Senior Zanu PF officials are worried that the impending restructuring exercise of the party will trigger fresh infighting as different factions manoeuvre to place their loyalties in strategic positions as the battle to succeed ageing President Robert Mugabe intensifies, party insiders said last week.
They fear that the current intense lobbying for posts and political mudslinging could leave the party more divided and unable to face its main political rival, MDC-T, should polls be held any time soon.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo however, said the exercise would instead strengthen the party and weed out bad apples in time for elections later this year.
The restructuring exercise begins this month as the party prepares for elections, which Mugabe insists should be held later this year without fail.
Sources said Zanu PF political commissar Webster Shamu has been instructed to superintend over the exercise with due care as it has the potential to further divide the former ruling party, already plugged by internal fights.
It is against this background that Shamu recently warned party members involved in the succession debate that there was no vacancy for the post of president as Mugabe was still in charge.
He accused party cadres who wanted to be elected in top posts of causing chaos in the party and its organs.
There are at least four distinct factions in Zanu PF. These are said to be led by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Vice President Joice Mujuru, Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) chief, Constantine Chiwenga and one devoted to keeping Mugabe in power.
“The fears are legitimate because every faction is determined to control the party’s structures from districts to provinces,” said one insider.
“Shamu’s warning stems from the same fears. One’s control of provinces plays a crucial role in the dynamics on who takes over from the old man (Mugabe).”
Another source said factional fighting has seen Zanu PF failing to elect a provincial chairman for Mashonaland West, where the party’s gurus are said to have clashed on several occasions as they try to impose their favourite cadres.
In Masvingo, a rival faction has set a parallel district coordinating committee office at Nyika Growth Point as the fight for control of Bikita district intensifies. The factions are said to belong to Mujuru and Mnangagwa camps.
A few days before the Zanu PF annual conference in Bulawayo, turmoil erupted in Matabeleland provinces as the party’s factions openly clashed. This resulted in the party’s Matabeleland North chairman Zwelitsha Masuku being sacked for alleged incompetence. He was replaced by former chairman Headman Moyo.
Senior central committee and politburo members in the province also clashed over the prolonged suspension of the provincial women’s league secretary Eve Bitu.
Sources said the clashes were a direct result of factional fault lines in the party, as senior party members make strategic political manoeuvres ahead of elections later this year. They said the clashes in Bulawayo, Masvingo and Mashonaland West were reflective of bigger fights in Zanu PF as presidential hopefuls position loyalists in strategic and influential posts hoping for their favours later.
Efforts to get a comment from Shamu were fruitless.
However, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said the restructuring exercise would solve the problem of factionalism.
He denied the exercise would further divide and weaken the party but strengthen it ahead of the elections.
“We can’t fail to restructure because there are factions,” said Gumbo. “In fact, we have to restructure so that we remove forces that are destructive to the party.”
Gumbo said Shamu, as the party’s political commissar, would address every member’s grievances, if there are any, to make sure that the party remains stable.