Zanu PF’s annual people’s conference opened in Esigodini yesterday amid indications that the event would be used to cement President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s grip on power and keep ambitious cadres at bay.
While Mnangagwa will descend into the administrative centre for Umzingwane District putting on a brave face, his party is at war with itself over an economic implosion that has condemned the majority into poverty.
Instead of putting all hands on deck to revive an economy that is largely driven by agriculture, the 76-year-old ex-guerrilla fighter’s party is embroiled in seismic succession fights.
A section of Zanu PF is opposed to Mnangagwa serving a second term at the end of his first five-year tenure in 2023.
According to Zanu PF insiders, the annual jamboree would therefore be turned into a platform where Mnangagwa would consolidate his power base, rally allies and isolate foes.
Going into yesterday’s conference, the superiority of the political agenda over the economy was palpable.
Provincial structures have been stampeding to endorse Mnangagwa’s candidature for the 2023 polls in a veiled admission that the ghost of factionalism is still haunting the party.
Analysts canvassed by the Daily News posit that Zanu PF is settling back to its old politics of praise-singing for those in power.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said instead of promoting robust debate on the state of the country’s economy and solutions thereof, “the conference will simply substitute the name of former president Robert Mugabe for that of ED and the rest will be the same”.
The real business of the indaba will begin today with the party’s supreme decision-making body in-between congresses, the politburo, meeting at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare.
This would be followed by the meeting of the party’s central committee at the same venue tomorrow.
On Thursday, most of the VIPs will travel to Esigodini ahead of the official opening of the conference by Mnangagwa on Friday.
Analysts are questioning how Zanu PF finds itself trapped in factional wars when there is a bleeding economy to look at.
Many of them are convinced the Esigodini conference will not deal with the many challenges Zimbabweans are facing.
The economy has been showing no signs of letting up any time soon with austerity measures adopted by Mnangagwa’s government compounding the majority of Zimbabweans’ suffering.
The unfolding crisis has raised fears that the economy could be slipping back to the horror of 2008 hyper-inflationary era.
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said there is nothing to expect from the indaba.
Said Mandaza: “Nothing will come out from that meeting. Those are annual rituals”.
Dewa Mavhinga, another political analyst, said it will be important for Zanu PF to focus on bread and butter issues instead of fighting for positions.
“Unfortunately, most of the provinces who have spoken about the conference are focusing on the endorsement of Mnangagwa as the Zanu PF presidential candidate for 2023.
This does not seem to be a focus on today’s issue,” said Mavhinga.
“Let’s not focus on elections, let’s focus on improving the lives of Zimbabweans. Instead of talking about the endorsement of presidential candidate when you are barely few months from the elections, Zanu should focus on how to solve the multiplicity of problems that the country is facing.
“They must not focus on internal issues. Zanu PF should not be a party for itself it must be a party to serve Zimbabweans. If there is anything called new dispensation it must come from the way they do business, it must be business unusual not business as usual. They must focus on things that matter not positions,” Mavhinga said.
Stephen Chan, a Professor of World Politics at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, said the problem with the ruling Zanu PF party is that there are many vested interests in an economy which is unstable and not highly regulated.
As such, the country’s economy is more easily manipulated for individual interests.
“The leadership must agree to sacrifice many of its own economic interests. I do not see this happening at this moment in time. In any case, what is needed is not a conference of political leaders, but a conference of economic leaders, i.e. the minister of Finance and governor of the central bank in direct negotiations with the seniority of the IMF,” said Chan.