5 April 2013

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Cancels Politburo Meeting

PANIC over Zanu PF's uncertain prospects for victory in the impending do-or-die elections forced President Robert Mugabe this week to cancel a routine politburo meeting slated for Wednesday, preferring instead to meet the party's highly influential commissariat department to fine-tune its campaign strategy.

Sources said politburo members were only told of the meeting's cancellation when they were already in Harare.

The sources said there is so much anxiety over the next elections that Mugabe felt compelled to cancel the highly anticipated politburo meeting called to set rules for primary elections, arguing that it was more important to sharpen the party's campaign strategies to ensure it retained the presidency and regained the parliamentary majority it lost in 2008.

"For more than six hours discussions centred on voter registration, voter education and mobilisation of support based on the results of the just -ended referendum," the source said.

"The commissariat was ordered to go out in full force and aggressively mobilise party supporters to register to vote and ensure the results of the referendum are translated into an election triumph."

Zanu PF believes that most people who voted for the draft constitution in the recent referendum are from their traditional rural strongholds, and has been suggesting in the state-controlled media that this heralds a landslide victory in the coming elections to end the shaky unity government.

According to the sources, Mugabe reportedly challenged the commissariat to ensure that those who turned up for the referendum in the party's rural strongholds are registered to vote in the harmonised elections.

More than three million people voted in the referendum with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) figures showing the majority of ballots were cast in the three Mashonaland provinces, Manicaland and Masvingo.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed the commissariat meeting saying it was aimed at updating the party's leadership on election preparedness.

"We met the commissariat to check on our preparedness as elections are around the corner," Gumbo said.

"We also discussed issues to do with voter registration and voter education because a serious party that wants to win elections must motivate its supporters to register to vote."

Zanu PF has been accused of manipulating the voters' roll in previous elections to rig ballots.

The party continues to resist calls to clean the voters' roll or to implement a biometric voter registration system.

Reports say Zanu PF has been setting up informal voter registration centres around the country in an effort to register its supporters ahead of the crucial polls.

Sources claim party supporters are being driven to the centres en masse where their names and identity particulars are recorded for onward transmission to the local registrar-general's office for registration as voters.

The Zanu PF commissariat department has been reinforced by retired Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena and former CIO director-internal Sydney Nyanhongo, among others.

The security sector, particularly the military, has played a significant role in the political and electoral affairs of Zimbabwe since Independence and is often cited as the reason Mugabe has managed to retain power.

The visibility and influence of the military has risen over the years to current levels of dominance and control over civilian affairs. The militarisation of Zanu PF has disturbed senior party leaders who believe the increasing number of people with security backgrounds occupying high positions could destabilise the party and alienate it from voters.

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