December 20, 2001

ZIMBABWE: ZANU starts election campaign, but loyalty to Mugabe is questioned

President Robert Mugabe was endorsed as ZANU-PF's candidate for the presidential elections scheduled for 2002. Last year's parliamentary elections were a mere soccer match, Mugabe said at the end of a three-day conference of his ZANU-PF party. "What we are now headed for is a real war, a revolutionary war," Mugabe said, launching his presidential campaign. "We have to move like a military machine and you must prepare your own unit to move forward. This is no longer just a contest. This is a revolutionary war...“, Mugabe said.

According to unconfirmed information, however, some top army generals at the conference had urged Mugabe to quit and announce a successor: Authoritative sources said members of the Joint Operation Command (JOC) had met Mugabe in one of their regular briefings just before the conference to "reflect" on his and ZANU PF’s chances in the election set for March. The JOC comprises General Vitalis Zvinavashe, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Constantine Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, Air Marshall Perence Shiri of the Airforce, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and Elisha Muzonzini, Director-General of the Central Inteligence Organisation. In the meeting, the sources said, the generals expressed feelings that ZANU PF’s chances in next year’s poll could be enhanced by a new unifying candidate given the rampant factionalism which has torn ZANU PF and resulted in its dwindling national support base in recent months. Mugabe has vowed to crush his opponent, the Movement for Democratic Change’s Morgan Tsvangirai, in the ballot, but analysts say the 77-year-old President no longer has the stamina nor the appeal to woo a restless and angry electorate.

Meanwhile, according to human right organisations, the Zimbabwean government has moved troops into Matabeleland. The organisations have been told by villagers in the province that the soldiers have been beating them up. Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo told delegates at the ZANU-PF congress in Victoria Falls on Friday that the deployment was an attempt to keep peace in response to "terrorist" attacks on ZANU-PF officials. President Robert Mugabe told the conference the troops had also been deployed there to protect farm workers from white farmers. (FINANCIAL GAZETTE, THE NAMIBIAN)

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