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Power Struggle Brews in Zimbabwe Ruling Party - 2004-07-21


Wrangling within the leadership of Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party is coming out into the open, a clear sign, analysts say, of a power struggle for succession to President Robert Mugabe.

Central to the infighting is Zimbabwe's Information Minister Jonathan Moyo who has publicly clashed with some senior cabinet ministers. These included vice president Joseph Msika with whom Mr. Moyo disagreed over the expropriation of a farm. Mr. Moyo, who controls the state media, recently also accused his cabinet colleague, Land and Resettlement Minister John Nkomo, of trying to take back land from resettled farmers for whites.

Those are some of the signs there are cracks in the leadership of ZANU- PF. University of Zimbabwe's Professor Brian Raftopolous says for this party, this is business as usual.

"There have always been fissures within ZANU-PF," he said. "I think now they are being somewhat exacerbated because a number of things. One is clearly the succession problem, but also allied to the succession problem is the accumulation struggle within the elite in this country, those who have land, who have other forms of property who are now fighting to control that property and to use it as a basis for future political struggles."

A ZANU-PF legislator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the party is in the midst of a generational struggle. He said Mr. Moyo represents the new, younger membership of the party, while Mr. Msika and the resettlement minister stand for the party's old guard.

A weekly independent newspaper, The Standard, quotes sources as saying the succession struggle has spilled into the newsrooms of the state owned media and the ZANU-PF weekly The Voice where Resettlement Minister John Nkomo holds sway. The Standard editors and other papers under Mr. Nkomo's control have been instructed on to portray members of the old guard negatively.

While Mr. Moyo appears to be winning the struggle for media coverage, Lovemore Madhuku, from the University of Zimbabwe, says this may not necessarily mean he will rise to the top. He says ZANU-PF has clearly laid out rules of succession and Mr. Moyo faces faces many more hurdles on the way up.

Meanwhile, analysts say President Mugabe, who is not expected to bow out of politics before his term expires in 2008, is taking advantage of the internal squabbling to consolidate his own position. And the ruling party itself, says Mr. Raftopolous, is not expected to suffer any long-lasting damage from the infighting.

"It's become almost inherent in the history and structure of ZANU-PF that you have these contradictions and fissures; the issue is how they will be controlled and contained," he said.

Still, he said, the continued challenge for Mr. Mugabe and any future leader will be to keep the party together.

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