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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 18:23 GMT
Mugabe looks to prolong his rule
By Peter Biles
BBC Southern Africa Correspondent

Robert Mugabe at the Zanu-PF congress in Harare, 13 December 2007
Mr Mugabe could stay in power for six more years

President Robert Mugabe has seen off his rivals within Zanu-PF and secured the party's nomination for the presidential elections scheduled for next March.

The challenge to Mr Mugabe's rule from factions within the ruling party has dissipated in recent months.

Jonathan Moyo, Mr Mugabe's former information minister and now an independent MP, says two Zanu-PF groupings - one led by Rural Housing Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and the other by Vice-President Joyce Mujuru - have been publicly supporting Mr Mugabe's endorsement as presidential candidate.

'Rude Awakening'

Yet, only a few months ago, Mr Mnangagwa and Mr Mujuru had both been seen as possible successors should Mr Mugabe have been persuaded to leave office.

"Behind the scenes, there is widespread disgruntlement," says Mr Moyo.

"There is a rude awakening that Mugabe will not step down voluntarily, and there is nothing that can be done, using party procedures, to deal with his succession."

Mugabe's intention is to die in office, which is regrettable
Morgan Tsvangirai
Opposition leader

Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, says the rival factions within Zanu-PF have to regroup.

"They've been overwhelmed by the Mugabe wing, but they lacked the wherewithal to reverse what was a fait accompli [Mugabe's endorsement].

"They're not happy with Mugabe as presidential candidate for the 2008 elections. They won't take this lying down, but for the moment, they're a defeated lot".


President Mugabe has undoubtedly strengthened his position in the party.

Two weeks ago, he also managed to draw thousands of supporters on to the streets of Harare for what was billed as a "Million Man and Woman March".

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads one faction of the divided Movement for Democratic Change, says Zimbabwe is in "deep crisis".

A bus with food and other supplies from Mozambique pulls into a terminus in Harare, 15 November 2007
Food and fuel remain in short supply

He insists that at the age of 83, Robert Mugabe must retire.

"His generation has played its part, and must hand over to the next generation but sadly, Mugabe's intention is to die in office, which is regrettable," Mr Tsvangirai told a meeting of the Royal Commonwealth Society in Kampala last month.

In his recent state of the nation address to parliament, President Mugabe described progress in the ongoing talks between Zanu-PF and the MDC that are intended to pave the way to free and fair elections in March 2008.

Mr Mugabe said there had been "constructive engagement" and "a narrowing of differences" between the two sides.


However, the MDC remains concerned about continuing political violence against its supporters on the ground, and has accused the government of insincerity.

In the meantime, there is no sign of a reversal of Zimbabwe's economic decline.

Food and fuel remain in short supply, and power cuts have become a regular feature of daily life.

With the health system seriously degraded, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of pregnant women making their way to neighbouring South Africa, to avoid having to give birth at hospitals in Zimbabwe.

"Things have collapsed in Zimbabwe," says Mr Moyo. "This is not exaggeration. It's reality".

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