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Hardline ZANU-PF Ministers In Zimbabwe Said To Form Oppositional Group

Zimbabwean cabinet ministers belonging to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and former members of the Joint Operations Command of security agency chiefs are said to have joined forces in a shadowy group calling itself the Social Revolutionary Council designed to frustrate the aims of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, political sources say.

Members of the group are said to include Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono and the commanders of the army and air force, government and party sources said.

Mnangagwa, considered a potential successor to Mr. Mugabe as ZANU-PF chief and as that party's next presidential contender, declined to comment, as did Mutasa.

The Joint Operations Command, commonly referred to as the JOC, was said to have exerted significant influence over President Mugabe following his defeat by Mr. Tsvangirai in the first round of presidential voting on March 29, 2008, and to have coordinated the deadly wave of political violence that preceded the presidential runoff ballot on June 27. Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew from that runoff in protest of the violence against his supporters.

The Social Revolutionary Council is said to be behind the recent wave of invasions of white-owned commercial farms and the continued detention and harassment of officials and activists of Mr. Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Confirming there remain divisions within the unity government, President Mugabe this week said farm takeovers should continue, adding that elections could be held in two years.

Government and political sources said the members of the group lobbied Mr. Mugabe not to swear deputy agriculture minister-designate Roy Bennett into office.

The sources said Bennett’s son Charles has also been targeted by the group, which urged the police to arrest him for driving his father Feb. 13 to the airport outside Harare where he was arrested on weapons and security charges dating to 2006.

Sources in Tsvangirai's MDC formation central banker Gono tried to influence lawmakers from the majority party by offering them luxury vehicles. They said Tsvangirai Thursday ordered MDC MPs not to accept such vehicles following an incident in which MPs booed Deputy Prime Minister Thokozane Khupe when she urged them to turn down Gono's offer.

MDC sources said Tsvangirai has already sent a letter to Mr. Mugabe urging him to swear in Bennett and resolve issues still outstanding eight weeks after the government's launch.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti, secretary general of Tsvangirai’s MDC formation, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that residual hardline elements in ZANU-PF have stirring up controversy over Bennett, who is free on bail and still facing charges.

Pretoria-based political analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group said some elements in ZANU-PF are not comfortable with the new political dispensation in Harare.

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