/ 11 December 2009

Mugabe: Internal fights eating up Zanu-PF

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Friday condemned internal fighting over leadership posts, saying this was tearing apart his Zanu-PF party and emboldening its opponents.

Mugabe was forced to share power with rival Morgan Tsvangirai in February after an election stalemate last year, which saw Zanu-PF lose its majority in parliament for the first time to Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

A fierce battle over who will eventually succeed the 85-year-old leader — now in the twilight of a political career spanning more than half a century — threatens the future of the former liberation movement, although a split is not imminent.

”The reason why we lost last year was because of factions in many provinces. This is how the party has suffered damage,” Mugabe told thousands of supporters at a Zanu-PF congress which opened in Harare on Friday.

”The party is eating itself up. The more intense the internal fighting is, the greater opportunity we give to the opposition to thrive,” said Mugabe, who read only briefly from a prepared speech he said was too long.

Mugabe will get the nod to lead the party for another five years but tensions are running high over what members see as the imposition of weak candidates to serve in the policy-implementing central committee.

By balancing competing factions and through a political patronage system, the veteran leader has kept a tight grip on Zanu-PF since becoming party leader in the mid-1970s and spearheading a guerrilla war against white minority rule. Mugabe is unlikely to contest the next election, expected in 2013 if the coalition government lasts its full five-year term, and his lieutenants have stepped up an internal fight for prime positions to take over the party when he retires.

”There are too many leaders now outside the scope of the regular leaders provided for by our party constitution,” said Mugabe.

Removing sanctions
He said the unity government was working well but that the MDC was not putting in enough effort to call for the removal of Western sanctions imposed against members of his party.

The travel and financial embargoes were imposed by the European Union and United States for democratic failings and human rights abuses. But Mugabe has argued they are meant to punish his party for seizing white-owned land to resettle blacks, and that the West still covets Zimbabwe’s mineral resources. The 10-month-old coalition has been rocked by differences on how to share power, with the MDC saying Zanu-PF is refusing to fully implement the deal and branding it a ”dishonest partner”.

The MDC wants the central bank governor and attorney general replaced, and party treasurer Roy Bennett and some senior officials sworn-in as deputy agriculture minister and provincial governors, respectively. Zanu-PF says it has met its part of the power-sharing deal and wants the MDC to urge an end to Western sanctions and persuade radio stations broadcasting from abroad to stop.

”We are not of one voice. The MDC told an EU troika not to lift sanctions yet … so we have part of us whose thinking needs to be re-oriented,” said Mugabe.

Mugabe said the sanctions imposed on him and some Zanu-PF senior members in 2002 were unjustified and meant to punish him for his controversial land-reform programme.

”If you have a rich country, well naturally resourced whether mineral, agricultural, or otherwise, they envy these resources, they find ways of penetrating your system,” said Mugabe.

He claimed that Britain formed the MDC to change revolutionary trends in Zimbabwe. ”That is how the MDC was formed. They [United Kingdom] did not hide this. They were blatant.”

Zimbabwe ‘not for whites’
Mugabe also called Tsvangirai’s choice for the deputy agriculture minister post an ”offspring of a settler” who was not Zimbabwean, a remark that is likely to further strain the country’s fragile coalition government.

He was referring to Bennett, a white commercial farmer who was driven off his land by Mugabe’s controversial land-reform targeting white people.

Mugabe has refused to appoint Bennett as deputy agriculture minister in the coalition government with Tsvangirai’s MDC, saying he must first be cleared of terrorism charges he is facing.

”To the MDC I say: open your eyes. This is your country and not for whites. Not the Bennetts. They are settlers, even if they were born here they are offspring of settlers,” he said. — Reuters, Sapa-dpa