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Zanu PF war escalates

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TENSION and bootlicking stole the thunder at the official opening of the Zanu PF women’s league congress in Harare as party protagonists subtly teased and taunted each other through music, speech and slogans in front of President Robert Mugabe.

MOSES MATENGA
STAFF REPORTER

The body language and gestures exhibited by some of the women leaders at the congress seemed to confirm reports of the deep-seated factionalism that has permeated party structures ahead of its main congress in December.

The bone of contention, according to insiders, revolves around the party’s two centres of power — Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa — who are both believed to be angling to succeed the 90-year-old Mugabe.

The party’s succession race took another twist recently with the emergence of First Lady Grace Mugabe into the political equation when she was nominated as a potential candidate to represent the women’s league in the politburo.

Zanu PF insiders believe Grace was being used as a pawn to block Mujuru’s bid to the highest office in the event Mugabe decides to leave active politics.

Mugabe in his speech confirmed that tension was mounting in his party ahead of the December congress, but cautioned politburo and central committee members to desist from fuelling factionalism as they positioned themselves for influential posts.

The tension could be seen from the morning with some male Zanu PF members outside the venue openly canvassing women to “act accordingly”. One senior member said he was keeping an eye on women from his province to ensure they did not “sell out”.

This was before the real drama started unfolding inside the congress venue — the Harare International Conference Centre — where Mujuru’s entry was not met with the usual applause from the estimated 4 000 women delegates.

As if to show Mujuru that the centre of power had shifted, the delegates burst into a thunderous applause when current women’s league boss Oppah Muchinguri introduced the First Lady.

However, Mujuru had her turn when she took to the podium and opened her speech with a Shona song: Pakati pedu apa, dairai, varipo vachandipandukira, dairai, loosely translated to mean some people were plotting her downfall.

Delegates from the outlying provinces registered their displeasure at the discord within the party hierarchy when they sang songs imploring Mugabe to be alert and avoid being misinformed by his close lieutenants.

Then came the bootlicking spectacle with the Zanu PF political commissar Webster Shamu leading the pack. As usual, Shamu maintained his dominance in the bootlicking crusade when he described Mugabe as the “digital warrior”.

“Forward with the president, the digital warrior,” Shamu chanted before he burst into a “politicised” church hymn. Grace literally brought the room down when she was asked to greet the gathering amid chants of “Amai, Amai”. She was joined by Muchinguri in singing a song that touched on the struggle of women to better lives of their families.

Muchinguri — believed to be eyeing the post of secretary for administration currently held by Didymus Mutasa after opting for Grace to take over as women’s league boss — received a deafening applause from the women as she delivered her opening speech to the four-day congress.

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