Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party has called for an extra-ordinary congress in December to deal with internal divisions threatening to destroy it ahead of next year's general elections.
According to VOA Zimbabwe the party holds congresses once every 4 years and the next one was due to take place in 2019.
Zanu-PF is sharply divided into two distinct factions battling to succeed Mugabe, 93, when he leaves office.
One faction calling itself "Team Lacoste" is reportedly led by one of Mugabe’s deputies, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Another camp made up of young Turks and calling itself "Generation 40", is backing First Lady Grace Mugabe to torpedo Mnangagwa’s presidential ambitions.
The rift between Mnangagwa and Zimbabwe's first lady widened in recent weeks when Mugabe and his wife launched a barrage of attacks on Mnangagwa as the fight to succeed the nonagenarian intensified.
Internal fissures within the ruling party were also taken to new heights when Mugabe reshuffled his cabinet and demoted Mnangagwa from minister of justice to tourism minister.
Newly-appointed finance minister, Ignatius Chombo, who doubles as the Zanu-PF secretary for administration, said the ruling party’s highest decision making body between congresses, the Politburo, provisionally agreed on Wednesday to schedule the extra-ordinary congress for December.
Without giving many details, Chombo confirmed to the Washington-based VOA Zimbabwe that the Politburo would reconvene next week on Wednesday to make a final decision on the extra-ordinary congress.
Chombo could not be reached for further comment.
However, a Zanu-PF Politburo member who requested anonymity, told News24 that the motion to hold an extra-congress was discussed extensively and temporarily agreed on.
"Our meeting of the Politburo took note of the infighting within the party and it was suggested by members of the G40 that we turn our annual conference into an extra-ordinary congress that would address the problems that we have," said the source.
Meanwhile, another member of the Politburo who claimed to be a member of Team Lacoste, said G40 was pushing for the extra-ordinary congress with a view to kick out Mnangagwa.
“They [G40] want to use the extra-ordinary congress to expel Mnangagwa the same way they got rid of [former vice president] Joice Mujuru in 2014. But this time they must do their homework properly because Mnangagwa has the backing of the majority of the party's structures to succeed President Mugabe.
"It would be foolhardy to rule out VP Mnangagwa from the succession race at this stage,” said the top Zanu-PF official.
Mujuru was fired from both government and the ruling party on charges of plotting to assassinate Mugabe so that she could take over power, but she has vehemently denied the charges.
At the same time, Mnangagwa stands accused of plotting to grab power from Mugabe. But political analyst and director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, Pedzisai Ruhanya, said Grace Mugabe now calls the shots in Zanu-PF’s power dynamics.
"Through live television coverage, she [Grace Mugabe] outlines government business and policies, dishes and wantonly attack government and [ruling] party officials with reckless abandon.
"This projects and positions Grace as Mugabe’s successor. What would be the purpose of this if not power?
"The role of the military and VP Mnangagwa is overplayed. Hate or like her, Grace runs Zimbabwe and will most probably decide Mugabe successor or has already decided unless huge shifts occur swiftly,” said Ruhanya.
Despite the Zanu-PF Politburo proposing an extra-ordinary congress to deal with Mugabe’s succession issues, the first lady made it clear on various occasions that the buck stops with her husband as the appointing authority. In terms of the amended Zanu-PF regulations, Mugabe has the power to appoint or fire his deputies.
Mugabe told his supporters at a rally held in Chinhoyi town recently that he would not step down before next year's elections because he feared that his successor would be trounced by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party in those polls.