THE Zanu-PF youth league is reportedly divided over plans to amend the party’s constitution to allow for the re-introduction of the women’s quota, largely seen as meant to catapult First Lady Grace Mugabe into the presidium.
This came as Grace’s allies were said to be pushing for her elevation to the post of Vice-President at the party’s extraordinary congress set for December.
President Robert Mugabe has agreed to turn the Zanu-PF annual people’s conference, slated for Gwanda, into an elective congress after succumbing to pressure from the party’s Young Turks.
The party’s Young Turks, also known by the monicker G40, are allegedly plotting to use the event to either push out Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and replace him with Grace or create the post of a third Vice-President to sneak the First Lady in.
Tempers reportedly flared when Zanu-PF youth league national executive members debated the matter at the ongoing International Festival of Students and Youth in Sochi, Russia.
According to sources, tempers boiled over after some executives accused league secretary Kudzanayi Chipanga of resisting efforts to amend the party constitution to allow for Grace’s elevation.
“There are major disagreements and things boiled over in Russia where Kudzi Chipanga clashed with political commissar Innocent Hamandishe, among other G40 (aligned) youths. They accused Chipanga of being Lacoste (a faction linked to Mnangagwa) and frustrating their efforts to push through a resolution demanding the re-introduction of a woman in the presidium,” NewsDay heard.
“Chipanga is accused of not playing ball, but the issue is the purported resolution is being pushed on factional lines and through the back door.”
Chipanga and Hamandishe were not available for comment yesterday as they were reportedly still in Russia, while youth league secretary for administration Xavier Kazizi professed ignorance over the alleged disagreements.
“I am not aware of that. You can ask, I came with the others,” Kazizi said.
While addressing Zanu-PF supporters in Manicaland two months ago, Mugabe warned Chipanga against “selling out”.
Sources in Zanu-PF at the time said Chipanga’s G40 adversaries had been trying to paint him as a Mnangagwa ally as part of a sinister plot to get him expelled from the party ahead of next year’s elections.
“They have been whispering in the President’s ear that Chipanga was given a car and a house by people connected to the VP, which is a lie,” insiders claimed.
Zanu-PF provincial co-ordinating committees last weekend held meetings to endorse the call for an extraordinary congress that, according to the party’s constitution, is normally only held “if there is a vacancy in the office of national President or if the President wants to appoint a successor”.
Mugabe has, however, argued against appointing a successor despite pressure from his wife and mainly the G40 faction. The ailing 93-year-old Zanu-PF leader argues “it is the people who shall appoint my successor”.
He has also rejected claims that he was setting up his wife to take over from him. The G40 faction has shifted goalposts and were now pushing for Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi to succeed Mugabe.
Grace, who was yesterday reportedly in China, was expected to arrive in Russia on Sunday with her delegation of approximately 20 people.
Government sources indicated that she would meet some top businesspeople and bureaucrats during her week-long private-business visit.
Meanwhile, Russian ambassador to Zimbabwe Sergey Bakharev yesterday denied claims that the youth festival was “low-key” as it was organised by the World Federation of Democratic Youth, a United Nations-recognised international organisation, and has been held regularly since 1947.
“(The) current 19th festival is a record one, being attended by more than
30 000 people from 185 countries, which by any standard cannot be described as low-key,” he said.
Bakharev said Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the festival and also met with representatives from other countries, including Zimbabwe.