THERE were fireworks at the Zanu PF’s politburo meeting yesterday as different factions squared-up over the widening divisions and chaos that has characterised the provincial elections.
BY OUR STAFF
But the extraordinary politburo meeting ended up endorsing elections in three disputed provinces giving Vice-President Joice Mujuru an edge as the battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe intensifies.
The politburo endorsed the results for the provincial chairpersons in Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland Central despite a groundswell of discontent that the polls had been marred by irregularities.
In Manicaland, John Mvundura beat Monica Mutsvangwa to land the post while incumbent Jayson Machaya was retained in the Midlands after shrugging off a challenge from Larry Mavima. In Mashonaland Central, Luke Mushore prevailed over Dickson Mafios.
The new provincial chairpersons belong to a faction allegedly linked to Mujuru.
The Mujuru faction is reported to be in a bitter power struggle with another faction allegedly led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. But Mnangagwa, together with the likes of Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, Constantine Chiwenga and Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo, is said to now belong to a faction calling itself Mugabe Five Year Team.
Both Mujuru and Mnangagwa have repeatedly said they neither harbour presidential ambitions nor lead any factions. They say factions are a creation of the media.
However, control of the provinces is critical ahead of Zanu PF’s elective congress next year where Mugabe’s likely successor will emerge.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told journalists last night the politburo had endorsed elections in the three provinces, adding that the remaining seven would be conducted on the same day on Saturday.
“There was robust debate about challenges the party is facing where there has been conflicting and contradictory statements. There has been mudslinging but as a revolutionary party we have been urged by President Mugabe to try and reconcile our views,” Gumbo said.
“We have major programmes under Zim Asset [Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation].”
The politburo also upheld the election of Edmore Samambwa as Midlands provincial youth chairperson despite him being over 35 years of age.
Gumbo said the politburo felt that since he had participated and won the elections “he should be given the benefit of the doubt”.
Asked on the state of preparedness for Saturday’s polls, Gumbo said Zanu PF would ensure that logistics would be in place come the voting day.
He said party national chairman Simon Khaya-Moyo would meet provincial chairpersons, provincial ministers and a politburo team set up to oversee the polls on Wednesday. Gumbo said the politburo had “made it clear head office will determine the list of registers to be used in various provinces”.
Gumbo admitted Zanu PF had faced a myriad of problems in holding elections in Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland Central, chief among them lack of resources and the delay in the delivery of ballot papers.
“We agreed that everything should be ready by Wednesday and people who assist in conducting elections should be in provinces by Friday. Ballot papers should be in those areas by that day,” Gumbo said.
Sources told The Standard last night that the six-hour long politburo meeting was explosive with members tearing each other to shreds.
There were accusations that members were using the media to settle scores.
“Mutasa and Gumbo complained that Information minister Jonathan Moyo had used the media to attack them. Moyo pulled a rug from under their feet and quoted stories in which Mutasa and Gumbo were attacking him,” a source said.
Ahead of yesterday’s meeting, Moyo had blasted factionalism in Zanu PF saying some factions were ideologically bankrupt and content-free. Moyo last week came out in support of Presidential spokesperson George Charamba who recently irked some Zanu PF leaders after saying Mugabe had instructed him to tell the media that the politburo was yet to decide the fate of Mashonaland Central elections.
A source close to the party said Mugabe yesterday indeed confirmed that he was the one who had sent Charamba.
Another source said while Mujuru seems to have prevailed over her rival, the fact that irregularities had been cited in previous elections “means that Saturday’s polls will try to correct past mistakes”.
While members were laying into each other, President Mugabe was said to be calm and cool “and never showed that something was wrong”.
“He [Mugabe] wanted people to express their views,” Gumbo said.
Sources said after Mujuru’s key victory at the politburo meeting, the other provinces “would stampede to vote for people aligned to her camp”.
The tense politburo meeting was aimed at tackling the simmering factional fights in the party which forced the postponement of elections in seven provinces.
The elections were marred by allegations of rigging and vote buying as the factions in Zanu PF fight to position themselves to succeed 89-year-old Mugabe.
Mugabe was forced to cut short a trip to Asia in order to chair yesterday’s politburo meeting.
Sources said when Mugabe arrived on Friday night from Asia, he refused to get briefings from his top lieutenants as he normally does when returning from long trips abroad.
“Mugabe just greeted the officials who had come to welcome him and went straight to his vehicle without giving them the chance to brief him on what has been transpiring in his absence,” said an official.
Mugabe was welcomed at the Harare International Airport by Mujuru and Zanu PF national secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa.