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Infighting Tears at Zimbabwe's Ruling Party - 2004-05-10

Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF Party is in turmoil, with a battle under way between some veterans from the nationalist struggle of 25 years ago and more recent appointments to President Robert Mugabe's cabinet. The latest infighting centers on the accreditation of a team of television journalists from Britain.

Late last week, British journalists from Sky News were accredited for a series of reports from Zimbabwe. They became the first journalists from Britain in more than three years to be allowed to operate legally in Zimbabwe.

It has created some controversy. The arrival of the journalists was facilitated by a veteran nationalist, Nathan Shamuyarira, who is the official information spokesman for the Zanu-PF Party.

His colleague is Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, the volatile former academic who shepherded the toughest media laws in Zimbabwe's history ahead of presidential elections in 2002. That legislation included requirements that all journalists be accredited, both domestic and foreign. The row over Sky News's accreditation was apparently triggered by the fact that it was done against the wishes of the information minister. The conflict was highlighted in small-circulation, privately-owned newspapers that largely support the ruling party, but not Mr. Moyo.

The Sky team broadcast its initial report Sunday, including the first official visit of a foreign news crew to youth militia camps.

Mr. Shamuyarira was the Zanu-PF official interviewed by the Sky News journalists.

Henry Dzinotywei, political analyst from the University of Zimbabwe, says Zanu PF is riven with dissent, exacerbated by the country's continuing economic crisis and the uncertainty over whether President Robert Mugabe is going to retire and who would replace him.

Mr. Dzinotywei says the unstable politics of Zanu-PF indicates party leader Mugabe is overstretched and not fully aware of the deep divisions.

The analyst also says the situation is becoming increasingly fractious as Zanu-PF heavyweights jockey for position before parliamentary elections scheduled for early next year.