By Staff Reporter
A FRESH factional frontier has opened in Zanu PF after the ruling party’s politburo resolved to hold its primary elections for the 2023 general election latest by February next year at its monthly meeting on Thursday.
Politburo sources told NewZimbabwe.com that party bigwigs spent a lot of time discussing when to hold primary elections for all the legislative and municipal seats.
There will be no primary election to decide who will stand in the presidential election with the party already having endorsed its leader, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The elections will be held by July 31, 2023.
Sources who attended the meeting said a decision was later made to hold the primaries in February, six months before the general election to give it enough time to recover from the “wounds likely to be inflicted during the ensuing contestation for power”.
“A lot of time was spent on discussions around this agenda item but in the end, it was agreed that the primaries be held as early as possible so that the party has enough time to heal from the wounds they inflict ahead of the national election,” a politburo member said.
“Remember also that we have an electoral congress coming up in October where vicious fights will be waged for positions in the central committee, the youth league and the women’s league. These are traditionally turbulent times,” the source said.
“This is really the first time that we are having these processes a year before the general election. Normally these internal processes take place shortly after a general election when the next one would be five years away. This is meant to give the party enough time to recuperate and be strong when the national election comes,” the official said.
Zanu PF elections are normally characterised by cutthroat competition for office waged along factional lines.
Two rival camps reportedly, one led by Mnangagwa and the other by his highly ambitious deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, are currently engaged in a bruising fight for the control of the heart and soul of the party.
An apparently incensed Mnangagwa, speaking at the Thursday meeting, set the tone for the elections by launching a thinly veiled attack on Chiwenga and his allies, who have been accused internally of concocting “toxic and divisive political schemes”.
Without saying any names, Mnangagwa claimed there were top party officials plotting to build an empire.
“As we convene at this session, it is also important that we remain alive to the fact that, this is the year our party is holding our elective conferences of the women and youth leagues as well as the party congress scheduled for October 2022. All activities henceforth, must further strengthen the party. There is no room for divisive tendencies, empire building and short-sighted strategies that advance the interests of cliques.”
“The engagements with the people during by-elections campaigns have revealed that in some cases, it is those in the party leadership who are causing confusion among the general membership. The party is bigger than all of us and those found on the wrong side of the party line risk falling by the wayside.”
“Our culture of unity, peace and non-violence must be respected throughout the rank and file of the party. Divergence from these cardinal principles will have consequences.”
Zanu PF will soon after the Saturday by-elections immediately be involved in crunch national youth and women’s league elections – to be held at separate congresses – before the mother of all political battles explodes in central committee elections.
The central committee is Zanu PF’s principal policy organ, with power to change the constitution and recall or change leadership, according to the party’s constitution.
This explains why elections to constitute it have always been blood and thunder affairs, with the top officials keep to plant surrogates in the all-important organ.
The sets of elections are expected to be stormy, coming at a time when factionalism bedevilling the party has exploded into the public domain in a major way.
Sources in Zanu PF said preparations are well underway as the provinces are strategically positioning their candidates for, principally, the central committee elections.
According to the Zanu PF constitution, the central committee is the principal organ of the party and consists of 245 members drawn from the party’s 10 provinces. It acts on behalf of congress when it is not in session and among other things implements all policies, resolutions, directives, decisions and programmes enunciated by congress.
The youth league provides 17 members to the central committee with the women’s league contributing the same number, which explains the keen interest by the party’s top brass in those organs.
The establishment of a third organ comprising of war veterans, war collaborators and those detained during the liberation struggle has also resulted in further infighting.
Mnangagwa appoints 10 members while 50 are drawn from the women’s quarter. The remaining members are elected from the provinces in a way and manner that each province shall have a proportionate quota or number, having regard to the census population figures in the province.
The president will then exercise his prerogative to cherry-pick officials who will constitute the Soviet-styled politburo, which acts as the secretariat of the central committee.