HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe told his ruling ZANU-PF party on Wednesday it was in danger of splitting and accused rival factions of stoking division as they positioned themselves to eventually succeed him.
Mugabe, 91, and looking increasingly frail, has ruled the Southern African nation since independence from Britain in 1980 but has not named a successor or said if he plans to retire.
Last year in December, Mugabe fired his deputy of 10 years Joice Mujuru, who was seen as very likely to succeed him. He accused her of fanning factionalism in ZANU-PF and plotting to remove him from power. Mujuru has denied the charges.
Without naming anyone, Mugabe told the ZANU-PF central committee that there were groups in the party that were openly and secretly maneuvering to secure influential positions, which he said was disturbing the efficiency of the party.
“There is said to be now these groups following the leadership, and the leaderships are not very clear, that they would want to see lead the party,” said Mugabe.
“And so, we have a problem at the moment that threatens to split the party,” he said.
Local private media have been running stories alleging that a group of young ZANU-PF members called G-40 was rallying behind Mugabe’s wife Grace, urging her to enter the race to succeed her husband in a bid to thwart vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa, a secretive confidante nicknamed ‘Crocodile’ in the Shona language, who replaced Mujuru last year, remains favorite to take over from Mugabe.
But Mnangagwa, 73, may have to wait for a while longer as ZANU-PF’s annual conference, which opens on Friday, is expected to confirm Mugabe as its candidate in the next presidential election due in 2018.
Mugabe, who gave himself sweeping powers last year to appoint the party’s vice presidents, said feuding factions were using dirty tactics to tarnish each other’s image.
“We go day and night wanting to get information. If we can’t get it, we manufacture information that will damage the group that you are opposed to most. We have become liars,” Mugabe said.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Ralph Boulton