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06 Dec 2004 10:53
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe silenced discussion in his party about his retirement and quashed a power struggle over his succession at a weekend party congress.
Mugabe imposed a loyal but political lightweight young woman as Zanu-PF party vice-president, to put her directly in line to succeed him when he either retires or dies.
At an age when most politicians would be settling down to write their memoirs, he purged the party’s ranks of a group of young turks challenging the largely octogenarian old guards’ grip on power.
Mugabe, an admirer of Kim Il Sung, the former North Korean strongman, and of deposed Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, turns 81 in February. Joseph Msika, his other Vice-President, turns 82 this week.
Josiah Tungamirai, the head of the party’s youth league, is in his sixties.
The chief victim of the young turks was his fanatical propaganda minister, Jonathan Moyo, author of the ruling party’s campaign of suppression of the country’s independent media.
Moyo last month convened a meeting of party heavyweights to organise resistance to Joyce Mujuru, Mugabe’s chosen candidate for the vice presidency, and to manoeuvre parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa, into the position.
In his closing speech on Saturday night, Mugabe indirectly denounced Moyo and the faction supporting Mnangagwa as political prostitutes who were impelled by their love of power.
No elections were held at the congress for any of the party’s leadership positions.
Mugabe’s nomination for the presidency of the party was unanimous as it has been at every congress since independence in 1980.
“I stand here renewed, reinvigorated, rejuvenated, born-again,” he said in his closing speech to the 9 600 party faithful, dominated by shabbily dressed, thin and largely uneducated peasants.
Moyo and his supporters were voted into the central committee in elections held two weeks ago in their provincial councils. However, they were vetted out, said party chairperson John Nkomo. Members of Mugabe’s old guard who failed to be elected in the provincial elections were vetted in.
In the nominations for the successor to former vice-president Simon Muzenda who died last year aged 81, Mujuru and Mnangagwa were set to battle it out for a vote in congress because they both fell short of the required number of nominations for automatic election to the post.
Mugabe stopped Mnangagwa by changing the rules and decreeing that only a woman would be able to stand for nominations. He further ensured that no other woman could stand against Mujuru by cancelling a pro-Mnangagwa vote in one of the provinces and ordering it to be taken again.
It produced the desired result and Mujuru was not subjected to an election.
Mugabe appealed to the congress not to be narrow-minded about having a woman vice-president, but observers say few people believe Mugabe is serious about having a woman as the next president of Zimbabwe.
“Mugabe regards Mnangagwa as dangerously ambitious,” said a Western diplomat.
“He doesn’t want someone like that as vice-president drumming his fingers while he waits for Mugabe to die.
The only reason he installed Mujuru was to sideline Mnangagwa with someone who is both weak and loyal.”
Mugabe has few achievements in the issue of gender equality, said political commentator Eliphas Mukonoweshuro.
“He is part of a very traditional male dominated society,” he said.
“Zimbabwe is not ready for a woman president.”
Caesar Zivayi, a staunch pro-Mugabe columnist in the state press, last week wrote of the vibrancy of women in Zanu-PF, saying this was the secret of the party’s success.
According to him, “it is women who cooked for, harboured and washed liberation fighters combat fatigues”. - Sapa-DPA
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