High noon for Mujuru, Mnangagwa

Zanu-PF's fiercely contested provincial elections will be concluded on Saturday when polls are held in seven provinces.

Early indicators show that a faction led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru may win most of the provinces, but this will not spell the end of ongoing ­factional fights.

The party will elect a president, two vice-presidents, a national chair and a secretary for administration.

The faction that wins the provincial elections is likely to land the top posts, placing it in the driving seat to succeed President Robert Mugabe. Provincial executives will nominate and elect the top party office bearers.

Sources in the party who spoke to the Mail & Guardian said, although a faction led by Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is staring defeat in the face after being controversially beaten in his home province of Midlands and strongholds of Manicaland and Mashonaland Central, the faction had joined forces with army generals who oppose Mujuru's possible takeover.

The alliance wants Mugabe to remain in office and serve out his full term, giving it time to strategise and position itself for a final push.

Fluid politics
"Politics in Zanu-PF is fluid and a lot of things can happen in a year. Remember last year, we were on top in Zanu-PF and had won the district co-ordinating committee elections, including in Mujuru's home province and district.

"They somehow managed to influence Mugabe to dissolve the district co-ordinating committees and manipulate the elections, hence the current situation," said a Mnangagwa supporter who wished to remain anonymous.

"We are strategising and regrouping, although we are disappointed that the extraordinary politburo meeting did not nullify the elections held so far and call for fresh elections, which would have been held countrywide in one day. Evidence that the elections were rigged was clear because in Midlands some districts did not vote and, in Mashonaland Central, results were announced before voting had been completed."

Although the Mnangagwa faction failed in its bid to have poll results annulled in the three provinces so that the elections could be rerun in all provinces at the same time — in line with Zanu-PF's constitution — the faction's push for polls to be held simultaneously in the remaining provinces was granted.

Elections will now be held in Harare, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Masvingo, Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo.

The Mujuru faction is favoured to take Mashonaland East, where the vice-president's husband comes from, and it also stands a good chance in Mashonaland West.

Tough battle expected
In Masvingo, one of Mnangagwa's traditional strongholds, a tough ­battle is expected — politburo members Dzikamai Mavhaire and Kudakwashe Bhasikiti have done a lot of work on the ground there on Mujuru's behalf.

Obert Mpofu's influence in Matabeleland North and Bulawayo may be crucial for the Mnangagwa faction, although Zanu-PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo may use his influence to the advantage of the Mujuru faction in Matabeleland South. Khaya Moyo has also been trying to influence events in Bulawayo.

The Mujuru faction is also strong in Harare and the likelihood that it will manage to get six provinces is very high.

But a party insider close to Mnangagwa said that, going into Saturday's polls, Mnangagwa is confident he will win control of the provinces.

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