HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe's longtime president said splits and greed are threatening his party ahead of elections he is pushing for this year during a spirited speech at the funeral of a party stalwart Friday.
President Robert Mugabe told mourners at the state funeral that leaders have become "too materialistic" and are fighting each other for top party posts ahead of elections he wants this year to end a shaky coalition with Zimbabwe's former opposition.
Mugabe, 88, has been nominated as his party's sole presidential candidate in proposed elections.
The power-sharing coalition was brokered by regional leaders after violent and disputed elections in 2008.
Mugabe accused party factions of manipulating recent voting for provincial posts.
"We look forward to having an election. Let's get united," he said during the 50-minute speech at Edson Ncube's funeral.
Ncube, 74, served as a guerrilla fighter in the bush war that led to independence from Britain in 1980. He later became a senior party administrator.
Mugabe, commending Ncube's role in the fight against British colonial-era rule, vigorously sang a verse from "Rule Britannia," an anthem about Britain's former colonial dominance.
"They can rule the rest of the world but not Zimbabwe anymore," he said.
Mugabe has appeared frail and weak at recent public occasions after returning from medical treatment in Asia. On Friday he looked fit and energetic and did not refer to his health.
Ncube died Sunday from complications of anemia in the second city of Bulawayo. He was declared a national hero for burial with military honors at Heroes Acre, a shrine for fallen fighters and politicians outside Harare.
"He was reliable and honest. There are very few people like him who mean every word they say and tell the truth," Mugabe said.
He said party leaders must follow Ncube's example to win support from the people on their own merits.
Mugabe said bitter factionalism was evident in contests for party positions, efforts to discredit rivals and vote-buying.
"It is bad to do that, you are not a leader if you do it and if you buy votes," Mugabe said. "You are destroying the party people like (Ncube) fought hard for. Let the people judge you.
"The leadership needs transforming," he said. "We have become too materialistic and that is going to destroy the party," Mugabe said.
In a veiled barb against the pro-Western stance of the party of Zimbabwe's black Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe said some Zimbabweans "still think a white man is better than a black man."
"If you can't rule without going to Europe and the Europeans then you can't rule this country at all," said Mugabe, in a return to his often-used fiery oratory.