Opposition political party, ZAPU, is reportedly hunting for a vibrant leader to take over as president and lead the revival of the revolutionary party.
ZAPU is currently led by Isaac Mabuka, on an interim basis, following the death of Dr Dumiso Dabengwa in May.
Dr Dabengwa was invited to be interim leader of ZAPU after the party decided to pull out of the Unity Accord arrangement with Zanu PF after the 2008 elections.
He initially had dumped the ruling party in 2007 with Simba Makoni to form a new political movement, Mavambo Kusile Dawn (MKD).
At its inaugural congress in 2010, Dr Dabengwa was elected substantive president and retained the presidency at the second congress in early 2016.
Before his death, Dr Dabengwa (81) declared his intention to step down at the end of the constitutionally mandated second and final term, hinting that young leaders had to be identified to actively lead the party ahead of its national elective congress slated for 2020.
Last Saturday, during the party’s National Executive Council meeting, Mabuka who is in 60s, also indicated he would not contest any position in the upcoming congress and would retire to the Council of Elders.
However, sources within ZAPU said a number of individuals in the party are reported to have expressed interest in the presidency but party members have little or no faith in them.
These are South African based – ZAPU’s Deputy Secretary for International Relations, Future Msebele, Felix Silundika (son to late national hero, George Silundika), current party secretary-general, Dr Strike Mkandla and former secretary-general, Ralph Mguni.
Msebele, intimated he was considering running for presidency, as he had been approached by party members.
“Several people have encouraged me to run for the Presidency. As a member in good standing I have discussed this with my Branch. We have set up an exploratory team which is consulting within and without the party.
“We believe it is time to save the soul of the ZAPU by rebranding and repositioning the party. I’m seriously considering, consulting and praying about it, ” the youthful leader said.
Sources also alleged that ZAPU was in discussions with former ZIPRA cadres, who did not enter into the unity accord to come back into the fold.
Names that were touted include that of former National Healing Minister, Moses Mzila Ndlovu and former national speaker, Lovemore Moyo.
Ndlovu once served as secretary-general in the then MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube before leaving to form his own party – the Alliance for National Salvation.
Moyo was the national chairman in the MDC-T before leaving as well to form the United Movement for Devolution.
ZAPU Southern region communications director, Patrick Ndlovu confirmed the party was undergoing leadership change but decline to disclose names of individuals who had tossed their names into the ring.
“We do have the names of those who are interested in running for the presidency but I cannot give you their names until it is official. As to whether we have made contact with former ZPRA cadres, I cannot comment,” he said.
Reached for comment, Mzila Ndlovu confirmed efforts had been made to reach out leaders of political parties in Matabeleland but said this was initiated by senior citizens in the region not ZAPU per se.
“These are senior citizens in the region who are concerned about the political life of Matabeleland since there is a general feeling that political parties should put aside their differences, whether opinions, ideological or personalities but come together for a unified front,” he said.
“What is more important is to unify people. I feel if we hold sane views and have a common vision of Matabeleland then we can start.”
Leaked chats within party members also suggest that ZAPU has to consider importing leaders or resort to headhunting and put together a team to lead the battle against other competitors in Zimbabwe’s ‘rough’ political terrain.
“What we should be chatting about in these platforms are required qualities for a ZAPU leader and what expertise and capabilities our top leadership team and strategic organs should possess. We need to be clear about what we want to achieve as a party. At present we have no current reputation to talk about apart from historical reputation built by Nkomo leadership and past ZPRA fighting force,” said Sakhile Sibanda, the party’s secretary for policy and strategy.
“ZAPU needs to build a current relevant and visible reputation that gives people hope…The public has lost trust and hope in both ZANU and MDC and is ripe for a no-nonsense political party. ZAPU needs to transform itself to what people want and need in the current environment. There is still time to head-hunt from outside the current crop of in-house possible and hopeful leaders.”