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Arrests in Zimbabwe's Ruling Party Worrying Political Elite

An unprecedented number of senior leaders in the hierarchy of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party have been arrested in recent weeks. Accusations are flying in the highest echelons of the party over who will be next, and of who is the most corrupt.

The latest among top Zanu-PF officials to be arrested was retired Zimbabwe National Army colonel Samuel Muvuti, the acting chief executive of Zimbabwe's only legal grain trader, the Grain Marketing Board. Muvuti has been arrested on charges that he stole a small amount of U.S. dollars to pay his farm workers.

Until now senior members of the army, who largely run Zimbabwe, have been left untouched by the law.

Government loyalist Charles Nherera, the chairman of the government bus company and the top executive of a national university, was jailed for for two years for soliciting a bribe of $85,000. In connection with this case, Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga has been arrested and is awaiting trial.

The two major contenders in the struggle over who will succeed Mr. Mugabe when he retires are having a robust dispute against each other in the media. Vice President Joice Mujuru and Rural Housing Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa took their accusations of corruption against one another to the privately owned press.

Two other senior ministers have been named in the state-controlled press as being in danger of being charged for a variety of political and corruption offenses.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa will know on September 4 whether he will be found guilty of subverting justice after a trial last week in connection with political violence. There are several other top Zanu-PF leaders under investigation.

Jonathan Moyo, now an independent legislator who was Mr. Mugabe's information minister from 2000 until last year said Zanu-PF is in trouble.

He said the arrests and reports in the media about top political personalities were the clearest evidence yet that the center of the party is no longer holding. He said "Its wheels have fallen off."

Moyo said within Zanu-PF it is no longer the survival of those closest to the top, but survival of the fittest. He said this is a result of the struggle to succeed the 82-year-old Mugabe, who has been in power for 26 years and is expected to retire within the next four years.

Moyo said the present political turmoil in Zanu-PF did not imply that any of those under scrutiny are innocent of the charges against them.