Zanu-PF congress awaits Mugabe's address

Delegates from each of the country’s 10 provinces are chanting pro-Mugabe slogans.

FILE: President Robert Mugabe. Picture: AFP.

HARARE, Zimbabwe - President Robert Mugabe will address thousands of delegates at the opening of his Zanu-PF party's national congress in Harare.

However, Vice President Joice Mujuru, who has been the butt of a vitriolic campaign led by first lady Grace Mugabe, is not at today's event although it does look as if some of her allies are inside the giant marquee in the centre of Harare.

Mujuru, a battle-hardened guerrilla nicknamed "Spill Blood", has faced accusations from the first lady and state-owned media of corruption and plotting to kill Mugabe in what analysts say is a smear campaign.

It seems the 59-year-old vice president's political fate has been sealed.

_The Herald _boasted this morning that her faction had been checkmated.

Mugabe is already at the venue with the first lady listening to Zanu-PF delegates from each of the country's 10 provinces chant pro-Mugabe slogans.

MUJURU ACCUSED OF SEEKING TO OUST MUGABE

Mugabe on Wednesday accused Mujuru of seeking to oust him.

Mujuru, who leads a ZANU-PF group that is viewed as moderate and pro-business, has denied plotting against Mugabe who has ruled the southern African country since independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe accuses the West, especially London and Washington, of funding the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to remove him from power.

He told a meeting of his party's central committee, which Mujuru did not attend, that she wanted him to step down only a year after he resoundingly won re-election. The MDC has said that vote was fraudulent.

"I fight an election and I'm expected to bow to my deputy and say I won an election, you take over. That was their expectation, foolish and idiotic," Mugabe said to cheers from the 240-member central committee.

"Mujuru was hoping the West would pour billions into Zimbabwe after she took over. Where have they poured billions in a country with no Mugabe? Be content where you are," he said.

Mugabe said party members were allowed to contest for top posts but should not do it through illegal means.

He has changed the party's Constitution to allow himself to appoint his deputies.

Additional reporting by Reuters