Zimbabwe’s former ruling party, Zanu-PF, is set to blow close to $500,000 in five days when it gathers for its annual Christmas bash disguised as a party conference.
President Mugabe’s party meets from Wednesday (December 15) to Sunday (December 19) in the eastern border city of Mutare. About 4,000 delegates drawn countywide and some from regional liberation movements are expected at the conference.
With a $500,000 budget and with some donations still said to be on their way, the conference is expected to be a feast for many Zanu-PF activists.
At recent past conferences and congresses some have been accused of helping themselves to freebies and goodies that have been donated.
Zanu-PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo says Mugabe’s candidacy in the next elections will not be an issue because he got the mandate at the congress in 2010.
“The conference is not about the president … We had our congress last year and we elected the president of the party who automatically becomes the candidate in the next elections,” said Moyo.
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. After that, it would be unlikely that he would run for another term.
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.
Party leader Mugabe normally delivers the main address at the Zanu-PF conference where most policies which his government would promulgate in the future are announced.
The conference is also used as a platform where the party attacks its opponents, mainly the West and America, and with calls for the lifting of what the party describes as illegal sanctions, taking centre stage at most of these conferences.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is a partner to the shaky coalition government before the signing of the coalition pact, would also get a bashing from such conferences.
Clemence Manyukwe, a political editor of Financial Gazette commenting on the conference says, ‘There is a general feeling that if the conference endorsed early polls ZANU-PF would be clearly defying the national mood, which to all intents and purposes, is seemingly against snap polls.”
Manyukwe says there are genuine fears the country could be plunged back into political chaos and economic instability witnessed before the consummation of the global political agreement.
But prominent Harare lawyer Terence Hussein, who has represented ZANU-PF luminaries in elections-related matters before the courts, said chances of the conference leaving the party leader with egg on his face over the election issue were next to nothing.
“It seems the position for the holding of elections is pretty strong. The conference usually supports its leadership, I don’t see any decision opposed to the leadership, I don’t see that happening,” said Hussein.