The Sunday Mail
Zanu-PF’s Politburo meetings are a bit of an enigma. People always predict fireworks, but the skies seem never to illuminate.
Last Wednesday’s meeting at Zanu-PF Headquarters in Harare was no different.
The Politburo met for their ordinary monthly session as dictated by Zanu-PF’s constitution. Members congregated, talked and at the end of the day retreated to their party, Government and family duties.
At around 9:20am, Zanu-PF National Secretary for Administration Cde Ignatius Chombo was already in his office at party headquarters, finalising administrative issues ahead of the meeting.
At the entrance, three party employees screened visitors, whilst another team conducted body checks.
Outside, a group of about 10 men and women sat on the concrete paving, seemingly unaware of the looming Politburo fireworks promised by the private media.
Busy with their phones or deep in conversation, they did not take much notice two suit-clad men whose faces and poise screamed State security, the uniformed Air Force of Zimbabwe officer and camouflage-attired Presidential Guards patrolling the parking lot with a dog.
Just a stone’s throw away from the car park, a Lyons Maid and fruit vendor kept an eye out for potential customers.
Adjacent to the Zanu-PF Headquarters, four men trimmed tall grass growing outside Rowan Martin Building using portable two-stroke petrol-powered hand-cutters.
One of the three Police Protection Unit details guarding the ruling party’s edifice glanced towards them every now and again.
Where were the fireworks?
At about 9:40, First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe arrived with her security escort.
One of the group loitering near the entrance snapped up in excitement and informed his colleagues: “Ndimai vasvika, ko panei pano nhasi? (The First Lady is here, what event is on today?)”
One replied, “Nhasi chitatu, hanzi kune Politburo (it’s a Wednesday, I’m told there is a Politburo meeting).”
Amai Mugabe exchanged pleasantries with the cadres and then entered the building, greeting party staff with a warm smile and enquiries as to how they and their families were.
Amai Mugabe is Zanu-PF’s National Secretary for Women’s Affairs, heading one of the ruling party’s most powerful organs in addition to being Zimbabwe’s First Lady.
Just after her arrival, Cde Obert Mpofu’s vehicle pulled up, to be followed by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, and Cdes Cain Mathema, Thokozile Mathuthu and Shuvai Mahofa.
Soon, the other members of the cast were arriving at the entrance as if coming off a conveyor belt churning out politicos: Cdes Tsitsi Muzenda, Kudzanai Chipanga, Jacob Mudenda, Prisca Mupfumira, Saviour Kasukuwere, Jorum Gumbo, Sithembiso Nyoni, Jonathan Moyo, Christopher Mushowe, Kembo Mohadi and Sydney Sekeramayi were all there.
There is no sense of impending fireworks. There is no weight of factionalism.
They clasp hands, exchange pleasantries and enquire after each others health.
Some of the Politburo members headed to their party offices while others went directly to the room where they hold their indaba on the 14th floor.
At around 1pm, the wailing of sirens sent a buzz of excitement in and around the building.
“President vasvika, the President has arrived,” was the common whispter as people jostled to take various positions where they would get a glimpse of their leader and hopefully also get to shake his hand.
After disembarking from his Mercedes-Benz Pullman, the President was escorted to his office.
A few Politburo members, among them Cdes Kasukuwere, Mpofu, Mathema and Chombo, took turns to call on Zanu-PF’s First Secretary in his office.
As the clock struck 2:25pm, President Mugabe and Amai Mugabe made their way to the meeting room.
The Politburo members rose, and all with smiles waited to greet the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
Cde Joshua Malinga waited in his wheelchair until the President came round and patted him on the back: “Hesi vaMalinga, how are you, are you keeping alive?”
Cde Malinga replied, “Ndinofara Your Excellency, makadii Amai?”
As he took his seat, President Mugabe briefly turned to VP Mphoko and said: “Hevoi vaMphoko, manga masara mega. Pane ma side (meetings) atanga tichimboita.”
The mood in the room is lively but not charged, it is filled with expectation but not tension. After hours of deliberations, Cde Chombo tells the media that the indaba ordered a rerun of elections to choose a substantive chairperson for Masvingo.
That is one “firework” issue summarily dispensed with.
He says Cde Chipanga presented a post-mortem of the 21st February Movement with the President expressing satisfaction over how the event was organised.
Another “firework” fizzling out.
Cde Chombo also highlight that the meeting discussed the preparations of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and expressed satisfaction over Command Agriculture Programme.
Any fireworks there? Reports on the general stability in all the provinces and preparations of the Mwenezi East by-election scheduled for April 8 were presented, and Cde Chombo gave his verdict: a largely fruitful and progressive meeting.
This was the 302nd Politburo meeting.
Like scores before it, the predicted fireworks turned out to be damp quibs. Yes, Zanu-PF has its internal issues, it has its personality clashes and headstrong brawlers.
But one can’t help but think that when the crunch comes, unity of purpose trumps all other considerations: an omnious sign for opposition parties hoping to meet a fractured ruling party in next year’s elections.