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Zimbabwe's Ruling ZANU-PF Party Perplexed By Makoni Upstart Candidacy

Senior leaders of Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party gathered late Monday to decide a response to the presidential candidacy of former finance minister Simba Makoni, which is said to have eroded confidence in President Robert Mugabe's re-election bid.

Members of the politburo of Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front said tension was running high in the ruling party despite assurances from the Central Intelligence Organization that members won't defect en masse to Makoni.

ZANU-PF officials backing Makoni were said to include party Chairman John Nkomo, retired army commander Solomon Mujuru - husband of Vice President Joyce Mujuru - ex-army general Vitalis Zvinavashe and top politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa.

But party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira called such reports mere speculation.

Sources meanwhile said Makoni was in southeastern Masvingo Province on Sunday trying recruit politicians from the opposition as well as the ruling party who had lost in their respective party primaries, inviting them to join his upstart movement.

ZANU-PF has ordered reruns of primaries in Masvingo following the defeats of senior party officials including Claudius Makova, Kennedy Matimba and Charles Majange.

But dissatisfaction was brewing among junior members at reports that Masvingo East legislator Shuvai Mahofa was declared unopposed though the seat was sought by two hopefuls including Zimbabwe Football Association acting CEO Henrietta Rushwaya.

Members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai were also unhappy because former ruling party member of parliament Pearson Mbalekwa, who defected last year, has been declared unopposed.

Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya told reporter Chris Gande of Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that while Makoni may be moving to recruit the losers of ruling party and opposition primaries, many of these politicians could draw strong popular support.

Former Mirror newspaper publisher Ibbo Mandaza, a mainstay of Makoni’s campaign, told reporter Blessing Zulu that Makoni’s organization will run candidates in most constituencies seeking seats in both houses of parliament and local councils.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...