HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe threatened to discipline ruling party members he accuses of fanning divisions over who will succeed him, reaffirming his authority ahead of his 92nd birthday on Sunday.
In a 30-minute speech broadcast on state-owned ZBC TV late on Friday, Mugabe said he was disturbed by “dog fights” and insults among senior officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party, who are divided over who should succeed him.
“We are all being abused, the President, his wife, in a manner that is very disgraceful. It’s a shame,” Mugabe said, flanked by his two vice presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, at his official State House residence.
“So, we will definitely take action where we feel action should be taken within the party. There is need for a whip of discipline now to be shown and to be used,” he said.
Mugabe says ZANU-PF will choose his successor. But he plans to contest the next election in 2018 aged 94, seeking his last five-year term under a new constitution that would see him through to 99.
His life presidency aspirations are frustrating the feuding factions of ZANU-PF, who have been trying for years to position themselves for a post-Mugabe political era.
Allies of Vice President Mnangagwa and a group of senior ZANU-PF officials, labeled G-40 by local media, have been denouncing each other in public.
The Mnangagwa faction says Mugabe should retire and Mnangagwa should succeed him. G-40 is rallying behind Mugabe’s wife Grace, but says Mugabe should be allowed to die in office.
“Those who are saying we belong to this faction or that faction, I say to them ‘shut up’, you belong to Zimbabwe. Shut up and let us not hear any divisive voices from you,” Mugabe said raising his voice.
In 2014 Mugabe fired his deputy of 10 years Joice Mujuru after accusing her of leading a “treacherous cabal” that plotted to challenge his leadership.
But divisions have since worsened. Mnangagwa has cemented his position by getting allies appointed to important cabinet posts and securing the tasks of reforming the economy and legal system.
After Mugabe’s long rule some people fear the government could be paralyzed and the country riven by instability if he dies without resolving the succession issue.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Susan Fenton