Mugabe's Non-Event Congress Starts
This is urban Harare, the poor area of Epworth on the outskirts of the city. ZANU PF considered this a stronghold until last year, when the residents fled to the MDC-Tsvangirai. But Mugabe's party is busy threatening and cajoling, in an effort to win back the constituency in the next election. The ZANU PF Congress going on in Harare at the moment is designed to "revitalise" the party and get everyone united behind Mugabe. It looks like the old dictator has been able to carry it off
Harare, Zimbabwe, 09 December 2009
ZANU PF, the party of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, started its Congress in Harare today with little or no scope for surprises at all.
Mugabe and his deputy, Joice Mujuru, have been confirmed in their posts and will be the ZANU PF ticket in the next election, whenever that may be. John Nkomo, whom Mugabe had been intially reluctant to back for the post of 2nd Vice-president, has now been confirmed as well in that post.
There was a short-lived rebellion against Simon Khaya Moyo as the National Chairman of ZANU PF, but Mugabe whipped the party into line day before yesterday during a Politburo meeting. So there will certainly be no fireworks for the more than 10 000 delegates attending the conference.
Interestingly, the ANC of South Africa has sent a delegation to the Congress to be in solidarity with their fellow liberation movement party, ZANU PF and they will be delivering a solidarity message. It makes nonsense of the telescope analysis you are now reading which claims a "tougher stance" by Jacob Zuma against Mugabe.
People keep pointing to the brimstone and fire breathed by COSATU, the South African Trade Union Movement during the days of Thabo Mbeki as evidence that Zuma will be "forced" to deal with Mugabe.
The truth of the matter, of course, is that COSATU made the noises they made about Zimbabwe as a way of adding to their grievances against Thabo Mbeki. It was about internal politics. They used Zimbabwe to show Mbeki up yet again as an incompetent leader who needed to be replaced. Now that this has happened, they are quiet and will not risk breaking up the ANC Tripartite Alliance over Mugabe and ZANU PF.
But, of course, Zimbabweans have a huge capacity for self-delusion.
In any case, at the end of this Congress, we will see Mugabe take mastery over his party yet again. Whether this will save the party remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the culture of violence and intimidation will take center stage at the next election. It will probably be worse than the June 2009 elections.
Because Mugabe has nothing to lose, no incentive to behave well in the next elections. If he had seen credit lines and aid unlocked, perhaps he would think twice, but as he told Politburo members day before yesterday: "There is nothing they can do to us that they have not already done."
His attitude is that, if the world imposes sanctions (Africa is unlikely to do this, so it will be usual suspects, and the sanctions will never pass at the United Nations), Zimbabwe will simply continue as it is now, with dollarisation in place and limping along with minimal or no growth.
Pressure is easing on Mugabe, in fact, with his sworn enemies, the MDC-T, helping him by talking up recovery in the country. Superficially, there is stabilisation. But there is no growth. You have to live here to see the levels of poverty that are still plaguing the nation. Zimbabwean products are still not available in the shops in any significant quantities. Which means production is still in the doldrums, not more than 25% across the board.
But the sense of relief within the population is working to Mugabe's advantage as the "incumbent". And his culture of violence will back up his advantage.
By the end of this week, all posts within ZANU PF will be confirmed. And then we will be waiting for the next elections, which Mugabe is determined to hold only in 2011, no matter what the MDC does.