President Robert Mugabe has admitted there are elements within Zanu PF who are plotting to unseat him.
Mugabe, who turns 88 today, told State media in interviews on the eve of his birthday, the plots contributed to his poor electoral performance in 2008.
The veteran ruler was beaten in the first round of the presidential election and won a controversial run-off poll after the front runner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out citing violence against his supporters.
Mugabe trailed Tsvangirai in the first round after garnering 43,2% of the vote against the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader’s 47,9%.
“Those you cannot avoid, but they are not serious” Mugabe said in an interview with The Sunday Mail referring to his opponents in Zanu PF.
“Some people thought that if the President was defeated, as long as the parliamentary election went well and we had the majority, we would still rule the country.
“There are those who wanted the President to go. That was foolish thinking. They didn’t know that this was a David-and-Goliath thing. If your man is defeated, that’s it. It doesn’t matter how many seats you get.” At the time, Mugabe complained some parliamentary candidates had decampaigned him.
“We knew we had spoilt things for ourselves within the party. There were negative forces within the party,” he said continuing: “Well, those who pulled out of the party like Simba Makoni and Dumiso Dabengwa and, of course, you also had the factions.”
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) delayed announcement of the results by a record 106 days.
During that period, several ZEC officials were arrested over allegations of tampering with the results to ensure a Tsvangirai victory.
Mugabe said he had not yet started scouting for a successor, claiming “there is no one who can stand at the moment”.
While admitting the need to groom a successor, Mugabe cautioned: “That will cause much more divisions within the party.”
Although Mugabe at one time permitted little debate on his succession, he swiftly moved to politically destroy anyone who declared any personal ambition to succeed him.
In 2003, a Zanu PF succession committee headed by Vice-President John Nkomo was disbanded after it fuelled infighting over who was the most suitable candidate to take over from Mugabe.
In May 2009, the Zanu PF politburo set up another succession committee chaired by Nkomo and comprising Emmerson Mnangagwa, the late retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru, Oppah Muchinguri, Sydney Sekeramayi and Didymus Mutasa.
This committee never took off and was dissolved last year without any sittings to its credit. Some senior party officials said free debate on the succession issue was an impossibility due to fear of retribution.
Zanu PF is reportedly divided along two distinct factional lines headed by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Mnangagwa, although both have publicly denied any links to the factions.