ZANU PF admits to rampant factionalism

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s president said Friday that internal divisions are destroying the party that has kept him in power for nearly three decades.

Robert Mugabe told about 10,000 delegates at a gathering of his ZANU-PF party that infighting cost them their parliamentary majority in last year’s contested polls.

Mugabe, 85, has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980. He was forced into a unity government with the former rival party, the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, following the 2008 election.

“The reason why we lost in March 2008 elections to the MDC is because of the many factions in the party,” he said.

“We have many groups opposing each other, fighting each other. This is destroying the party, eating it … this is how the party is losing power to the MDC, who are supporting this factionalism which is working in their favor.”

Mugabe’s tongue-lashing of his comrades comes as concerns mount that the unity government is doomed to fail as the longtime leader scrambles to hold on to power.

The party also has been long divided over who should eventually succeed Mugabe and these are now coming to the fore as many feel the liberation hero is losing his grip on the country.

The party congress will end Saturday when Mugabe is expected to be re-elected as its leader for another four years. This is the first time Mugabe has had to face his party since the formation of the unity government in February and observers say the organization is severely weakened.

Election officials declared a runoff was necessary after the 2008 vote but opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai dropped out, citing attacks against his supporters. Mugabe was later declared the winner, but he formed the unity government in February with Tsvangirai as prime minister.

Zimbabwe is struggling to emerge from political gridlock, economic collapse, and international isolation and sanctions.

Critics blame Mugabe for Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown that began after he ordered the seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms in 2000, disrupting the agriculture-based economy in the former regional breadbasket.

The unity government saw many Mugabe cronies lose lucrative positions. Their businesses also have been hampered by international sanctions and they fear they will not benefit from the influx of cash that rebuilding efforts are starting to bring in.

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