News and Information

Confrontation amid Mugabe succession battle
December 1, 2004
By Cris Chinaka

Harare - Seven top officials have been suspended from Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party and a controversial cabinet minister severely reprimanded in a row over President Robert Mugabe's possible successor.

The party purge, which Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation called "the night of the long knives", comes as Zanu-PF opens a crucial party congress on Wednesday ahead of parliamentary polls next March expected to test the ruling party's dominance.

Zanu-PF provincial executives have endorsed Mugabe to retain his party presidency for another five years. But political analysts say a battle over a second vice-presidency - a position seen as a stepping stone to the top job - is fuelling tension in its ranks.

Mugabe bowed to pressure from some lieutenants to give the post to a woman
Mugabe bowed to pressure from some lieutenants to give the post to a woman, Joyce Mujuru, sidelining parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa, often touted as his preferred successor.

Mugabe warned in the past week he would punish officials accused of "defying the party" by trying to scuttle Mujuru's rise.

Zimbabwe state media reported on Wednesday that Mugabe had chaired a meeting on Tuesday night of Zanu-PF's politburo inner-cabinet which suspended six of the party's 10 provincial chairpersons for six months and "heavily reprimanded" Information Minister Jonathan Moyo for organising a meeting in his rural home district of Tsholotsho to campaign for Mnangagwa.

Mugabe also led the politburo in suspending Zanu-PF liberation war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda for four years for other cases of indiscipline and for attending the Tsholotsho meeting two weeks ago.

Zanu-PF information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira said Sibanda and the six provincial chairpersons would not be allowed to attend the party's five-yearly congress starting in Harare later on Wednesday with a central committee meeting.

Shamuyarira said Moyo - a combative figure who has angered several senior officials with his abrasive style - could face further sanctions, a hint he might be sacked from the cabinet.

Mugabe - who has led Zanu-PF since the mid 1970s - is due to address the conference on Thursday whose 7 000 delegates are expected to endorse his re-election and to confirm Mujuru as co-vice-president alongside Joseph Msika.

The 80-year-old veteran Zimbabwean leader, in power for nearly 25 years, retains a firm grip on Zanu-PF despite a severe economic crisis that critics blame on government mismanagement.

Mugabe, whose government has effectively been under Western economic sanctions since Zanu-PF's controversial re-election in a parliamentary poll in 2000, is likely to remain under international pressure if his party wins the March election pitting it against a weakened but still viable opposition.

Mugabe's state presidential term ends in 2008, but few expect 81-year-old Msika to succeed him on account of age.

Political analysts say despite Mujuru's election as Zimbabwe's first female vice-president, jockeying for Mugabe's position would continue until he retires.

In an editorial entitled: "It's time to move forward," Zimbabwe's official Herald newspaper acknowledged that Zanu-PF had suffered some "sibling rivalry" but said the party would not split over leadership contests.


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