By Tawanda Majoni
The curtain came down on the 13th Zanu (PF) annual People’s Conference in Gweru on Saturday with the party calling for the muzzling of private radio stations and its First Secretary and President, Robert Mugabe, begging for internal unity ahead of what he described as a “watershed” election next year.
The major highlight of the day was the afternoon presentation of cluster resolutions, during which the head of the Media, Science and Technology Committee, Olivia Muchena, told delegates that they had wanted the jamming of radio stations beaming into Zimbabwe from outside.
These stations include SW Radio Africa, Radio VOP and Studio 7 that are based in the US and UK.
“Our committee is urging the party to adopt technology that will jam hostile foreign media in areas where State radio and television services are not available. We should find technology as a party so that these radio stations are not accessible to the people in those areas,” Muchena announced.
These stations have been providing alternative coverage on Zimbabwe for more than a decade in the wake of a State-imposed monopoly of the airwaves by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
Already, they are victims of scrambling by the local secret service which is reported to have received state-of-the-art jamming equipment from China several years ago. Muchena’s committee also urged the party to invest in Information Communication Technology to fight “cyber warfare”.
“ICTs are important in cyber warfare and the party should invest a minimum of $5m for ICT platforms for social media. We will not explain the details because we should not do that,” said Muchena, who, according to party Chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, had to speak from the floor because of an injured leg following an accident.
Her cluster also resolved that Zanu (PF) should establish a radio and television station “as we cannot rely on State radio and television during elections because of too many regulations” and urged the party to “treat messages on cellphones with utmost caution as some of them are hostile”.
Her party seems to have adopted a combative attitude towards social media and telephony in spreading vital information during elections. Other major resolutions by the committees included:
• The setting up of an ideological school for Zanu (PF) members
• Holding elections “without failure” by March 2013 and a referendum on a draft constitution this month
• Giving beneficiaries of the land redistribution programme the first right of refusal in the event that mining claims are found on their farms
• Pushing for legislation forcing banks to financially support local companies
• Setting up banks in rural areas
• Establishing a Commission of Inquiry into the activities of diamond mining giant, De Beers, during the time it operated in the country
• Setting up a Robert Mugabe Foundation to update supporters on party developments throughout the world
• Establishing a Food Supply Scheme “to address food insecurity in the country”
• Reintroducing the supplementary feeding scheme in schools
• Shunning violence unless provoked by other parties
• Urging party elders to stop a culture of creating factions
• Giving 30 percent of government tenders to women
• Stopping the police and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority from clogging highways with roadblocks
In his closing remarks, Mugabe begged for unity.
“We are looking forward to the watershed year (2013) which is upon us. Zanu (PF) is like a wounded beast, and you know how a wounded beast fights,” said Mugabe.
“I urge the party to be united because in 2008, we went into the polls either divided or relaxed. We hear that this faction belongs to Emmerson Mnangagwa and this faction to Joice Mujuru. That is absolutely dangerous and avoid that! What kind of leaders are you?” said Mugabe as he banged the podium.
Mugabe was for the first time beaten by his bitter rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, during the first round of the presidential poll in March 2008, but won the violence-ridden June runoff on a technicality after his opponent pulled out in protest.
Mnangagwa, the Defence Minister, and Mujuru, the Vice President, are said to lead rival factions positioning themselves to take over from Mugabe, who has however been endorsed as the party candidate for next year’s presidential election.
The Zanu (PF) conference, which this year ran under a theme emphasising economic growth and employment creation apparently to win voters’ hearts, is an annual event to analyse party activities and map the way into the future.
It is punctuated by party a party congress that takes place after every five years and at which important decisions such as leadership change are made. The Zimbabwean