Some of President Robert Mugabe’s closest officials have attacked South African president and mediator to Zimbabwe’s political crisis Jacob Zuma, describing him as questionable.

Absalom Sikhosana, the Zanu PF secretary for youth affairs, and Stan Kasukuwere, the league’s secretary for foreign affairs, told journalists in Harare that the youth league respected expelled African National Congress (ANC) youth leader Julius Malema more than Zuma.

The controversial ex-ANC Youth leader

Malema enjoyed close ties with Zanu PF before his fall, while Zuma has had an uneasy relationship with Mugabe and Zanu PF because of his push for democratic reforms before the next election is held.

In statements likely to further complicate relations between Harare and Pretoria, Sikhosana and Kasukuwere said while Zanu PF respected the decision by South African ruling ANC party to expel “comrade Julius Malema”, the Zimbabweans will stand by the fallen leader.

Instead, the Zanu PF youth league questioned the moral authority of Zuma who is the Sadc appointed mediator to the Zimbabwe’s crisis.

“We feel that the position that Julius took is the right decision and we support that position. Julius remains a comrade of Zanu PF,” he said.

“Comrade Zuma has some questionable credentials but we will not get into that because that is another issue all together. When we speak here, we speak not as the government but as Zanu PF and especially the youth league,” said Kasukuwere, a younger brother to controversial indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere.

Malema, who has been vocal on the need to dismantle white control of South Africa’s economy, was sacked for criticising Zuma.

“That system that is there in South Africa has Boers still running the country and that is exactly what Julius Malema is talking about. That political freedom is nothing if it is not complimented by economic freedom,” said Kasukuwere.

Kasukuwere said whites were still running South Africa, giving the example of Tuesday’s judgment by a South African High Court judge ordering South African authorities to probe Zimbabwean officials implicated in human rights abuses.

“There is no way we can abandon a comrade because his party has found him guilty of speaking against imperialism. Actually this means that those who are charging him are imperialists themselves,” said Kasukuwere.

The statements resonate with Mugabe’s apparent hostility towards Zuma, who was appointed by Sadc to mediate between foes Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to ensure a credible fresh election.

Mugabe has in the past made it clear that his party can do without Zuma as mediator after the South African president assumed a hard-line stance against the former ruling party which was forced into a coalition with Tsvangirai’s MDC following disputed elections in 2008.

Earlier this year, Mugabe went on an offensive against Zuma and expressed dismay that he agreed to the invasion of Libya by Western forces to topple dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

“The Africa of today is full of cowards…The leaders are weak and naive,” said Mugabe in the local Shona language.

The youth league members slammed party members fighting to replace Mugabe, saying the veteran leader should be replaced only after his death.

Sikhosana said the party had decided that Mugabe will remain Zanu PF candidate until God chose otherwise.

“It is taboo to discuss the succession of President Mugabe. It is up to the Almighty to say when he may not be with us. To suggest that we may start to explore new leaders is out of the question,” said Sikhosana.

Zanu PF has now been fractured into several factions which are also divided into sub-structures as infighting over Mugabe’s succession threatens Zanu PF.

Mugabe himself has admitted that Zanu PF is riddled with factions, saying the party will crumble if he left the scene to allow a younger generation to take over.

Despite being 88, Mugabe has refused to step down or groom a successor.

Among top Zanu PF officials who have been fingered as eyeing the presidency is Vice President Joice Mujuru, Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and defence forces commander Constantine Chiwenga.

Sikhosana said “pretenders” could “dream on” about taking over Mugabe’s Zanu PF throne.

“We hear about a lot of things. People talking about so and so jogging to be president of Zimbabwe. We want to put that to rest. People should not tempt beyond our ability to restrain ourselves. We know of only one candidate for the presidency of the party and government and that is comrade Mugabe. He is the sole candidate,” said Sikhosana, a 60-year-old grandfather still running youth affairs in Zanu PF.

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