ZANU PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa comes face to face with the party’s enormous demands as discord emerges over the party-state conflation following his ascendancy last November.
The conference comes amid growing pressure for the party to deliver on its electoral promise as the economy underperforms while, internally, confusion reigns over roles among the top ranks after Mnangagwa adopted a new set of ethos.
Having emphasized a pro-economic thrust in his administration at both government and party level and preached unity across the ranks and file to thwart factionalism in the party, his leadership style is expected to be felt much more for the first time and come to a true test.
Mnangagwa comes face to face with the harsh realities of being judged on delivering on the electoral promise that anchored the party’s manifesto in the July 31 election in which he beat his main rival Nelson Chamisa in the presidential poll.
His victory also came with a two thirds majority in parliament.
In the party’s election manifesto, published not more than six months ago, Zanu PF promised to transform Zimbabwe into a middle-income economy by 2030, prioritising re-opening the country for business with the global economy community, rebuilding industry and enabling capacity utilisation growth, job creation, eradication of poverty and uplifting people’s livelihoods.
But only four months after the historic victory, the economy appears to be heading south.
Unemployment levels remain high, rising inflation has eaten into disposable incomes and many companies are closing shop.
Long queues at fuel service stations have become the order of the day, forcing government to treat fuel as a priority case. Attempts to restore order appear to be suffering again after a moth of what seemed to be normalcy with even longer queues emerging and a possible price hike on fuel looking after Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube proposed to raise excise duty on fuel by up to 7 cents per litre in his 2019 National Budget.
Fears remain fuel prices could shoot to match parallel market rates which are 4 times more on the local dollar as foreign currency remains a challenge.
Some service stations are now selling fuel only in foreign currency.
This comes as Ncube proposed duty on imported luxury vehicles and luxury items be paid in foreign currency affective November 23.
While conversations have traditionally been around succession and intraparty wars ahead of congresses and conferences in Zanu PF, Mnangagwa’s biggest challenge remains delivering on the election promises by reviving the economy.
Unlike congress or special congress, whose major difference is that it is elective, the powers and functions of the people’s conference shall be to receive and consider reports of the Central Committee on behalf of Congress; to co-ordinate and supervise the implementation of decisions and programmes of Congress by the Central Committee; declare the President of the Party elected at Congress as the State Presidential Candidate of the Party and to exercise any such powers and authority as may- be incidental thereto, according to ZANUP PF.
However, intraparty politics will remain an issue for Mnangagwa after retiring some heavyweights from government. His strides around the matter will speak volumes to the future of the party and be judged against his maiden speech at the special congress which voted him to lead the party last year.
At the congress in 2017, Mnangagwa preached unity and being a national leader. He also spoke about leadership renewal, against corruption and praise singing.
As recently reported by Business Times, confusion is now around the party-state conflation following the retirement of the old guard from government.
President Mnangagwa retired some senior Zanu PF members from government and assigned them to concentrate full time at the party as part of measures to re-engineer and reinvigorate the ruling party, but this is believed to be part of deliberate efforts to usher in a new pro economic, people driven and inclusive era in what has become known as the Second Republic.
Some heavyweights like former Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu, former Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and former Health Minister David Parirenyatwa, former Energy Minister Simon Khaya Moyo and former Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi are now fulltime employees of Zanu PF.
Mnangagwa’s administration is emphasising on nation building, inclusivity and economic recovery and among many measures and has made deliberate efforts to get rid of the conflation between party and government business which had become common under the Robert Mugabe’s administration.
The latest clash between the ousted ministers and government broke recently around a 2 per cent transaction tax introduced by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube. Khaya Moyo, now full-time Zanu PF spokesperson, was quoted in the media as saying there was a hidden hand in the economic situation prevailing in the country, a statement open to different interpretations.
Mpofu, full-time Zanu PF secretary for administration, was also quoted as saying Zanu-PF members needed explanation from government around the new measures amid claims he had complained that the party was not consulted prior to introduction of the 2 percent transaction tax. The responses made by the ousted ministers irked certain constituencies in Zanu PF who are now baying for their blood.
War veterans, for instance, have recommended that President Mnangagwa fires the ex-cabinet ministers- Mpofu, Parirenyatwa, Sekeramayi and Chinamasa from the party on grounds they are counter revolutionary elements that cannot be trusted. The war veterans want Mpofu to clear his name against corruption charges.
Deputy Chief Secretary for Presidential Communications George Charamba recently said President Mnanagwa’s administration proclaimed the second republic which means new rules and new institutions.
That, Charamba said, changed the governing ethos and one key change is around governing differently from what happened since 1980 until November 2017 to justify the proclamation of the second republic.