All except Robert Mugabe must step aside for the youth if the party is to stand a chance in the poll, writes Kennedy Maposa.
Members of the Zanu-PF old guard have resentfully accepted that they have to allow the party's young Turks to contest the general elections, likely to run alongside the presidential elections next year.
The project to infuse Zanu-PF with young blood is expected to draw the youth vote and enhance the party's chances at the poll.
But Robert Mugabe, who will serve his seventh term as Zimbabwe's leader if re-elected, is set to remain unchallenged.
A politburo member, who asked not to be named, said it had tasked a mobilisation committee, headed by the party's secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, to draw up rules and regulations on the selection of younger candidates. Mutasa's report was expected to be discussed at Zanu-PF's conference, which is already under way and ends on Sunday.
"The old guard are likely to be given full-time positions in the party, while some have been promised diplomatic posts," the politburo member said. "Mugabe knows he needs young blood to run in this election, which is likely to be his last before he passes on the baton.
"Remember, there has been strong advice from the Communist Party of China that there should be change in Zanu-PF. The party's national chairperson, Simon Khaya-Moyo, got the same advice on party renewal when he went to the Chama Cha Mapinduzi congress in Tanzania."
Khaya-Moyo attended the eigth national congress of Tanzania's ruling party last month.
Spearheading Zanu-PF's election
Since Mugabe came to power in 1980, Chama Cha Mapinduzi has had four presidents – Julius Nyerere, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete.
Khaya-Moyo himself is among those considered to be part of the old guard. Others include several senior politburo members such as Mutasa, Kumbirai Kangai, Zanu-PF Harare provincial chairperson Amos Midzi, vice-presidents Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo, the party's legal affairs secretary, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo.
Zanu-PF's older members are accused of weakening the party by fanning factional fights internally and have been under pressure to make way for younger members since the 2008 general elections, in which Mugabe lost to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The Mail & Guardian has been reliably informed by party insiders that a crack team spearheading Zanu-PF's election, led by director Henry Muchena, told the party that it had lost ground to the opposition because of tired political figures who had nothing new to offer the electorate.
Earlier this year the old guard initially succeeded when they proposed to the politburo, Zanu-PF's highest decision-making body, that members who had served the party for less than five years should be prohibited from contesting electoral positions on party tickets.
This was later overturned after Mugabe angrily accused the old guard of letting his campaign down in 2008.
In an interview with state-controlled media recently, Gumbo said the elders had waged the liberation war "but we cannot go on forever and we welcome new blood and new ideas in the party".
Muchena's team has assured Mugabe that the party primaries would produce candidates who are the will of the people rather than the same old guard who have imposed themselves on the electorate.