Robert Mugabe has secured endorsement to represent Zanu PF at next year's presidential election, after receiving resounding support from the ruling party's central committee in Harare on Friday.
The central committee meeting had met to thrash out issues to be discussed on the agenda of the ruling party's special congress in December, where many believed Mugabe would face stiff competition for the ruling party's leadership. Power struggles have been raging within the party following the emergence of three factions, one led by retired army general Solomon Mujuru, another by former security chief Emmerson Mnangagwa, while the other is comprised of Mugabe's loyalists.
All the uncertainities were however quelled today when ruling party spokesman, Nathan Shamuyarira, announced that the central committee had determined that "the party's 2004 candidate" would stand for re-election. This effectively gives Mugabe automatic approval of his candidacy at the party's extraordinary congress in December.
It remains to be seen if the debate on Mugabe's endorsement will be effectively closed, as the mood was "stale and bleak" according to witnesses who attended the Zanu PF press conference in Harare.
Journalist Stanley Kwenda said: "We did not see the obvious factionalists at the press conference but many were leaving in droves before the press conference even began. Only a small group of Mugabe loyalists could be heard celebrating somewhere within the party's headquaters. Mnangagwa looked quite relaxed and content, even though many thought he would be angling for the party's leadership. We suspect he draws some source of confidence from today's outcome."
After Friday's approval of the congress agenda, carefully designed to lead to Mugabe's endorsement without contest, the approval of Mugabe's candidacy will become a mere formality in December.