ZANU PF has reportedly roped in State security agents to recruit, train and conduct background checks on party members ahead of the 2023 general elections.
This comes as the ruling party claimed this week that it had a “umbilical connection” with the army, and a day after Cabinet announced plans to revive the controversial National Youth Service (NYS) programme ostensibly to train its youth militia.
Information gathered by NewsDay reveals that a week-long ongoing Zanu PF meeting in Gweru was being co-ordinated by known Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives who hand-picked party members to attend the event.
The top secret meeting’s agenda is to prepare for the crucial harmonised elections.
Highly-placed sources said participants’ mobile phones are being confiscated during training sessions.
Zanu PF information director Tafadzwa Mugwadi confirmed the secret party meeting involving CIO operatives.
“This is a black box meeting and only people who are attending know what is happening there,” Mugwadi told NewsDay.
On Tuesday, Cabinet announced that the NYS would be renamed Youth Service in Zimbabwe, with two annual intakes, and run for six months per session.
Training intakes will be advertised both in the print and electronic media.
“The graduates of the National Youth programme will receive first priority into higher institutions of learning including polytechnics, teaching, nursing, the army and employment in the civil service,” read part of the Cabinet brief.
Cabinet said six national youth training centres would be refurbished, while 15 new centres would be set up by the end of 2025, with a target to train 100 000 youths in the next three years.
The NYS programme, initially launched by the late Youth minister Border Gezi in 2001, was introduced with the aim of drilling revolutionary and patriotic ideologies into the country’s young citizens.
But Zanu PF was later accused of turning the graduates into a paramilitary militia used to harass political opponents.
The programme came under a barrage of attacks, with some questioning why children of top government officials never enrolled at the institutions.
Political analysts yesterday said reports of CIOs co-ordinating a secret party meeting were disturbing as the country heads towards the 2023 elections.
“Reference of a black box is indicative of a sacred institution existing in Zimbabwe consisting of the rank and file of Zanu PF, notably the key decision-making apparatus outside Cabinet and politburo,” said political analyst Alexander Rusero.
“If that is the case, it is some form of deep State, what I would characterise as a shadow State which in most instances comprises the security apparatus as well as the command element. In simple terms, we are talking of what is commonly referred to as the system. They are strategising something which is very serious.”
Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said the timing of the NYS was worrying.
“What worries us is the timing, just close to the elections. It would have been best done in a year where it’s not within an election cycle given the level of polarisation in the country,” Nkomo said.
“The concept of NYS in itself is not a bad concept, but it’s the history of that concept in Zimbabwe. It’s always been associated with violence and partisanship.”
The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) said: “ZPP has documented history of the excesses of the NYS militia and their return can only mean one thing: the 2023 election will be marred by the violence that they are known to perpetrate.
“We, therefore, call on the government to revisit this decision and, instead, first investigate the past human rights violations perpetrated by the NYS and reform the institution before any reintroduction.”