Robert Mugabe's waterloo?

THE anticipated 2011 general election in Zimbabwe could become President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party's Waterloo if it fails to put in place a proper system to choose its representatives for the polls.

Since its founding in 1963, Zanu-PF has adopted a system of primaries, where its representatives are chosen by party members at the lower echelons of the party.

The chosen few are then endorsed by either the party’s congress or by the party’s supreme decision-making body outside congress, the politburo, to stand on the party’s ticket.

The primaries process has seen several senior politicians failing to get a mandate to represent the party due to disgruntlement by membership.

Young and aspiring politicians, at one time labelled as Young Turks, have sprung surprises through this process, defeating some big names during the primaries.

Insiders told Sunday Times the primaries might not be held as usual this time around.

This was supported by Zanu- PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, who told state television this week that the primaries hung in balance. "The party is going to announce the final position on the issue of the primaries very soon," Gumbo said.

He added: "As things stand, it has been tentatively agreed that the party should go into the forthcoming elections with the incumbent members of parliament and other civic leaders as the party’s candidates."

Gumbo said the party’s leadership was concerned that should new faces emerge as party representatives in parliament, there could be a lack of continuity.

"The reason why we might not have the primaries is that we need to have continuity in terms of programmes for our people. If there are new MPs there might be no continuity and this retards development."

However, insiders said Zanu-PF’s failure to hold primaries – if the decision is endorsed by the politburo – could lead to unrest within the party’s structures.

Sources said there could be a lot of friction in the fractious 47-year-old party.

"There are some people who are eyeing privileges, such as cars from parliament, in case they win the election. There are also those that believe there is a lot of money in parliament and they deserve to get the money and the packages more than anyone else.

"So if the party decides to go to the forthcoming election with the same old faces, there could be serious disgruntlement on the part of those that are eyeing the parliamentary seats," one of the sources said.

Mugabe, known for changing the rules at the last minute to suit his party’s succession battles, has yet to announce the dates for the party’s primaries.

Gumbo said once he (Mugabe) has set the dates, he would announce them through his party’s national political commissar and former radio disc jockey, Webster Sham.

The Sunday Times has reliably learnt that jockeying for the party’s ticket has already started in advance.

This has reportedly prompted Shamu to warn party members to hold their horses until Mugabe makes an announcement on the issue of the primaries.