High fashion at Zanu-PF meet

2011-12-11 08:39

The yearly Zanu-PF conference which ended yesterday served to endorse Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe as the party’s presidential candidate for next year’s election.

The octogenarian has again managed to stave off any challenge to his leadership.

An indication of a possible successor to Mugabe can be derived from the new leaders he chose to serve on his politburo. The politburo is the president of the party’s “cabinet” and members serve at his pleasure.

Politburo members, unlike central committee members, are unelected but are usually more powerful because they are closer to Mugabe. Vacancies in the politburo opened up this year following the death of four members, including General Solomon Mujuru.

Mugabe’s decision to co-opt four new members to the politburo can be seen as an endorsement of the camp of defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been on the rise again following the death of Mujuru.

Mujuru’s wife, Joice, is Mnangagwa’s biggest rival to succeed Mugabe.

Delegates attending the conference were mostly at the bottom of the food chain, but that did not stop well-off members showing off their fortunes.

Clad in brand new designer clothes, shoes and handbags, they were out to impress.

Oversized 4x4s and sleek Mercedes-Benz cars lined up in front of hotels every day to take their owners to the Zimbabwe Trade fairground.

However Mugabe’s patronage does not only benefit those in top positions.

Most delegates interviewed by City Press said they had received a farm as part of the government’s land grab programme.

“On the land issue I have gained. I have a game farm and my parents have enough land now. So I cannot complain,” said professional hunter Francis Nyathi from Lupane province.

Happiness Nyoni (21) was the daughter of a war veteran: “I support Zanu-PF because I take it from my family. I have a plot where I do pig farming”.

She was also a youth service worker and therefore received a salary from government.

All around the conference venue khaki-clad soldiers with rifles made sure no one stepped out of line and an official who identified himself as “from the president’s office” slapped every journalist from privately-owned media on the shoulder and pushed a dog-eared notebook under their noses: “Write down your name,” he said.

The conference theme was based on the large-scale indigenisation plan that, under the watchful eye of minister of youth and indigenisation Saviour Kasukwere, was to ensure that ordinary Zimbabweans got a chunk of the mineral resources of the country. Every foreign company was expected to hand over 51% of its shares.

Already some mining executives and economists have billed this as an election trick. Mugabe’s response to these accusations was that they were made by people with “mental problems”.

Mugabe also hinted in his address to the conference that full ownership might be on the cards.

“The concentration is on the 51%. Just imagine, 49% of our diamonds are still leaving the country. If we have a truly indigenous company, nothing will leave the country,” he said.

Several times in his speech on Thursday, Mugabe renounced violence, some said because elections were coming up. Observers said this was because he was worried about his legacy.

But outside the conference hall, Ashley Dzawo, a security official for Air Zimbabwe by day and provincial youth commander for Zanu-PF in his free time, did not rule out the need for violence.

“Wherever I walk, I’m vigilant. We know those MDC guys are violent, and if we have to, we’ll fight back,” he said, displaying a stab wound he claims was from a recent scuffle with MDC youths.

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