Talk to anybody at home in Zimbabwe and outside this southern African country of average 16 million people, the discussion will be about controversies that have increasingly trailed President Robert Mugabe’s leadership of his country. At 93 and looking very frail in health, this current oldest leader in Africa is not letting go controversies on matters affecting his country.
For 37 years – from 1980 when Robert Mugabe became Prime Minister, when his party, ZANU-PF won the elections after the end of white minority rule; and became president of Zimbabwe in 1987, Mugabe’s leadership has been tagged “authoritarian regime”. He is being accused of using state security apparatus in cowing opposition, responsible for widespread human rights violations in the country and managing a sliding economy.
Robert Mugabe has been isolated by western international community for maintaining revolutionary socialist style of leadership from the cold war era. Zimbabwe has been crawling on economic hardship, and Mugabe has blamed the country’s economic affliction on conspiracy from western capitalist countries.
Mugabe is seen by fellow African political leaders as demonstrating anti-imperialist credentials. As such, they have been very reluctant to criticize his style of leadership. An undaunted social critic and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, once described Mugabe as “cartoon figure of an archetypal African dictator”.
At July 2013, general elections, Mugabe contested re-election as president of Zimbabwe and won. Foreign observers and the media described Mugabe’s election as “stolen” victory or as “rigged” election. After winning the election, Robert Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF led government, re-introduced one party rule. His government is presently seen as reeling under misrule and corruption.
Nationwide protest greeted the economic situation in Zimbabwe in July 2016. The Minister of Finance was reported to have admitted that: “Right now we literally have nothing”. Institute for Security Studies, ISS, conducted study on Zimbabwe in 2017. The conclusion was that deterioration of governance and the economy in Zimbabwe, “the government encourages corruption to make up for the inability to fund its own institutions”.
Robert Mugabe seems not done yet with decades of misfortune inflicted in his country. At 93, he is the presidential candidate for 2018 election on the platform of his ruling party, ZANU-PF. If Mugabe wins the election, and is able to stay on for five years tenure, according to the country’s constitution, he will be 99 years and would have ruled Zimbabwe for 42 years. The scheduled election will be about July 21, 2018.
Given Mugabe’s present age, 93, and his frail-state-of-health, there have been intense skirmishes in his ruling party, ZANU-PF over who succeeds him. In the past three years, two separate camps have emerged – one said to be supporting Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the second supporting Mugabe’s wife Grace Mugabe.
Reuters and Nan reported recently, that First Lady Grace Mugabe confronted her husband President Robert Mugabe on the issues of naming who becomes his preferred successor. Grace Mugabe believes that naming the president’s successor could stem the crisis over the future leadership of the ZANU-PF party; and end the deepening divisions in the ruling party.
Robert Mugabe has insisted that his ruling party, ZANU-PF, and not he, would choose his successor when the time comes. According to Reuters, political analysts believe that Mugabe could call for an early vote, giving his frail health and take advantage of the divisions within the opposition ranks to name his successor.
Edging towards naming his successor, Robert Mugabe, on Monday, November 6, sacked his Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa from office, and Wednesday, expelled him from the ruling ZANU-PF party. Analysts and observers believe that Mugabe’s action was making way for the president to name his wife, Grace Mugabe as his successor.
Chris Mutsvangwa, head of Zimbabwe’s influential war veterans association, Wednesday, said the plan by President Robert Mugabe to install his wife, Grace as vice president would be resisted. His words: “This is a coup by marriage certificate … and it will be resisted.”
Resisting Mugabe, according to Mutsvangwa, would not be by force. He has publicly backed Mugabe’s sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and has also broken ranks with Mugabe over a year ago. He said he would form a broad front with the opposition for the elections next year.
Mnangagwa is believed to have gone into hiding. He has not been seen in public since he was sacked by Mugabe as his Vice President. Mutsvangwa, war veteran said Mnangagwa was “safe and beyond the reach of the assassins”. He went into hiding because Mugabe was quoted to have said, Wednesday, that the route to the leadership in Zimbabwe was long and full of “pitfalls and death”.
Mnangagwa, 75, according to Mutsvangwa, “very soon” would travel to Johannesburg, neighbouring South Africa. A statement Mnangagwa issued, Wednesday, said: “My sudden departure was caused by incessant threats on my person, life and family by those who have attempted before through various forms of elimination including poisoning”.
Mugabe at the headquarters of his party, ZANU-PF, accused Emmerson Mnangagwa of consulting “witchdoctors” and “prophets” as part of campaign to secure the presidency. Mugabe said Mnangagwa, nicknamed “Crocodile”, had made the same mistakes, Joice Mujuru, who was the president’s deputy for 10 years made, before she was fired in 2014.
Mugabe said: “You should not try to say because the journey is long, then I should take a short cut to arrive quickly. The road has lions. There are pitfalls. There is death, beware. There is no short cut to being the leader of the people. Just as there was no short cut to our independence. ZANU-PF would move to discipline Mnangagwa’s ‘co-conspirators’”.
At 93, and evidently in poor-state-of-health, looking very frail in public, Mugabe should exit as president of Zimbabwe when the ovation is loudest. There are, obviously, areas Robert Mugabe would be remembered for as the leader of Zimbabwe for 37 years. With Mugabe’s exist, perhaps, there would come someone with the key to unlocking the potentials of Zimbabwe – land of hope and not hatred.