President Robert Mugabe arrives to inspect guards of honour during the 37th Independence anniversary celebrations in Harare, Zimbabwe, April 18,2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
President Robert Mugabe arrives to inspect guards of honour during the 37th Independence anniversary celebrations in Harare, Zimbabwe, April 18,2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Harare — As Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party is increasingly gripped by faction fighting, a once-splintered opposition is pledging to mount a united challenge to the 93-year-old leader in elections next year.

At the centre of the infighting in the Zanu-PF is its political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, a leading figure in the Generation 40 (G40) faction that backs Mugabe’s wife, Grace, as his successor. Party executive councils in seven of 10 provinces have publicly called for the ouster of 46-year-old Kasukuwere, whose aggressive approach to opponents earned him the nickname "Tyson". They accuse him of corruption and undermining Mugabe’s government.

The pressure on Kasukuwere, who is also minister of local government, and his G40 faction, is coming from party officials loyal to vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, a 70-year-old former spy chief, as Zanu-PF struggles to find a leader who can eventually replace Mugabe.

Street brawls between party members erupted on April 15 in the capital, Harare, with both sides attacking police officers who tried to stop the violence.

"This is clearly a co-ordinated effort designed not only to remove him, but to cause a mortal wound upon the G40 faction," said Alex Magaisa, a UK-based law lecturer and one of the authors of Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution. "The only person who can save Kasukuwere now is Mugabe himself, but with almost the whole country calling for his expulsion, it’ll be hard for him."

Kasukuwere’s phone was switched off and his office said he wasn’t in when called to seek comment.

While the party insists that Mugabe will stand for re-election next year, extending his 37-year rule of the country, key opposition politicians have announced they will form a coalition to challenge him. They’re making their unity bid at a time of deepening unrest because of widespread poverty, massive unemployment and the collapse of basic services.

Food shortages

Zimbabwe has been gripped by food shortages and a cash crunch that has delayed payment of salaries and prompted the central bank to introduce dollar-pegged bond notes that Zimbabweans have dubbed "zombie currency".

The situation is so bad that education minister Lazarus Dokora suggested that parents who can’t afford school fees can pay with goats or their labour. A draft law before parliament would force commercial banks to accept cattle and other livestock as collateral for loans.

On Wednesday, Morgan Tsvangirai, a one-time union leader and head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), announced plans to form an alliance with former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First party. A day later, Tsvangirai signed an accord to re-unite with an MDC faction led by Welshman Ncube.

Tsvangirai, 65, has fought successive elections against Mugabe since 2000, posing the biggest threat to the former guerrilla leader. Mujuru, who served in Mugabe’s first cabinet and later became vice-president, is the 62-year-old wife of the late Solomon Mujuru, who led the main guerrilla army against the then white-minority breakaway British colony of Rhodesia.

Bloomberg

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