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Zimbabwe Ruling Party Formally Expels Maverick Simba Makoni

The top leadership of Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party has expelled Simba Makoni for declaring his candidacy for president in defiance of President Robert Mugabe, who is seek re-election in March 29 national elections, a party spokesman said Tuesday.

ZANU-PF Information Secretary Nathan Shamuyarira said that the politburo, which met on Monday, had formally expelled Makoni for breaching party discipline in light of the endorsement of Mr. Mugabe's candidacy by a December party conference.

Correspondent Sylvia Manika of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Harare.

The opposition faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai was in turmoil, meanwhile, after its leadership imposed candidates in key constituencies, angering would-be candidates who threatened not to support Tsvangirai in the presidential election.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported on the opposition turmoil.

Sources in eastern Mutare said MDC member Edwin Mauppa of the Tsvangirai faction defected to the Makoni camp and would seek the Mutare North parliamentary seat.

The former city council member ran in the 2005 general elections but lost to Oppah Zvipange Muchinguri of ZANU-PF in an outcome Mauppa disputed. The businessman and former MDC Mutare North secretary, is one of only a handful of politicians of the opposition or ruling party to have declared for Makoni.

In the general election, Mauppa will face Gabriel Chiwara of the Tsvangirai opposition faction and ZANU-PF central committee member Charles Pemhenayi.

In the Midlands capital of Gweru, observers say surprise primary election defeats by top ZANU-PF figures to lesser-known hopefuls suggest Zimbabwean voters are tired of slogans and want politicians who will deliver.

From Gweru, correspondent Taurai Shava reported.

Elsewhere, sources in the Tsvangirai MDC formation said the opposition leader and two other party officials were robbed at gunpoint in the Johannesburg offices of the formation late Tuesday afternoon, though none of them was harmed.

Sources said Tsvangirai and his two associates had just arrived at the offices in the Bryanston section of Johannesburg shortly before 6 p.m. when they were confronted by three men armed with pistols. The intruders made off with their luggage, laptop computers and cellphones, and an undisclosed amount of Zimbabwe dollars.

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