February 6, 2008

Ruling party expels Mugabe-challenger Makoni

Zimbabwe's ruling party has formally expelled a former ally of President Robert Mugabe for launching a challenge to the veteran leader in next month's elections, a ZANU-PF official has announced. Veterans of the country's liberation war have branded former Finance Minister Simba Makoni, a senior member of ZANU-PF, a traitor after he entered the election. Makoni will run as an independent and, by standing against Mugabe, faced automatic expulsion under party rules. "He has expelled himself from the party, he was not expelled by anyone but himself. That is the position according to the rules of the party. So yes, indeed, he is expelled from the party," ZANU-PF's secretary for legal affairs, Emmerson Mnangagwa said.
Makoni had been expected to register for the poll but Zimbabwe authorities postponed the nomination date to February 15 after some politicians won a court order to delay the process.
Zimbabwe's government-controlled media branded Makoni a British and American-sponsored puppet seeking to split ZANU-PF and oust Mugabe. Joseph Chinotimba, deputy leader of the war veterans, was quoted as saying that Makoni was a political turncoat who would suffer a humiliating defeat in the March 29 general election. "We are now going to campaign vigorously for President Mugabe. I feel sorry for Makoni, he has lost the political plot," Chinotimba told the Herald newspaper. "From today to the nomination date we will have finished with them. Traitors should know that ZANU-PF has a history of dealing harshly with their kind."
Political analysts say Makoni is popular with the business community and urban voters disenchanted with Mugabe and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), but doubt he would be able to defeat the veteran Zimbabwean leader. Zimbabwe's privately owned media have reported that Makoni is backed by a faction led by a retired army general and member of the ruling ZANU-PF party's top decision-making body, Solomon Mujuru. Mujuru is married to Vice-President Joyce Mujuru. Makoni said he had consulted party members and activists throughout Zimbabwe before deciding to run. (rts)

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