THE Zanu PF Women's League conference in Harare yesterday once again provided further evidence President Robert Mugabe is increasingly losing control of the party and might be becoming a lame duck as he has been reduced to whining about manipulation of successive internal elections.
A visibly angry Mugabe railed at senior party officials involved in vote-buying during the youth and women conferences after last week's Youth League elections won by Vice-President Joice Mujuru's allies as they delivered yet another body blow to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa's faction.
He slammed "criminal conduct" by senior politburo officials bent on rigging the Youth League's elections in favour of their factions, urging the women to avoid falling into a similar trap when they conduct their own polls.
"What was most shameful was the interference by senior people from the politburo ... that was very dirty (indeed)," Mugabe said. "At the December congress all of us must resign so that new people are elected. The politburo and central committee -- we must all resign. Some are already campaigning vigorously, dishing out loads of money; so they would want to see the Youth and Women's Leagues producing people whom they think support them and will at congress then combine in electing them. So it is up to you to be vigilant. If you want to be used go ahead and accept their bribes."
Last week Mugabe complained about "dirty rubbish" and "political prostitutes" infesting the party. This is not the first time Mugabe has protested about intimidation, vote-buying and ballot-rigging. He made similar noises during Zanu PF's hotly-contested provincial elections last November -- overwhelmingly won by Mujuru's faction. Before that, he had also complained about the same issues in the run-up to the party's primaries before the general elections. No one listened to him.
Despite his complaints over provincial elections, he was cornered in the politburo by the Mujuru camp, which dominates the decision-making body, into endorsing flawed results. The results were allowed to stand despite protests from Mnangagwa's faction.
Even as he was pleading with the women not to be used to further factional agendas, indications are similar electoral corrupt practices will be used. Candidates aligned to Mujuru appear poised to win key positions in the Women's League like they did in the Youth League last weekend.
Party sources said yesterday the Mujuru faction is pushing for Abigail Damasane to take over from Eunice Sandi as the deputy secretary after dropping the proposal to force in Olivia Muchena.
Other key positions, in terms of the Zanu PF constitution, which would be critical in the battle to control the Women's League, include secretaries for administration, finance, commissariat, external relations, security, transport and welfare and information and publicity as well as legal affairs and women's rights.
Mujuru, who has been rattled by the sudden entry into politics of the First lady Grace Mugabe at the behest of outgoing Women's League boss Oppah Muchinguri, said to be aligned to the Mnangagwa faction, appeared unfazed yesterday as she had the audacity to taunt her opponents with a song, which goes "among us here there are some who will betray the party".
She received the loudest cheers from delegates as her bitter rivals, Grace and Muchinguri, failed to steal the show as they had threatened before the conference.