HARARE – Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu PF, on Friday re-elected Emmerson Mnangagwa for another five-year term as president.
It was the party’s first congress since the removal of the late Robert Mugabe via a coup in November 2017.
Mnangagwa was unopposed and will seek re-election for the country’s presidency next year, where he’s likely to be challenged by the leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Nelson Chamisa.
During the run-up to the congress, there were whispers that his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, the retired army general who led the putsch against Mugabe, would attempt to launch a spirited late challenge.
But it was not to be as Chiwenga took to the podium in support of Mnangagwa.
“While this congress is supposed to be elective, the party structures have already clearly and thunderously endorsed Comrade Mnangagwa as the president and 1st Secretary as the sole candidate in the 2023 national elections. People have thus spoken. Let their will be obeyed,” he said.
When he took to the podium at the Harare International Conference Centre, Mnangagwa said he was ready for the challenge and that Zanu PF would win next year’s elections resoundingly.
The congress went ahead while a legal challenge to Mnangagwa’s leadership was before the courts.
Sybeth Musengezi, a Zanu PF youth activist, wants the 19 November 2017 extraordinary party meeting, which called for the removal of Mugabe, declared null and void. According to his view, it would mean Mnangagwa took up the party leadership illegally. That meeting had been in support of the coup, blocking any possible avenue that Mugabe could use to stay in power.
But the congress would not deter Musengezi, who said the youth should take charge.
“We can’t continue to be led by a clueless octogenarian. While they’re having another kangaroo meeting, (despite a pending court case) to endorse Mnangagwa as their sole presidential candidate for 2023 elections, we’ve started consultations as young comrades in Zanu PF on way forward,” he said.
Despite no one coming out in the open, there are levels of mistrust within the rank and file of Zanu PF.
The Midlands province, Mnangagwa’s political base, started singing a song, with the lyrics, “leave Mnangagwa alone. Why do you hate him?”.
Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, is never short of festivities, but the Zanu PF congress, which brings together the political and business elite who form the country’s oligarchy, is big business.
Hotels and lodges are fully booked. Some delegates from mostly small towns are being put up in schools.
Others are staying in surrounding towns, and making the trip to Harare for the congress.
“This weekend alone, we will make sales that can equal what we make in a month,” said a bartender in central Harare.
The congress is running under the theme: Building a prosperous Zimbabwe, leaving no one and no place behind. – News24