THE Zanu PF annual national people's conference which ended yesterday has further cast doubt over the party's preparedness for an early election.
Despite claims by various speakers that Zanu PF was poised for a resounding victory in next year's elections, the atmosphere on the first day of the conference did not bode well with such claims.
The estimated 5 000 delegates were rather passive and lacked the confidence exhibited at previous conferences.
Absent was the electrifying atmosphere characterised by rhetorical speeches, powerful singing and dancing which had become synonymous with Zanu PF conferences, especially ahead of elections.
There appeared to be an air of uncertainty among delegates. It was evident that age has caught up with their candidate for next year's elections -- 88-year-old President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe himself was not super-charged when he delivered his speech.
Every now and then, he leaned on the podium and his speech was sometimes slurred, making him a shadow of the great orator known over the years.
Under the "bhora musango" strategy which was widely believed to have been applied during the 2008 elections, some party officials would encourage the electorate to vote for Zanu PF members of parliament and at the same time decampaign Mugabe. This resulted in most Zanu PF candidates garnering far much more votes than Mugabe in their constituencies.
Zanu PF national chairman, Simon Khaya-Moyo said that the scourge of corruption and lack of discipline spelled disaster for the party. He said the quest for indigenisation created a platform for corruption by some party leaders.
"Entrepreneurship has now been replaced by 'corruptonuership'," he said. "We must be a clean party guided by values and ideals of the liberation struggle and abide by the constitution. We must come out of this historical conference committed to fighting corruption in favour of entrepreneurship."
Vice-President Joice Mujuru also said divisions and conflicts were threatening to tear Zanu PF apart.
"Let's forgive each other. Acrimony stands as a threat to stability of the party," she said.
The conference centre was built in a record three months' time, but it is yet to be fully completed. The roof leaks and a number of finishings are yet to be completed.
Over half of the top-of-the-range vehicles belonging to the VIP delegates got stuck in the mud after it rained in the afternoon. The delegates had to rescue each other using the same expensive vehicles.
The conference centre was reportedly constructed on stolen farmland, with the evicted owner said to be contemplating taking legal action.
An indigenous farmer is said to have bought Bertram Winery farm after its previous white owner, who was the sole producer of Green Valley wine, moved to South Africa in 2000 at the height of the country's violent land seizures.
Corruption seen as top threat
Instead of energising delegates ahead of elections, the party leadership spent the better part of the first day of the conference warning delegates that Zanu PF was doomed if the current corruption, lack of discipline and divisions within its ranks continued.
It was clear to all delegates that there was a real fear in the leadership that corruption and factionalism may spell doom for the party in the next polls.
Midlands provincial chairman and governor, Jaison Machaya was the first to warn Mugabe that he faced defeat, as some party officials were plotting his downfall under what is known as "bhora musango" (ball-off-pitch strategy).
Machaya said Zanu PF continued to be deeply divided, making it difficult to provide a united front against its opponents.
"This conference must bring us together as one united family under Mugabe," he said. "We must desist from the tendency of kicking the ball off the pitch but aim for the goal area."
Conference funded from donations: Mnangagwa
It was not all doom and gloom, as the party celebrated the controversial construction of the Chinese-built US$6,5 million convention centre where the conference took place. Mugabe and other speakers heaped praises on Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa for initiating the project.
However, Mnangagwa was at pains to explain the relevance of the massive project at a time the government is struggling to provide basic services, including health and water. He said the conference centre would be used to host weddings and church services, adding that more facilities would be built, including a hotel and other accommodation services.
Mnangagwa said the conference was funded from donations made by companies and individuals. He said everyone approached for donations responded positively.
Critics of Mnangagwa within the party said he wanted to use the conference centre to position himself as Mugabe's successor. They told The Standard that Mnangagwa wanted to prove that he could organise and mobilise resources, which is critical for the survival of the party.