Official breaks ranks with Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe's power base was crumbling around him Friday night after one of his party's key members and founding fathers broke ranks. Eddison Zvobgo, a former member of Mr. Mugabe's cabinet, current member of Parliament, and influential within the ZANU-PF party, told of his hopes that Mugabe would accept a dignified exit from power in the event of a defeat during this weekend's election.

In an interview, Dr. Zvobgo dismissed threats made last week by the government's external affairs chief, Didymus Mutasa, that ZANU-PF would initiate a military coup to keep Mugabe in power if opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai prevails.

Hinting at deep rifts among the president's political and military circle, he revealed that the party's "official position" is that it will abide by the result and will not tolerate attempts to subvert it. He acknowledged that there could yet be a coup attempt, but appeared confident that few within the armed forces would actually join it. "Even if such a thing happened and succeeded, it would not be permanent," he says.

While Mugabe regularly claims that British neocolonial interference is responsible for the state of the country, Zvobgo says, "I am not one who believes in blaming the world for the plight in which we find ourselves. Sure, some factors were beyond our control, but others were within our grasp, and we either mismanaged or we hesitated and lost an opportunity."

In particular, he said, was the government's failure to come up with an orderly and legal land-redistribution scheme - instead allowing the war veterans to launch farm invasions.

"The devil which has spoiled everything was when we decided to take land," he admits. "I spent 10 years in prison during the liberation struggle, but I didn't go through all that personal sacrifice simply for land," he says. "It was about matters of human dignity, an end to racism, opening up the opportunity for the human soul to freely soar so that every person can reach their highest capabilities."

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