Zimbabwe: Dark Cloud Hangs Over Zanu-PF Conference

ZANU PF holds its annual national people's conference in Chinhoyi today and tomorrow under a dark cloud of resurgent economic problems threatening to drag the country back to the traumatic pre-2009 era before the formation of the government of national unity (GNU).

The conference comes hot on the heels of controversial provincial elections tainted by allegations of rigging and voter disenfranchisement which have further widened factional fissures within the party.

Sources in the party claim a faction aligned to vice-president Joice Mujuru has been exerting pressure on Mugabe to exercise his power and push for the filling in of vacant posts, including that of the second vice-president and many other politburo positions in order to enhance its prospects regarding Mugabe's succession.

However Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said,"It is not as simple as people think. There is a process and this involves provincial nominations and the actual selection to be done at the party congress due in 2014."

This year's conference runs under the theme "Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset), growing the economy for empowerment and employment".

Hardly five months after President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party secured a landslide victory amid opposition charges of rigging, the country is showing signs of plunging into a deeper economic quagmire as evidenced by the continued collapse of service delivery and declining economic indicators.

The liquidity crunch is worsening while persistent water shortages and intermittent power outages are making life difficult for households and industry, as more and more firms close shops, retrench or outsource to reduce operating costs. Foreign direct investment remains scarce amid concerns over the country's empowerment laws.

The conference comes at a time Zanu PF, which is deeply divided along factional lines over President Robert Mugabe's successor, is under pressure to deliver on the lofty promises it made during the election campaign.

Although Zanu PF secured victory on the back of promises to revive the economy through a populist theme "Indigenise, Empower, Develop and Create Employment", there is very little on the ground to show for it thus far.

Zanu PF promised to create 2,265 million jobs across key sectors of the economy and contribute to export earnings, food security and to the fiscus among many other pledges including urban housing.

It said during the next five years it would build 250 000 low income housing units, 1 250 public houses, 2 500 shell factories, 310 clinics and 300 schools, in addition to the provision of flea and vendor market stands.

But hundreds of companies are currently closing shop, throwing tens of thousands of workers onto the streets to join the teeming ranks of the unemployed estimated at above 80%.

Zim Asset, an economic blueprint crafted by the party and expected to drive the country's economic agenda for the next five years will be topical, especially its implementation.

Delegates would also discuss the state of the party.

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