ZANU-PF’s de facto supreme decision-making body between congresses, the politburo, will meet next week to discuss whether to hold an extraordinary congress in December in place of the scheduled annual conference in a bid to secure a new five-year party leadership term for President Robert Mugabe to align it with his fresh state tenure.
Instead of planning a grand exit after controversially winning the July 31 presidential elections as was widely expected, it is becoming increasingly clear Mugabe is seeking to entrench himself to ensure a life presidency.
Senior politburo members told the Zimbabwe Independent this week the politburo meeting, the third after Zanu-PF won the July 31 general elections amid opposition allegations of systematic rigging, will consider holding a special congress.
“Almost certainly we are going to hold an extraordinary congress in December in place of the annual people’s conference,” a senior politburo member said. “The matter will be discussed at our politburo meeting next week.”
Zanu-PF party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed the politburo will meet next Wednesday, but could not disclose the agenda as he was still to get it from the party’s secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa.
“We are meeting next week on Wednesday, but I don’t know yet what will be on the agenda,” he said.
The holding of a special congress to re-elect Mugabe for a further five-year tenure shows Mugabe, 90 next February, has no intention of retiring before the expiry of his five-year term in 2018, raising the possibility he might die in office given his advanced age and reported ill-health.
The president is reportedly battling prostate cancer which metastasised, although he claims to be suffering from eye cataracts.
He often travels to the Far East to seek specialist treatment.
In terms of the Zanu-PF constitution, an extraordinary congress can be convened whenever it is deemed necessary and at the instance of the majority of members of the central committee, in theory and constitutionally the decision-making body between congresses, or the president and first secretary of the party at the instance of not less than one-third of the central committee members, or the president with the backing of at least five provincial executive councils.
After receiving a request for an extraordinary congress, the president is expected to forward the request to the party’s secretary for administration, who in turn should give at least six weeks’ notice prior to convening the extraordinary congress. The special congress deliberates only on matters for which it has been specifically convened and three quarters of members shall form a quorum of the session.
Party insiders say Mutasa has been conducting consultations in preparation for the extraordinary congress. But as things stand, the conference is still on for Chinhoyi.
“I don’t see anyone opposing the holding of the extraordinary congress,” said another politburo member. “The special congress is not only necessary to align the president’s term in the party with his fresh tenure in government, but also to fill in empty vacancies in the politburo. We also need to elect a new vice-president to replace the late John Nkomo in the party and in government, so that the second vice-president can be sworn-in in line with the new constitution, which states that there shall be two vice-presidents.”
If Simon Khaya Moyo becomes vice-president, Zanu-PF would elect a new chairperson, a move likely to trigger fresh clashes between the factions led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who are widely seen as front-runners to succeed Mugabe when he goes.
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