Zanu-PF power struggle as would-be successors smell blood

President Robert Mugabe and the entire Zanu-PF leadership are reportedly scrambling to avert a split in the party amid reports of worsening divisions over who will succeed the 87-year-old ruler.

Zanu-PF officials have been shuttling between offices of senior party members, with letters of complaint flying between overseers at provincial levels and the presidium headed by Mugabe.

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Zanu-PF told the Sunday Times this week that Mugabe might use a politburo meeting to read the riot act to the two camps – one led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Defence Minister, and the other by Joyce Mujuru, the Vice-President.

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The battle for control of Zanu-PF escalated last week when it emerged that Phillip Chiyangwa – the former provincial chairman of Mashonaland West, who is regarded as being close to the Mnangagwa camp – wanted to bounce back in the same position amid fierce resistance from the Mujuru camp.

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Chiyangwa was expelled from Zanu-PF in 2004 following his arrest over a alleged spying scandal involving the South African government. He was, however, not convicted and was readmitted to the party last week.

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The Zanu-PF infighting has worsened in recent weeks due to Mugabe’s ill health and age – and when it emerged he would not stand in the elections, whether they are held next year or in two years time, when he will be 89 years old.

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A top Zanu-PF official said on Friday that due to the divisions, Mugabe had no option but to call an emergency meeting with his hardliners and those jostling for positions.

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“President Mugabe will have to take drastic measures to ensure that he solves these internal fights which might explode soon. People are becoming dirtier in de-campaigning each other and there is chaos.

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“Mugabe has his own problems, the party is worse and every problem is piling on the president’s office. We have heard the leadership will tackle the issue of divisions (next) week but we are not yet sure. The problem is that we doubt whether the president is sincere in stopping the rot, because he seems to enjoy these divisions. It looks like this time around the fights have got a little out of hand and it’s now worrying. President Mugabe has to really show he is in charge of the situation,” the Zanu-PF insider said.

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The intriguing succession battle has been further complicated by a third faction comprising a group of young politicians. Though they are from both camps, they are also separately fighting to replace Mugabe.

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Mugabe is said to be suffering from different pressure points within his party, his failed policies, interference by the army in his rule, regional leaders who want him to quit, his health concerns, pressures from his wife Grace, and increasing pressure from his party that he must retire.

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Zanu-PF advisers have told the president that winning elections through violence, as allegedly being advocated by hardliners in the party, is not an option, given that the international community has shown it takes note of such offences – as in North Africa and the Middle East.

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Mugabe has reportedly been advised too that such actions would increase the friction between him and the West.

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The SADC and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai believe Mugabe is no longer in charge, with others seemingly telling him what to do.

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Since January, Mugabe has travelled to the Far East five times amid reports that his health is fast deteriorating.

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Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed recently that Mugabe was having problems with his eyes, but diplomats and the international media insist that the octogenarian leader is having problems with prostate cancer – a disease which is common in men of his age.