Party delegates of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF, who are attending the annual conference in Masvingo, sang and danced as they heaped praise on their veteran leader, describing him as “God-given.” President Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly three decades.
When the only leader that Zimbabwe has known since independence took to the podium, he exuded confidence. Mugabe told the delegates participating at the 16th annual conference that his party is standing on solid ground despite infighting that almost split the party earlier in 2016. “The party remains strong. There is no doubt about it; in fact very strong and formidable by any doubt. We have had all our opponents prostrated, thrown down flat on the ground,” Mugabe said.
Zimbabweans have been demonstrating against harsh economic times
The 92-year-old leader admitted, however, that there were some in the party who were after his presidency and would like him to step down. He also acknowledged that Zimbabwe was facing challenges, and called for unity.
Observers say that the factional fighting amongst senior party leaders is because they are trying to position themselves to succeed Mugabe. In 2014, several senior party leaders were expelled after they were accused of allegedly plotting to oust President Mugabe. At the annual conference, he took aim at some of these party leaders. He accused those calling for his retirement of fomenting discord in the party by promoting indiscipline.
“There has been creeping into our party a new culture of indiscipline and arrogance. There are rules to be obeyed. You cannot dictate how things should be done,” Mugabe said. He also challenged those who want him to step down to come out and say how it should be done.
Civic society groups and pro-democracy activists have been mounting pressure on Mugabe to resign. Several demonstrations have been held to protest against the country’s economic meltdown and ZANU-PF’s leadership.
Leaders losing track?
Joshua Sako, a white commercial farmer who has supported ZANU-PF since his youth, told DW that senior party leaders, whose fights have been played out in public, are a disgrace to the party that led Zimbabwe to independence from Britain in 1980.
“Some of our seniors seem to be losing track. It is not about individual interests. If you start concentrating on what is important for you as an individual, then you lose focus,” said Sako. He said that what matters were issues of importance for the whole country, as well as the party. “We need to remain focused on what we can achieve together.”
The ZANU-PF 16th annual conference, which ends on Saturday, is set to endorse Mugabe again as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2018 elections.