THE ruling ZANU-PF could be headed for a devastating split at its elective congress to be held in early December with none of the factions fighting to succeed President Robert Mugabe willing to make concessions that could save the 51-year-old party from disintegrating.

The Politburo — the most powerful organ of the party outside congress — stepped in to avert an implosion occasioned by the infighting, by directing the party's membership to respect authority and abandon divisive slogans. But hardly two days after the Politburo meeting, the wrangling moved several gears up, with one of the factions taking the gloves off.

A faction linked to Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has removed all the stops to gain control of key structures of the party ahead of the congress, scheduled to run between December 2 and 6. The faction had earlier on hoped that Vice President Joice Mujuru would resign in the aftermath of allegations of corruption raised by the First Lady, Grace Mugabe during her "meet the people" tours but that did not happen.

Mujuru has stayed put, forcing the Mnangagwa camp to go for broke by playing up the allegations made by the First Lady in the State-owned media and use the reports as the basis to push for the ouster of the Vice President and her perceived allies. The battle for control has been centred around the Women's League, the Youth League, and the provinces, which, apart from taking the lead during election campaigns, are also known for setting the tone for congress.
The confrontation has been extended to the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) and the Council of Chiefs, which are loosely affiliated to ZANU-PF. Until last month, Vice President Mujuru's allies were calling the shots in the majority of these organs before the situation took a dramatic turn following the entry of the First Lady into mainstream politics. The First Lady was nominated to lead the Women's League over a month ago and will assume the reins at congress.

Since her surprise entry, the First Lady has been hitting out at the Mujuru camp, muddling the political waters in the process. This has caused the Mujuru camp to lose its rhythm with the confusion created by the First Lady providing an opportunity for Mnangagwa's allies to launch a comeback although time is clearly not on their side.

The Mnangagwa camp had lost considerable ground during the provincial elections last year with the Youth League polls piling more misery on the faction. So far, the Mnangagwa camp has gained control of the Women's League. The Youth League's national leadership has also fallen into their hands, with Kudzai Chipanga, the leader of the wing, crossing the floor about a fortnight ago. There is however, acrimony in the women and youth leagues because the national and provincials leaderships are pulling in different directions.

The chiefs are also split between the two camps. Should plans by the so-called "war veterans elders" to forge ahead with an extraordinary congress that would elect new leaders for the association succeed ZNLWVA might also split ahead of congress. The elders, who are aligned to Mnangagwa, are hoping to elbow out Jabulani Sibanda from ZNLWVA for undermining the authority of the First Lady by not attending her functions.

Indications are that ZNLWVA might go to the ZANU-PF congress fronted by two leaders, Sibanda on one hand and possibly Joseph Chinotimba on the other. Where the Mnangagwa camp seems to have hit a brick wall is at the provincial level where they are failing to rock the boat. Their only achievement has been the ouster of Temba Mliswa from the leadership of Mashonaland West Province. In the Midlands, Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Harare and Masvingo provinces, the Mnangagwa faction has found Jason Machaya, John Mvundura, Ray Kaukonde, Amos Midzi and Killian Gwanetsa uncompromising, leaving them to fight another day.

Provincial executives play a critical role in electing members of the Central Committee and the presidium at the party's elective congress. While the Mnangagwa camp is not giving up on their plans, aided by the public media, they only have less than four weeks remaining to achieve their mission.

There are now attempts to form a parallel structure to coordinate congress preparations, including replacing the current national spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo with someone who will act as their spin-doctor. The Mujuru camp, according to ZANU-PF insiders, is determined to frustrate their efforts, riding on a wave of sympathy building around the embattled Vice President.

Highly placed sources said the Mujuru camp might be forced to play it dirty like their rivals, to protect their turf. "At the rate things are going in ZANU-PF, it is quite clear that we now have a party being run along factional lines. Come congress, the two faction might go separate ways," said a party insider.

Gumbo declined to comment on the twists and turns in ZANU-PF, choosing to give a tease response. He said: "Please please guys, will you stop troubling me with those questions. I have said time and again that some of these issues you must interpret yourselves. I want to deal with policy issues not kuti mungondibvunza zvisina nebasa rose (do not ask me silly questions)," he said and abruptly hung up.

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