Mugabe wins party vote

2011-12-11 20:00

Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was endorsed again by his party to stand for elections expected next year, but analysts say even for a veteran political survivor, the 87-year-old leader will find it harder to convince voters to extend his rule after 32 years in power.

Mugabe, they said, would face young voters, many born after independence from Britain in 1980, who may not be overly impressed with his party's tales of its leadership role in the liberation struggle and are instead desperate to find jobs in the country which has the world's highest unemployment rate.

Zanu-PF members want Mugabe to hand over the reins to a younger leader, but nobody has ever openly challenged him due to a generous political patronage system and his ability to patiently wear down opponents and keep them guessing on his next move.

"Mugabe has kept going by looking after everybody in some way, balancing various interests, managing the warring factions fighting over who takes over from him and cynically making himself the glue holding Zanu-PF together," said Eldred Masunungure, political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe.

"For Zanu-PF, he is both a liability and an asset in the sense of unifying the party, but is also a big liability for them in electoral terms because he is difficult to sell to the voters as representing any new direction," he said.

Mugabe told his party conference he would step up a drive to force foreign-owned firms to sell majority stakes to blacks, following his seizures of white-owned farms in the past decade.

Analysts said Zanu-PF nominated Mugabe because it still has to solve a long-standing succession battle in its ranks, and the party has grudgingly accepted that Mugabe has manoeuvred himself into a position where he could end up president for life.

Mugabe would be an improbable 93-year-old when he finishes a five-year-term if he wins an election in 2012 against main rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who charges that Zanu-PF has rigged and robbed him of victory in three major polls since 2000.

Early elections

The privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent newspaper said in an editorial that Zanu-PF had missed an opportunity at the conference to discuss its leadership and policy failures.

"Instead they chose to bury their heads in the sand like an ostrich in the midst of a sandstorm," the editorial said.

Political analysts say Mugabe's allies are pressing for early elections, which are only due in 2013 when Mugabe would be 89, fearing he may not cope with the pressure of campaigning, and also to take advantage of what they see as a weakening opposition.

A June 2008 US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks said Mugabe had prostate cancer that had spread to other organs. He was apparently urged by his physician to step down in 2008 but has stayed in the job.

In an interview with Reuters a year ago, Mugabe denied he was dying of cancer but local media reports say he is taking regular trips to Singapore for medical treatment.

"I think it's fair to say that Mugabe might be seeing some opportunities in taking on Tsvangirai sooner rather than later, with minimum democratic reforms, and increasing questions over Tsvangirai and the MDC's capacity," said Lovemore Madhuku of the political pressure group National Constitutional Assembly.

Tsvangirai, 59, has found himself fighting scandals over his private life. In the past few months, a 23-year-old woman has claimed he fathered a child with her, and another woman said she was pregnant by him.

The stories have damaged his public image, but analysts say Tsvangirai, who lost his wife in a car accident after his MDC formed a coalition with Zanu-PF in 2009, still remained reasonably popular though vulnerable if other scandals emerge.

Hard to convince voters

Tsvangirai has issued a public apology for his indiscretions but blames Mugabe's state security agents of setting him up in dirty plots aimed at ruining his political career.

Political analysts say Tsvangirai remains a big threat to Mugabe because Zimbabwe's young voters are frustrated with Zanu-PF policies, which many critics blame for an economic crisis which left Zimbabwe in 2008 with hyper-inflation of 500 billion %, food shortages and 4 000 dead from a cholera outbreak.

Mugabe blames the economic crisis on sanctions by Western countries opposed to Zanu-PF, but will find it hard to convince voters that any improvements in the economy are not the result of the MDC's role in government.

Mugabe's nomination points to his party continuing with controversial policies criticised for stifling investment.

"We are custodians of the national interest, and our historic mission is to defend our heritage," a combative Mugabe said at the Zanu-PF congress as he rallied his party for election battle.

Although Mugabe has been calling for a peaceful election, the opposition fears Zanu-PF hardliners led by the war veterans and youth brigades who normally run his campaigns will be tempted to resort to violence as the tried and tested method.

"Violence is Zanu-PF's default mode, and the talk of peaceful elections has to pass a practical test," said Douglas Mwonzora, spokesperson for Tsvangirai's MDC party.

Tsvangirai says he will win any free poll, and pins his hopes on the new generation of voters he says are tired of war tales.

At least 60% of Zimbabwe's 13 million population is under 30. But nothing is clinical in this calculation as some of these potential voters are abroad and unlikely to return after fleeing Zimbabwe's economic crisis.

"Besides his health problems, Mugabe has a demographic problem to overcome - and it's probably going to boil down to an argument on whether at his age he should be contesting elections at all," Masunungure said.

"For all his skills, this is an argument that Zanu-PF is going to find very hard to sell."

  • Anthony - 2011-12-11 19:20

    not one brain

  • Vegi - 2011-12-11 19:25

    The Zimbabweans should be supported in their choice of leader. He is tried and tested and does not buckle under pressure. I think this is his last term due to age. They should groom a new and young leader of the same caliber to take over Zimbabwe to new hights in 2016/17. Mugabe will remain a celebrated hero in Zimbabwe for centuries after he is gone.

      Marius Koen - 2011-12-11 19:27

      Your name says it all

      Anthony - 2011-12-11 19:29

      veggie again no brain

      Juan - 2011-12-11 20:00

      @vegi surely you must mean NEW LOW

      Cheryl - 2011-12-11 20:13

      at vegi..'new heights' hahahahahahahahhaha. somehow i dont think u r that retarded to be serious. if u are, then my sympathy to u..

      Cracker - 2011-12-11 20:16

      You can't discourse failures into successes. Ask the many Zimbabweans in South Africa. They did not wish for the inevitable consequences that they are now subject to. If we could discourse failures into success this world would be an utopia. No refugees and no dictators.

      taurais - 2011-12-12 09:20

      Vegi you simpleton, instead of new "hights" the word that would correctly describe what Mugabe has done to Zim is new "lows"!!

      Jacqui - 2011-12-12 09:46

      Vegi, Do keep trying, so far you are making no sense.

  • Cheryl - 2011-12-11 19:27

    Money before honour.....filthy pigs.

  • Marius Koen - 2011-12-11 19:30

    Lets look at the facts. If Mugabe was such a wonderful leader, Zimbabwe would be prospering. Is it? Why are so many of its citizens in South Africa? Is it stable and safe? Freedom of speech? Freedom of choice during elections? Employment? Basic foods? I can go on....

      Ibhubesi - 2011-12-11 19:48

      It is a lot more comfortable to sit around blaming Imperialists than solving economic problems. Politics all boils down to a successful economy. If you don't have that, something is wrong. At some point, when it is too late we will suddenly wake up and find out the Chinese have taken over the continent and we will end up working for the Chinese whereas if we did something for ourselves we could have owned this continent.

      Vegi - 2011-12-11 19:50

      Your argument is devoid of all logic having regard to the fact that Western imposed sanctions ruined Zimbabwe. Western countries are fully to blame for the calamity that has befallen Zimbabwe. South Africa should spare no effort and utilize the available resources to turn around the situation there, and shame the Western idiots and their lapdogs.

      Cracker - 2011-12-11 20:19

      No Vegi. You can't talk failures into successes. Ask the many refugees. They are everywhere here with us. I again spoke to one of them about two weeks ago. A truly gifted craftsman. Black, if you think funny thoughts. Boy,l you should have heard him. What he had to say about his life in his country of birth Zimbabwe and Mugabe. Not nice.

  • cornelius.ncube2 - 2011-12-11 19:43

    Sadness again in the house of Zanupf,why really people are not given a proper democratic right to choose a leader of there choice.the aged president had done his part,why not give chance to young leaders to run the party.iam not a zanu and will never be but corrupt mugabe's elite dont want him to go,simply because he protects there asserts.they know his health is not great anymore so as his age but they want him to die there.cry the beloved country.zanu another opportunity missed guys.

  • Shoe - 2011-12-11 19:46

    If Bob's what Zimbabweans want, then Bob they get. South Africans wanted Zuma. And Zuma they got.

      Anthony - 2011-12-11 20:08

      no did not want him and his scum

      Shoe - 2011-12-11 20:59

      If only demokaakcy worked that way, Anthony.

  • Cracker - 2011-12-11 20:10

    The government should just send him the account for our expenses to keep Zimbabweans alive. Both those inside our borders (why are they here) and inside Zimbabwe.

  • Mehluli - 2011-12-11 20:21

    One man`s meat is another man`s poison.

      Cracker - 2011-12-11 20:29


  • Derek - 2011-12-11 20:26

    Go Bob you beauty!!!!

  • Aaron - 2011-12-11 20:47

    Well, thank god that by all accounts this piece of human garbage will soon be dead.

  • Gregory Jurgens - 2011-12-11 23:33

    Senile old man. Good luck Zimbabwe , you gonna need it.

  • Larry - 2011-12-12 08:05

    Now there's a surprise!

  • Msholozi - 2011-12-12 10:05

    our great neighbor bob will rule for another decade becasue zim needs his leadership in healing the scars from britain

      Henri James Christie - 2011-12-15 06:57

      Why not gather as many short sighted people as yourself that you can find and move to Zim???

  • ludlowdj - 2011-12-12 10:35

    Did anyone expect anything else from this dictator and his death squads?

  • bkaridza - 2011-12-12 16:11

    "Mugabe wins party vote" my foot. this is clearly dictatorship and there is no men at Zanu Pf to step up and challenge, all they want is to loot national resources under Mugabe.I have known races to be won after a contest, who contested against him? well he can continue to do that with his party, not our country, he is going and for good, I personally can no longer take it and believe many ZIMS are ready to stand up for justice against the wicked.

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