Army helps Mugabe cling to power

President Robert Mugabe has crushed internal resistance within his Zanu-PF using army loyalists as he bids for endorsement as the party's candidate in next year's election

Realistically, Mugabe, 86, would contest his last election next year because if he wins, his term of office would end in 2016 when he would be 92. It would be unlikely that he would run for another term.

Senior Zanu-PF officials this week said that Mugabe had managed to browbeat and intimidate ambitious rivals who wanted to replace him ahead of the party’s annual conference which starts in Mutare on Wednesday. The conference is expected to endorse Mugabe as the party’s presidential candidate.

There are two main factions battling to produce his successor – one is led by Emmerson Mnangagwa and the other by retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru. Repeated attempts in the past by the two to oust Mugabe have failed.

Mugabe’s leadership of the party and the country have come under serious challenge in recent years, particularly from within his Soviet-style politburo, an indication of his declining authority and control.

As a result of continued pressure and manoeuvring, Mugabe appointed succession committees to buy time. Only last year in May, the politburo set up a succession committee chaired by vice-president John Nkomo to deal with the matter.

The six-member committee included Mnangagwa, Mujuru, Oppah Muchinguri, Sydney Sekeramayi and Didymus Mutasa. However, the committee never took off.

Realising growing pressure on him to make way for a younger successor, Mugabe turned to the army. Recently, a team led by Air Force of Zimbabwe Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena was deployed to Zanu-PF to work with a taskforce of 300 officers to revive party structures and to shore up Mugabe’s faltering grip on the party.

"Mugabe has succeeded in crushing resistance and re-asserting control over the party ahead of our conference. No one is going to challenge his endorsement. No one will raise his or her voice, it’s a done deal," a politburo member said on Friday.

"Things have changed. Whereas in the past people could try to raise the issue of his succession and candidacy in elections, now it’s different. All dissent and resistance has been crushed. The army has also brought military discipline, that’s why it’s easy to whip everyone into line."

Resistance to Mugabe in the party collapsed in 2008 after the departure of senior politburo members Dumiso Dabengwa and Simba Makoni. The two had in 2007 tried to oust him by calling for an extraordinary congress to decide on the 2008 poll candidate.

Another senior Zanu-PF official said the party’s provincial structures and executives have been falling over each other to endorse Mugabe as the party’s candidate. "Almost all 10 provinces have endorsed him and it’s going to be a mere formality at the conference to approve him as the candidate for the presidential election," said the official.

Zanu-PF officials have publicly conceded that the Mutare conference would not discuss the controversial succession because his rivals had failed to call for an extraordinary congress to deal with the issue. – Time Live