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Zanu PF Factionalism, Other Crises Beset Mugabe

A collage showing some of the major problems confronting President Robert Mugabe's leadership, barely a year after winning the 2013 elections. (Collage by VOA's Ntungamili Nkomo)

President Robert Mugabe began the week with a plateful; battling deepening factionalism in his Zanu PF party and a reported coup in Lesotho – in his capacity as Sadc chairman.

Mugabe has criticized top officials whom he says are fomenting divisions in the ruling party, and on Sunday he took umbrage at members objecting to his wife’s entrance into politics.

Grace Mugabe, a political novice and a potentially divisive figure, is set to take over as leader of the Women’s League at the party’s elective Congress in December.

But the run-up to her imminent confirmation, among other factors, appears to have rattled Zanu PF to the core, exposing deep divisions that have largely remained dormant for years.

Objections are said to have come particularly from the Harare Province, irking the 90-year-old leader.

“We are all in Harare; it is not your city alone, we all belong to Harare. I am saying so because I heard someone sending my nephew to go and tell Mai Mugabe to leave Harare,” he was quoted as saying.

“I want to hear why she should leave Harare, going where? I would also want to know where the emperor of Harare got his powers from.”

The party’s highest decision-making body, the Politburo will tackle the infighting at its sitting this week, where tampers are expected to flare.

Though they vehemently deny it, Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice President Joyce Mujuru lead the waring factions dueling to position themselves for the controls in the event Mugabe abdicates power.

Besides the intra-Zanu PF dynamics, Mugabe has other serious problems to deal with on the national stage.

His failure one year on, to deliver on his election promises of job creation and economic renewal has the population on edge.

MDC-T activists have recently staged demonstrations in Harare, demanding jobs and a better future, but police have been on hand to crackdown.

Several supporters, including lawmakers have been arrested, attracting condemnation from human rights advocates and the MDC-T, which has vowed more protests.

Analysts say though that the comatose economy, more than the opposition, poses the real threat to Mr. Mugabe’s unbroken rule, now in it's third decade.

His health has also raised public interest and concern in recent years as he has had to make regular trips to the Middle East for treatment.

On top of his many local problems, Mr. Mugabe, now has to deal with a military coup in Lesotho, in his capacity as chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

He deployed emissaries to South Africa on Sunday.

But analysts say his immediate concern is the factionalism in his party, which political scientist Nkululeko Sibanda feels may cause irreparable damage if not addressed immediately.

“Zanu PF may be seeing it’s steady but sure demise,” Sibanda told VOA.

“I don’t think these fights are going to be resolvable because in the meetings people may agree but invariably see Mugabe as being petty and personal (when he discusses the opposition to his wife).”