Mugabe is turning 86 in February and some ordinary members of the party are adamant that it is now time for their dear leader to hand over power to someone younger.
An estimated 10 400 delegates, who include foreign representatives from the usual suspects as far as Venezuela, Hugo Chavez’s Socialist Party to China’s ruling Communists, are expected to start arriving in Harare for the congress to listen to Robert Mugabe’s usual defiance and grandstanding.
Many delegates who spoke to The Zimbabwe Mail reporter in a survey, expressed their anger and disgust towards the manner in which the so called presedium secretly endorsed itself ahead of the Congress and only making tactical sporadic announcements in the media thereby surpressing any voice of decent amongst rank and file.
ZANU PF’s centre of power, the Politburo, officially endorsed the party’s nominated leadership ahead of the start of the ZANU PF congress on Wednesday and this included the endorsement of Robert Mugabe as party leader for the next five years.
But, in what appears to be total confusion or misunderstanding and allegations of manipulation and rigging process of the party’s selection process, some members of the party in the grass roots are now openly expressing their disgust and anger after reports by the State media declared the endorsement of the party leadership without their participation.
A furious party member, said, "We went to war for one man, one vote, but our leaders are now clinging onto power, manipulating rules and procedures they make in order for them to die in office".
A source within Zanu PF said there were reports of disgruntled groups planning to cause chaos at the Congress and security level has been raised with all members of the Army and Central Intelligence Organisation at full strength tracking down party delegates suspected of planning disruptions.
Last night, the Zimbabwe National Army’s crack commandos units and bomb experts pitched up a temporal camp at the the venue of the congress to sniff out trouble as tensions run through the embattled party.
On Wednesday afternoon a politburo meeting was briefly disrupted with reports of a bomb scare at the Zanu PF Head Offices. The meeting only resumed after a sweeping clearance by the members of the Army’s bomb disposal unit.
Speculation that the party was on the brink of a split has been rife, and the nominations process has revealed deep divisions in the party with a scramble by different factions to secure top posts.
Originally, Masvingo province refused to nominate Vice President Joyce Mujuru for the post of party vice president, which she is set to retain after the Politburo’s endorsement.
The Masvingo party structure instead backed Manicaland Governor Oppah Muchinguri, with some analysts arguing the nomination reflected Masvingo’s alignment with Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose faction is vying for dominance with Mujuru’s.
At the same time there has been little unity when nominating a replacement to Nkomo’s post when he is officially declared party Vice President. Nominations for the post have been scattered among Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, Ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo and ZANU PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa. Moyo has now been nominated to the post, but not by a unanimous agreement.
Efforts to restructure the party in the capital have also showed more division in the party after clashes between the supporters of two officials competing for provincial chairman.
Recently, party supporters rooting for Amos Midzi who has been nominated as Harare provincial chairman, clashed with others who were backing Hubert Nyanhongo, ZANU PF’s sole legislator in Harare. The two groups have accused each other of ‘hijacking’ the restructuring process, staging various demonstrations in the city since October.
This is one of ZANU-PF’s most important party congresses since coming to power at the country’s independence in 1980.
Many ZANU-PF delegates say they want to decide who will succeed President Robert Mugabe, but the party is ravaged by power struggles.
This party meeting is being held nearly a year after ZANU-PF lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe received fewer votes in the presidential election last year than MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who pulled out of the second round of runoff citing violence against his supporters.
ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change have since formed a unity government with Mr. Tsvangirai as prime minister.
At his party congress, Robert Mugabe is expected be defiant as ever, but he is expected to capitulate in the coming week as the whole raft of agreements in the current negotiations process with the coalition partners will expose him as a spent force.
ZANU-PF delegates say the battle to succeed Mr. Mugabe is between Vice President Joyce Mujuru and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Our reporter was told by a Senior in the party that members of Mnangagwa faction are livid after suffering heavy losses in the provincial structures that nominated party leaders. The source said Mnangagwa has tasked Jonathan Moyo to draft a get-out plan which will emerge soon after the congress.
It is believed that the faction will run parallel structures in Zanu PF with a long term plan to form a fully fledged break-away political party whose Congress is scheduled for September 2010.
A 200 page detailed secret document authored by Jonathan Moyo which was shown to our reporter by one of the key members of the Mnangagwa faction. The Document titled "Post Congress Get-Away Plan" runs through all segments detailing the sources of funding, to recruitment of members from Zanu PF and both the MDC factions and external support.
The plan also includes the use of hit-squads or other "usual methods" ranging from prosecution of members of the oppositing faction and direct attacks which could mean "road accidents".
The report also mentioned possible strategies of disrupting the current unity government and a section with a plan for "Early destruction of Dabengwa’s Zapu".
ZANU-PF youth secretary for Harare province, Tendai Wenyika, predicted the congress would be turbulent and said most people want the succession issue decided. She said at previous congresses and annual conferences, the question of succession had been what she described as "taboo."
The unity government’s political agreement says a ZANU-PF member will succeed Mr. Mugabe as national president should he retire or die before new elections. Zimbabwe will not vote again until a new constitution is adopted, which could take two years.
It is this kind of set which the Mnangagwa faction views as spelling doom for their ambitions with no other alternative opportunity to wrestle power for the next 5 years, unless something dramatic happens.
Today Robert Mugabe will try to balance the power between the two factions by appointing more of Mnangagwa’s people into the party’s powerful body the politburo.