity even to borrow. No government does without borrowing from others.”