FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe last week hinted that Zanu PF was likely to choose a new presidential candidate to represent the party in the 2018 general elections, in what was seen as an admission that President Robert Mugabe, 91, may be too frail to run — in fact stand — for re-election.
Zanu PF is scheduled to hold its next congress in 2019, having held one last year which resulted in former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and her high-profile allies, among them the party’s former secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, falling by the wayside.
The party holds its congresses after every five years, but the Zanu PF constitution provides for an extraordinary congress where leaders can be replaced before completing their terms.
Article 5 of the party’s constitution stipulates that an extraordinary congress may be held at the instance of the majority of members of the central committee, the president and first secretary with the support of not less than one-third of central committee members, or at the instance of at least five provincial executive councils.
Grace’s hint comes at a time Zanu PF provincial structures are stampeding to endorse Mugabe as the party’s candidate for the presidential election, in a move officials fear might be risky for the party.
Mugabe will be 94 in 2018.
Addressing thousands of supporters at Mataga Growth Point in Mberengwa last week, Grace said Zanu PF is likely to converge and elect new leaders.
“Every year we hold a conference to check our progress as a party, but there are some people who want to confuse the majority.
They are saying I am going around the country so that I campaign for a vice-presidency position in December. How?” asked Grace.
“We hold elective congresses once in five years, but before the 2018 elections, we will go for congress and choose new leaders.”
Mugabe’s advanced age and increasing frailty have lately fuelled intense political bickering in the faction-riddled party.
Party officials believe Mugabe does not have the stamina to stand for the party in 2018, while others doubt he is strong enough to finish his term, hence intense jostling by the warring factions to strategically position themselves for the post-Mugabe era.
Last month Mugabe stumbled backwards before being assisted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and aides to scale a small step while attending the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi, India.
The video went viral on social media.
On September 15, Mugabe read the wrong speech during the official opening of the Third Session of the Eighth Parliament, showing old age is taking its toll on him.