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THE ZANU-PF Youth League is divided right through the middle over controversial amendments to guidelines governing the election of new office bearers at its congress set for next month. In a clear show of defiance, the majority of the youths are planning to petition the Politburo — ZANU-PF’s highest decision-making body in between congresses — hoping that it will shoot down the guidelines that were arrived at by the party’s national elections directorate.

The new guidelines have the effect of rendering most of the youths aspiring for positions in the provincial and national executive structures of the league ineligible to contest. Those irked by the alterations are accusing party bigwigs of conniving with a powerful clique of youths in the party, known as the ‘top six’, to concoct the changes in a bid to block competition. In terms of the new guidelines, only those with five years in the national and provincial executives would be eligible to stand for election.

This effectively shuts out those in the districts and lower levels of the Youth League. Of the current national Youth League executive made up of 50 members, only two had served in the previous executive. The rest rose from the various levels below, even from the cell. In the past, any ZANU-PF Youth League member with five years experience even at cell level, which is the lowest, was eligible to stand for elections. Sharp divisions have also emerged over the age group of the contestants.

One group calling itself the progressive minds is of the idea that only those between 28 years of age and below should be eligible to stand for election. This would imply that by the time officer bearers’ terms expire, they would still be within the constitutional definition of youth which is 35 years and below. The national elections directorate has, however, allowed those who are between the ages of 30 and 35 to stand for election.The problem with this is, that by the time their terms expire, the majority would have long surpassed the youth age.

The youths are also demanding an overhaul of the entire Absalom Sikhosana-led national youth executive, saying they have lost confidence in it. A Youth League member frozen out of the contest this week described the new guidelines as “absurd”. “I find it quite absurd that the elections directorate could endorse such a retrogressive move by those afraid of facing elections. Most of the current national executive members came straight from the cell with a few coming from the districts so what has changed now to warrant such a unashamed shifting of goal posts?” he queried.

“This is a clear indication of the corrupting nature of power. The electoral system which has been uniform at all congresses is being manipulated to suit the political whims of a few. This is a clap in the face of progress, a kick in the groin of democracy.” A Bulawayo-based youth had this to say: “We are very much disturbed to learn that the current national executive was allowed to draft the circular yet they are an interested party. They are seeking re-election and it was always obvious that they would defend their positions by unorthodox means. Now we have this to face.”

“They want to bar those aspiring for the positions they occupy. When they landed those positions, most of them were coming straight from the lower levels,” he added. Party national chairperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, who also chairs ZANU-PF’s national elections directorate declined to disclose details of an urgent meeting convened by the directorate on Wednesday last week after having been contacted for comment.

Khaya Moyo said he was only mandated to disclose the resolutions to the Politburo. “The meeting I chaired focused on preparations for the youth and women’s league congresses set for August and we would be giving feedback to the Politburo when it meets next, not to the media,” he said. The youths are also unhappy with the alleged meddling of senior members in their affairs arguing that the warring ZANU-PF factions were using their proxies to control key positions ahead on the elective congress slated for December.

“The youth league is an independent organ which is why we elect the leaders on our own though with the supervision of the elders. However, there is no doubt that they are overstepping their supervision role,” said one youth. A fierce factional battle has since erupted in ZANU-PF as competition for the right to represent the Youth League in the Politburo reaches fever pitch.

Gokwe Nembudziya legislator, Justice Mayor Wadyajena, and Makoni West Member of Parliament, Kudzanai Chipanga are locking horns over the position of deputy secretary for youth affairs ahead of the Youth League congress. Chipanga and Wadyajena have emerged as front runners of four candidates jockeying to replace the incumbent, Edson Chakanyuka, who hails from the same constituency as Wadyajena.

Chipanga is the current secretary for external relations while Wadyajena is the secretary for administration.

Party insiders say the race is a clear indication of factional infighting within the ruling party manifesting in the youth league. According to ZANU-PF sources who requested anonymity, the Youth League congress could be used as a test case of the strength of the two main ZANU-PF factions, one led by Justice Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the other by Vice President, Joice Mujuru, ahead of the crunch elective congress set for December.

Both Mujuru and Mnangagwa have denied leading factions but speculation keeps growing that the two are fighting, through proxies and supporters, to outfox each other in a protracted battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe. The faction which lands control of the league, said the sources, stands a greater chance of winning vital positions in the Central Committee and would already have secured a slight numerical and psychological aantage in the Politburo because the positions come with automatic entry into the highest decision-making body.

Wadyajena, said the sources, has the backing of Mnangagwa while Chipanga is being backed by Mujuru and was suggested to the Vice President by influential ally in Manicaland Province, Didymus Mutasa who is the ZANU-PF secretary for administration. A source who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Financial Gazette that Mutasa, who has been going around the country on Zim-Asset tours, had been taking Chipanga, among a few other people with him.

Asked to comment on this, Chipanga denied it was so, arguing instead that his going around with Mutasa across the regions was only because he was a member of the executive. “In any case, it is not just me who is taken along. There are other members of the youth executive who come along, and this is good for us because we get to learn how things are done,” Chipanga said.

Mhondoro Ngezi MP and current Youth League political commissar, Mike Gava is also vying for the post and has been described as ‘a dark horse lurking in the shadows’ and can spring a surprise.’ Gava is also alleged to be inclined to the Mnangagwa camp. Once an ally of Mnangagwa, the incumbent Chakanyuka is not going down without a fight as he is also seeking to retain the post.

Sources said Chakanyuka was Mnangagwa’s blue-eyed boy when he landed the coveted position of deputy secretary for Youth Affairs at the previous congress, but has since fallen out of grace with the revered politician. He has since defected to the Mujuru faction from where he seeks to redeem his political career which seems to be on the line. Chipanga confirmed that he is in the running for the post but refused to discuss the issue saying he was waiting for the outcome of the Central Committee meeting scheduled for today.

“I can confirm that I am running for the post of deputy secretary for youth affairs but cannot discuss the details for now as the guidelines that would govern our campaigns and elections are set to be released after the Central Committee meeting which happens on Thursday (today). You can get in touch with me thereafter,” he said.

Wadyajena also confirmed to the Financial Gazette he was contesting for the top youth position, although he would not be drawn into saying anything about Mnangagwa’s alleged support of him.

Chakanyuka, however, shrugged off the competition and told this paper that he was confident of retaining the position. “I do not understand how we can have two bulls from the same constituency wanting to rule,” he said in reference to Wadyajena, who comes from the same home area as him. “But that doesn’t scare me because isu taibva ka isu (I have been in this longer so I am more experienced).”

The infighting has also spread to different provinces. In the ZANU-PF ghold of Mashonaland Central province, provincial youth secretary, Godfrey Tsenengamu, secretary for administration, Kudakwashe Sintu and national executive youth member have all been suspended from the party for six months in what sources say is a calculated move to get them out of the way ahead of the congress.

In Manicaland Province, sources said several meetings were being held every week where factional allegiance is exhibited. The sources said ZANU-PF politburo member Munacho Mutezo has in recent weeks been addressing meetings where those believed to be aligned to the Mnangagwa faction have been heavily denounced. Mashonaland East provincial leadership, Ray Kaukonde, is also said to have threatened those in the Mnangagwa camp with suspension ahead of the congress.

ZANU-PF spokesman, Rugare Gumbo could not be reached for comment. The last youth congress held at the ZANU-PF national headquarters was punctuated by violence which at one point saw riot police intervening.

Source : Financial Gazette