Mugabe endorsed to remain Zanu-PF chief

HARARE – The top leadership of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's party has decided that he will remain its leader for the next five years with his role as party boss unquestioned, officials said on Tuesday.

The politburo of the 46-year-old Zanu-PF party made the decision on Monday, just ahead of its five-yearly congress later this week.

The body endorsed Mugabe (85) as its sole candidate for the party presidency.

Analysts say it is highly unlikely any changes will be made when the tightly controlled congress’s 5 000 delegates begin meeting on Thursday.

Mugabe has been in control of Zanu-PF for 35 years and ruler of Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. A personality cult has developed around him in the party, with some officials referring to him as the "second son of God" or the "supreme leader".

His total control of Zimbabwe ended in February, when he was forced to enter a coalition government with his arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai following a violent presidential election campaign in 2008.

"We deliberated on the nomination of the praesidium [the top four positions] and endorsed the nomination of president Mugabe as the party’s president and first secretary," party spokesperson Ephraim Masawi was quoted as saying on Tuesday in the state-controlled daily Herald.

Vice-president Joice Mujuru (54), whose husband, ex-army commander Solomon, is viewed as the most powerful person in the party after Mugabe, was confirmed to continue in her role as vice-president.

There were reshuffles to fill the position of the other vice-president, Joseph Msika who died in August. The 75-year-old former party chairperson John Nkomo was given the position, while ambassador to South Africa Simon Moyo (64) was chosen as party chairperson.

Analysts say the apparently smooth running of the party’s election process masks a series of ferocious power struggles which will erupt when Mugabe dies or retires.

Observers say that Zanu-PF was also badly shaken by its defeat in last year’s parliamentary elections by Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Despite being outvoted by the MDC, Zanu-PF retained many of the most powerful ministries in the coalition government, in which Tsvangirai is prime minister. — Sapa-dpa