By Marcus Mushonga
Harare — RIGHTS groups are worried at the intraparty violence tearing apart Zimbabwe’s ruling party as the crisis-torn Southern African country prepares for next year’s elections. Rival Zanu-PF factions, in defiance of President Robert Mugabe’s orders, are involved in a bloody showdown as the party struggles to resolve its succession disputes. The process to succeed Mugabe (93) has often been violent and characterised by intimidation, harassment and in some instances physical violence.
In Harare, three people have suffered broken limbs after supporters of political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, clashed with party members calling for his ouster. Supporters on either side have tried to prevent the other from marching and in some cases arrests have been made. Mugabe is on record prohibiting party members from demonstrating and issued a directive through Mashonaland Central provincial affairs minister, Martin Dinha to stop all demonstrations.
Agitated party members have defied Mugabe’s orders as Zanu-PF slips beyond his control. Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has fuelled the fires by suggesting the ruling party was ‘fumigating’ itself. The Zimbabwe Peace Project, which is assessing the atmosphere ahead of polls in 2018, has denounced the statement as inflammatory especially with some of the political conflicts becoming violent. “The use of such inflammatory language has the potential to trigger and fuel violence.” Meanwhile, the other vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko, has invited the military to deal with critics of Mugabe within the ruling party. This is despite the constitution barring the military from political party operations. Mugabe and Zanu-PF, in power since 1980, have not chosen a successor to the aged leader, who has confirmed his candidature for the 2018 election. Mnangagwa and first lady, Grace Mugabe, are reportedly backed by factions to succeed him. Meanwhile, the party is accused of forcing villagers to contribute money, livestock and food for the recent independence celebrations