Zimbabwe Opposition Alliance Grows Before Election as Biti Joins

  • Former finance minister heads the National People’s Party
  • Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF has been in power since 1980

The party of Zimbabwe’s former finance minister became the seventh to join an alliance of opposition organizations that wants to contest elections next year and win power from President Robert Mugabe, who’s led the country since 1980.

The “alliance has a duty to remove the beast called ZANU-PF,” a reference to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party, former finance minister Tendai Biti told thousands of supporters at an opposition rally Saturday in the capital, Harare. His organization is the People’s Democratic Party.

Former Vice President Joice Mujuru and ex-Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are at loggerheads over who’ll lead the coalition, five officials involved in the talks said last month, asking not to be identified because the talks haven’t been made public. Mujuru leads the National People’s Party, while Tsvangirai’s organization is the Movement for Democratic Change-T.

Tsvangirai, center, flanked by other opposition party leaders, salutes supporters during an Aug. 5 rally.

Photographer: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP via Getty Images

The opposition divisions mirror discord in ZANU-PF, where supporters of Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and Deputy President Emmerson Mnangagwa are lobbying for their contender to succeed the president. While Mugabe, 93, is ZANU-PF’s candidate for the vote, he’s grown increasingly frail, sparking concern that he may not be able to see out another five-year term.

The intensifying political maneuvering comes at a time when Zimbabwe faces deepening unrest over widespread unemployment, the collapse of basic services and a severe cash crunch after abandoning its own currency in 2009 in favor of the dollar. The economy has halved in size since 2000.

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