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Zimbabwe's Matabeleland Declines to Nominate for Vice Presidential Slot

Divisions continued within the ZANU-PF party of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe over selecting the successor to the late Vice President Joseph Msika, who died in August.

A deadline for nominations that fell Wednesday was extended as party leaders scrambled to address a challenge over the process from the western Matabeleland region whose three provinces failed to agree to back front-runner John Nkomo, ZANU-PF's chairman.

Matabeleland is considered to have a particular interest in the vice presidential appointment as the post has traditionally been held by a political heir to Zimbabwe African People's Union President Joshua Nkomo, who was vice president until his death in 1999.

PF-ZAPU combined with Mr. Mugabe's ZANU party in 1987 following fighting between the two former rival liberation movements, resulting in a Unity Accord and the merged ZANU-PF. But a number of former ZAPU politicians have lately abandoned ZANU-PF, claiming discrimination, which have muddied the waters of ZANU-PF politics in the Ndebele-speaking region.

Only Bulawayo nominated Nkomo, but following a meeting of officials from that metropolitan province, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South, the matter was referred back to the politburo of the former ruling party. Politburo member Sihkanyiso Ndlovu told VOA that all 10 provinces should participate in the decision, saying this was non-negotiable.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper reported that ZANU-PF Matabeleland North Chairman Zenzo Ncube, who led the regional revolt, had quit politics following his suspension by the provincial leadership. The paper said he was suspended after being convicted of the theft of party funds. But Ncube blamed detractors for what he said were trumped-up charges.

Ncube said that although he has been suspended he has not quit politics.

The ZANU-PF national leadership is believed to favor Nkomo, but there is brisk lobbying for potential rivals including Ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo, Bulawayo Governor Cain Mathema and Mines Minister Obert Mpofu.

Political analyst John Makumbe told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the Matabeleland provinces are right to insist the decision be a national one.

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