Former Zimbabwean Finance Minster Simba Makoni addresses a press conference in Harare Tuesday. Makoni announced that he is to run against President Robert Mugabe in presidential elections scheduled for March 29.(Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Assoociated Press)

A senior member of Zimbabwe's ruling party announced Tuesday he will run as an independent against longtime President Robert Mugabe in next month's election.

Former finance minister Simba Makoni, 57, said he decided to run after talking with members of Mugabe's ZANU-PF and activists across the country.

"I won't be in this campaign alone. There will be many of us, a great many of us," he told reporters in the capital Harare.

He said many ZANU-PF members were disappointed that a party convention in December didn't lead to a change in leadership. Mugabe has been in power since the country's independence from Britain in 1980.

Dissidents in the ruling party say Mugabe railroaded through his nomination at the party convention by disallowing other nominations.

"I would like to stand as a candidate for ZANU-PF, but I cannot," said Makoni.

Chances of unseating Mugabe slim

There is speculation that some ZANU-PF stalwarts could launch a breakaway party.

Makoni, a technocrat and business consultant, has no grass-roots support but has been linked to a powerful ruling party faction led by former army commander Gen. Solomon Mujuru, husband of Vice President Joyce Mujuru.

The chance of him unseating Mugabe in the March 29 general election is believed to be slim since he is running without a party and has no supporters contesting other parliamentary seats, which will also be up for grabs in the vote.

He said he plans to release his election platform next week and will reveal the names of several ZANU-PF officials who are backing him.

Makoni was the country's youngest cabinet minister when he was appointed in 1982 at the age of 32. Mugabe fired him in 2002 over a disagreement on monetary policies, including Makoni's call for a devaluation of the Zimbabwe currency.

Opponents have blamed Mugabe for an economic meltdown that has left Zimbabwe with the world's highest official inflation — 26,470 per cent — and serious shortages of gas, food and most basic goods.

With files from the Associated Press