December 6, 2002

Hopes Low for ZANU (PF) Conference

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF) party is expected to confront a pile of problems besetting the country during its annual conference in Chinhoyi next week.

Zanu (PF) secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa said the agenda of the meeting, which would be held from December 11 to 15, included the controversial land reform programme, the state of the economy, and the country's international relations. Other major issues that would be discussed were the food and fuel shortage crises, shortages of various commodities, elections, party restructuring, and the 2003 national budget.

Mnangagwa, widely regarded as Mugabe's likely successor, said Agriculture Minister Joseph Made and his land reform counterpart, Flora Bhuka, would present audit reports on the land redistribution exercise detailing how much land had been acquired and the progress on farming activities by the resettled farmers.

But the major debate who will succeed Mugabe has already been suppressed. Party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira said at the weekend that the issue would not be discussed, but would be considered at Zanu (PF)'s next congress in 2006. This has dampened the spirit of the party's Young Turks, who were anxious to raise the matter during the Chinhoyi meeting. Party chairman John Nkomo is expected to present a report on the state of the party and its performance in the recent elections.

However, Mugabe is unlikely to make major changes to party structures. The last changes in Zanu (PF) were during the 1999 congress in Harare. Those changes, which saw dissenting heavyweights like former ministers Eddison Zvobgo and Dumisa Dabengwa being flushed out, were confirmed only during the party's extraordinary congress in Victoria Falls last year. Zanu (PF)'s annual conferences, which differ slightly from the congresses held every five years, are meant to offer party members an opportunity to discuss freely policy issues and matters affecting the party at large. This year's conference comes at a time of great economic and political instability. Zimbabwe is reeling from an economic meltdown with inflation at 144%, a chronic food shortage that will affect more than 6-million rural Zimbabweans, and shortages of other basic commodities, particularly fuel. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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