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Battle To Control AU Commission Causes Friction in Harare

Gabon sent Budget Minister Emmanuel Issoze Ngendet to Harare to lobby for Ping, but President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party accused Gabon of being backing Prime Minister Tsvangirai's MDC formation

The competition to head the African Union has become the latest issue to divide the chronically troubled Zimbabwean government of national unity.

The contest for the post of the AU commission chairperson pits incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon against South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Gabon sent Budget Minister Emmanuel Issoze Ngendet to Harare to lobby for Ping, but President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has accused Gabon of being sympathetic to the Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Issoze Ngendet was send by Gabonese President Ali Bongo ahead of the African Union summit to be hosted by Ethiopia next week. The AU summit opens Monday with ministerial meetings. Heads of state gather on January 29 and 30.

ZANU-PF also said it was not amused that the envoy after meeting with Acting President John Nkomo also met with Mr. Tsvangirai.

Issoze Ngendet met Mr Tsvangirai in the company of Gabonese Ambassador Jean Yves Teale at the prime minister’s Strathaven residence on Tuesday. The envoy even praised Mr Tsvangirai, saying he is “a key person in the transition process in Zimbabwe.”

He added: "Zimbabwe is in an interesting period of political reform and transition. We want this country’s leaders to show the best commitment and stability,”

Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said the envoy had brought a confidential message from Mr. Bongo to Mr. Tsvangirai.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which tends to favor ZANU-PF in its coverage, took a swipe at Gabon accusing it of being a French conduit to transfer funds to the MDC in violation of Zimbabwean law.

VOA could not reach Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi for a comment.

MDC International Relations Secretary Jameson Timba called ZBC a ZANU-PF propaganda machine.

London-based international affairs expert Clifford Mashiri said ZANU-PF's attack on Gabon was unwarranted.