Africa

Mugabe's party unveils battle plan

Jason Moyo

Zanu-PF will use empowerment to win votes, but may be hamstrung by the sorry state of its coffers.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. (Gallo)

President Robert Mugabe will place his controversial empowerment policy at the head of his re-election campaign, according to a strategy detailed in a new internal report by his central committee. But should this not be enough, his party is ready to target Zimbabwean churches, singers and even burial societies to win Mugabe a seventh term in office.

Zanu-PF is still divided, the document says it is broke and there are doubts about how much campaigning Mugabe, who will be 89 when the next election takes place, will manage. But the latest report of the Zanu-PF central committee lays out a campaign strategy that shows how desperate the party is to overcome its problems and win his re-election.

Not surprisingly, the empowerment crusade, which Mugabe describes in a preamble to the report as being of "immense historic and revolutionary significance for our people and for posterity", will anchor his campaign.

According to the report, the empowerment programme will "decrease fear in our supporters and increase the fear [in] our opponents, leading us to electoral victory".

"As we approach the impending election, we have stepped up efforts to implement a political programme of mobilisation anchored on the ­indigenisation and economic empowerment policy," the report says. "This political programme might have a strong bearing on the success of the forthcoming election."

All party candidates will need to develop "a localised campaign plan that neatly ties in with the indigenisation and empowerment imperatives" of their area, the report says.

To make sure the empowerment message wins votes, the party will target church groups, unions and young people and "empower their members to get their endorsement and support".

The report reveals the party's plans to lure popular figures into its web of patronage in exchange for public endorsement: "We must identify influential people in our society, like celebrity musicians [and] sports personalities, empower them and get them to support the indigenisation programme – and Zanu-PF by association."

Mass mobilisation
Party leaders, including Mugabe, will be "spearheading [the] mobilisation of religious, traditional and commercial organisations in an endeavour to increase the support base of the party".

Beyond empowerment, Zanu-PF has a few other aces to play. Apart from consolidating relationships with artists and music groups, the party plans "mass mobilisation through funeral insurance and burial societies". The latter are influential in Zimbabwe, especially in poor communities.

The party wants to produce books, films, documentaries and "articles of regalia", says the report.

Zanu-PF also envisages a new economic policy, a response to the recently launched economic plan of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), known by its acronym Juice (jobs, upliftment, capital investment and ecology).

"The [Zanu-PF] economic blueprint will compare favourably against the MDC's Juice election manifesto and win the hearts of the electorate, resulting in a resounding victory for Zanu-PF," the strategy document predicts.

The youth wing plans to recruit "young entrepreneurs" to the party and infiltrate college student councils to ensure they are led by "student representatives who have the proper political orientation".

Economically viable policies
Zanu-PF is known for its suspicion of technology and one of the resolutions at the end of its conference last week warned rights groups against handing out cellphones to villagers. But the party will finally launch an internet campaign so that it can fight back in the "global information war" it says is being waged against it through the likes of CNN, Sky News, the BBC "and even the English version of Al Jazeera as well as the use of internet fabrications".

Zanu-PF, says the document, will exert "great effort to put the party website to better use, in line with modern trends".

But the party says its strategy might fail because of poor finances. It is surviving on a $500 000 overdraft and the report claims that Zanu-PF collected only $4.6million this year – from membership card sales, $2.5-million in donations and a state grant – whereas its spending was close to $8million.

Zanu-PF owes $240 000 in phone bills, cannot afford to run a website, is failing to pay salaries and owes money to its lawyers.

The document reveals how the party hopes to raise money by pursuing "populist but economically viable policies such as the acquisition of mining concessions and hunting concessions for the party".

The report offers glimpses into just why the party struggles to appeal to younger voters. Zanu-PF says it remains guided by "the teachings of his excellency, comrade President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, which are based on the integration of the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism with practical experiences of the Zimbabwe revolution".

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