Leadership Squabbles Take Toll on Zimbabwe’s Economy

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An annual conclave that will shape Zimbabwe’s future is getting under way, and squabbling to succeed a nonagenarian president has already claimed one casualty: the economy.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s ruling party began a six-day annual meeting, with an eye toward selecting new leaders and setting policies for the government of President Robert Mugabe.

Simon Khaya-Moyo, chairman of Mr. Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party, didn’t immediately return calls and messages on Tuesday seeking comment on conference developments.

Few analysts see a quick turnaround of the faded continental star. More likely, they say, is more mudslinging and muddling along.

Africa has a long list of aging presidents presiding over young populations, but Zimbabwe is among the countries where these strains are most acute.

Mr. Mugabe, who has run Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, has shown no sign of wanting to retire. He won what Western observers considered a flawed re-election in 2013. And under a new constitution, the 90-year-old can run again in 2018.

Should Mr. Mugabe step down or die before then, others are lining up to take over.

Fighting between allies of Vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has spilled into Zimbabwe’s media. The Sunday Mail, among others, has reported on an alleged plot to assassinate President Mugabe, apparently orchestrated by allies of Ms. Mujuru. She has denied the allegation.

The surprise entrant in these factional battles is the president’s wife, Grace Mugabe. Supporters of Mrs. Mugabe, a 49-year-old former typist, have nominated her to lead the ruling party’s women’s league.

Even as analysts play down Mrs. Mugabe’s prospects for succeeding her husband, she is expected to keep others off balance long after the conference concludes.

“What we don’t get out of this process is clarity and stability,” said Piers Pigou, southern Africa project director in Johannesburg for the International Crisis Group, a think tank. “The economic problems will never really be addressed until Zimbabwe has political leadership that’s trusted domestically and internationally.”

There are many dark clouds over Zimbabwe’s economy.WSJ

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