Delegates of the ZANU-PF party of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe have started converging in the western city of Bulawayo for the party’s annual conference which sources say will not debate the sensitive issue of Mr. Mugabe’s succession.
Mugabe called on his party members last week to prepare for the conference, which opens Wednesday, to deal with challenges facing the party and the country.
But the main issue worrying ZANU-PF insiders is Mugabe’s continued reign as party leader, which automatically makes him the party’s candidate in the elections widely expected next year despite his advanced age of 87 and reported poor health.
ZANU-PF sources argue that the party needs to discuss its future leadership - but no one in the highly regimented organization is prepared to openly raise the issue.
Credible reports have said Mr. Mugabe is suffering from prostate cancer, and he has traveled to Singapore almost a dozen times since January for medical treatment. But he has constantly brushed aside concerns about his health, maintaining he is fit.
Officially, according to ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo, the indigenization process and the state of the party are the top agenda items. "Succession is not an issue, we are discussing how we can improve and energize the party," Gumbo said.
Political analyst Effie Dlela Ncube commented that ZANU-PF’s reluctance to tackle the succession issue means the party is unable to plan beyond the Mugabe era.