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Daggers Drawn As Zimbabwe Ruling Party Nears Annual Congress


Divisions within the ruling party are widening ahead of ZANU-PF’s annual national conference next week, political sources said Tuesday.

Amid the ZANU-PF party's 10 provinces, Harare and Midlands are proposing different agendas concerning the potentially divisive issue of whether to hold presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time in 2008 or 2010. As matters stand, the presidential election is set for 2008, general elections for 2010.

ZANU-PF Midlands Chairman Jaison Machaya said the issue must be discussed and that the elections must be harmonized. But spokesman William Nhara of the Harare party organization said discussion of harmonizing elections is premature because President Robert Mugabe’s term does not run out until March 2008.

Senior analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group, based in Pretoria, South Africa, commented that develoments in ZANU-PF are important because they are likely to shape the country's future for the next several years.

Meanwhile, ZANU-PF Midlands heavyweight Emmerson Mnangagwa, minister of rural housing, has threatened to file suit against ZANU-PF National Chairman John Nkomo, also house speaker, over statements he made in a Bulawayo courtroom recently.

Mnangagwa lawyer Jonathan Samkange said Nkomo testified during a defamation case brought against Nkomo by former information minister Jonathan Moyo that Mnangagwa plotted to topple President Mugabe in late 2004.

If the Bulawayo court finds Nkomo guilty of defaming Moyo, Samkange said, his client intends to lodge his own damage claim. Nkomo said last week that Mnangagwa paid individuals for support in the alleged coup plot. Nkomo has announced his intention to run for president, and Mnangagwa is also seen harboring presidential ambitions.

Analyst Ernest Mudzengi, also coordinator of the National Constitutional Assembly, an opposition civic group, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that a Mnangagwa suit would be the latest twist in an ongoing succession battle.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 For Zimbabwe...