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Signs of Discontent Within Zimbabwe's ZANU PF Growing More Public

Signs of discontent within Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF party seem to be growing more public. Former finance minister Simba Makoni is emerging as a party favorite to, someday, replace President Robert Mugabe.

Though he is a long time member of Zanu PF, Simba Makoni has never had a large political profile in the party, but that may be changing. Earlier this week he gave an interview to the Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, in which he spelled out how he believed a national government should work.

He spoke about a time when a national government would function alongside a loyal opposition. While the two sides might have different ideologies, he said, they would converge on matters of national interest.

Political observers say that Mr. Makoni's statement is significant because of its implicit criticism of the way the Mugabe government operates now. The interview is also likely to add to the speculation about looming political change in Zimbabwe.

Andrew Nongogo, a respected political commentator in Harare, said this week that about 90 percent of the leaders within Zanu PF now believe an honorable exit had to be fashioned for President Mugabe.

One camp supports the present speaker of the house of parliament, and former liberation fighter, Emerson Mnungagwa, who failed to win his parliamentary seat in the general elections of 2000. The other, more liberal, camp has settled on Mr. Makoni, a technocrat who has opposed the often violent tactics of Zanu PF.

Most observers believe that Nigeria and South Africa will be the facilitators for arranging for the change in power. They say both countries would prefer to see Mr. Makoni emerging as leader of a reformed Zanu PF.

But both Nigeria and South Africa want Zimbabwe's opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party to stop its legal challenge to President Mugabe's win at the presidential poll last year.

Political observers say the opposition's legal challenge, due to be heard in the High Court in April, is the MDC's best bargaining chip.

This means that the party's legal challenge will most likely not be dropped until guarantees are in place leading to a transitional authority and internationally supervised presidential elections in Zimbabwe.

In the meantime, human rights monitors say violence is rising ahead of two parliamentary by-elections next month within the Harare area.