Faction Fighting `Ruining' Zimbabwe's Ruling Party, Mugabe Says

  • Zanu-PF battles for supremacy spread to army, police units
  • Drought caused by El Nino crippling production of corn

President Robert Mugabe said infighting was undermining his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front as he opened the party’s annual conference, in his first acknowledgment of opposing factions.

“Factionalism is eating the party and causing chaos and we won’t allow that to continue. Stop it,” Mugabe told about 4,500 party members in the resort town of Victoria Falls. “It’s bad, you are ruining the party.”

While Zanu-PF has chosen Mugabe, 91, to lead the party in to the next elections in 2018, increasing signs of his fragility have set off disputes over who should succeed him. Younger party members loyal to Mugabe’s wife Grace helped orchestrate the ouster of then vice president Joice Mujuru from the party leadership last year and have openly criticized older party officials who back Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mugabe’s strong criticism of party infighting Friday ended more than a year of denials by party leaders that factions had formed within Zanu-PF. Members of the security, the police and the intelligence agency “are being labeled according to factions,” he said.

Known by her critics as and “Gucci Grace,” for what they say is her extravagant lifestyle, Grace Mugabe has built support among a group of senior ruling party officials known as Generation-40 because most of them are in their 40s and played no role in Zimbabwe’s war for independence against the white-minority Rhodesian government.

The meeting comes as party officials discuss how to rebuild an economy blessed with diamond deposits, the world’s second-biggest reserves of platinum and chrome, after South Africa, and fertile farmland. The conference will debate plans to hand a greater stake in business to “the people,” said Simon Khaya Moyo, Zanu-PF’s spokesman.

The economy shrank by about 40 percent between 2000 and 2009 after Zanu-PF backed an often-violent seizure of most of the country’s white-owned farms. This year the worst drought in a decade caused by the El Nino weather pattern has left Zimbabwe, once Africa’s second-biggest corn exporter, with 1.5 million people in need of food aid from January to March, according to the United Nations.

“There’s drought everywhere,” Mugabe said, acknowledging that Zimbabwe would have to import corn, the southern African nation’s staple crop, to cover a deficit that will run into 2017.

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