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Eyeing Re-Election, Zimbabwe's Mugabe Beset By Ruling Party Divisions

With national elections less than six weeks off, Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party has been thrown into turmoil by a rebellious senior officials who have decided to contest for parliament seats despite having been defeated in party primaries

Party leaders gathered in Harare on Tuesday to consider the fate of the rebels, and ZANU-PF insiders said deep divisions are emerging within the party. Hardliners including ZANU-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira and legal affairs secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa have called for the rebels to be expelled.

But ZANU-PF Political Commissar Elliot Manyika and Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa have proposed to hold a round of primary reruns.

Sources in the party said President Robert Mugabe, fearing that his own candidacy for president could be challenged, has been shaken by the revolt, which includes Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi and politburo member Dzikamai Mavhaire.

Mr. Mugabe with his presidium took personal charge of the primaries, but in Masvingo, Mashonaland East and Manicaland provinces, a number of party stalwarts who were defeated by lesser-known players nonetheless registered as candidates.

Mr. Mugabe must also consider the risk of driving disgruntled ZANU-PF members into the arms of independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni, until recently a senior member of the party but drummed out after challenging Mr. Mugabe.

Senior researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute of Security Studies in South Africa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Mugabe is fast losing his grip on the ruling party.

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