Will Mugabe serve his full term?

2013-08-22 10:09

Harare - When Zimbabwe's veteran president Robert Mugabe suavely hosted journalists at State House on the eve of last month's election, there was only one question that caught him off guard.

Asked if the presence of Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa by his side meant that he was his chosen successor, Mugabe paused awkwardly amid laughter and then delivered an unconvincing reply that Mnangagwa just dropped by to see him.

Three weeks after Mugabe's re-election in a disputed vote called a fraud by his main rival but accepted by his African neighbours, there are no doubts Africa's oldest leader is holding firmly on to the presidency after 33 years in power.

But the question of whether, at 89, he can serve out all of his new five-year term - and who will succeed him if he steps down or dies - will hang uncomfortably over his re-installation as Zimbabwe's head of state on Thursday.

It will also be crucial for the future of the southern African nation, which is rich in platinum, gold and diamonds but still emerging from a decade-long recession brought on by political violence and government-backed land seizures.

Mugabe faces few immediate threats. Long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai has been stunned by the enormity of his defeat in an election he says was rigged from start to finish; last week he dropped a challenge to Mugabe's re-election that his Movement for Democratic Change had filed in the Constitutional Court.

The court confirmed on Tuesday that Mugabe's win was "free, fair and credible" and had reflected the "will of the people". 

Prostate cancer

Faced with a meek but broad endorsement of the result by African regional and continental bodies, Western governments must now decide whether to shun the man they have reviled as a ruthless dictator for years, or attempt a rapprochement in the interests of practical diplomacy.

Mugabe's non-committal answer on the succession is typical of a wily and inscrutable guerrilla politician who fought a liberation war leading to independence in 1980, crushed a revolt once in power and has outfoxed rivals in and outside his fractious Zanu-PF party.

Mugabe comes across as feisty and sprightly for his age. He has denied reports that he has prostate cancer and told reporters he intends to serve his full new term.

But his advanced years and the persistent questions about his health, compounded by successive medical check-up visits to Singapore, means that his endurance in office carries its own cloud of uncertainty for Zimbabwe's future.

"Mugabe and Tsvangirai have fought their last elections ... one way or another. Whether it was stolen or not, this was a historic election that prefigures change," Stephen Chan, Professor of International Relations at London's School of Oriental and African Studies, told Reuters.

The United States, a major critic of Mugabe, has made clear it does not believe his latest re-election was credible and that a loosening of US sanctions on Zimbabwe "will occur only in the context of credible, transparent and peaceful reforms that reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people".

The European Union, which had eased some sanctions, is considering its own response after expressing concern about alleged irregularities and lack of transparency in the election.

Succession scramble?

Adding to Zimbabwe's uncertain outlook is the perception that another Mugabe term will intensify a succession battle within the ruling party. ZANU-PF has a history of feuds and splits dating back to its bush war against white minority rule in what was then Rhodesia.

"Vicious faction-fighting is in the DNA of Zanu-PF," said Stephen Ellis, a professor at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Defence Minister Mnangagwa, a 66-year-old guerrilla war veteran and Mugabe's main security enforcer, is widely seen as a succession contender, along with Vice President Joice Mujuru and State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi.

Mnangagwa, known as "the Crocodile", earned a hardline reputation as security minister in the 1980s for his role in suppressing rebels in the western province of Matabeleland. Human rights groups say about 20 000 civilians were killed in the crackdown led by the army's North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.

Mnangagwa, Mujuru and Sekeramayi have been members of Mugabe's cabinet since 1980, and played a major role in Zanu-PF's re-election machine.

During campaigning, Mujuru addressed rallies, Mnangagwa acted as Mugabe's presidential election agent and Sekeramayi was the ruling party's point man for the legislative elections in which Zanu-PF was declared the overwhelming winner.

On the face of it, Mujuru, 58, another liberation war veteran whose nom de guerre was Teurai Ropa ("Spill the Blood") appears to hold an advantage in the succession stakes because as first party vice president she acts for Mugabe when he is away.

But under a new constitution adopted earlier this year, Zanu-PF would choose a new president if Mugabe stepped down or were to die before the end of his term. Many fear this could lead to a scramble for power among ambitious aspirants.

"For all Mugabe's problems, he has been able to keep the peace in Zanu-PF, and has commanded the authority to keep a potentially chaotic party organised," Zimbabwean political analyst Eldred Masunungure said.

"Mugabe's absence could lead to chaos because he has managed the party in such a manner that nobody else has his kind of unquestionable authority," he added.

Mnangagwa vs Mujuru

Some party insiders say Mugabe has skilfully played the Mujuru-Mnangagwa rivalry to strengthen his own position.

Nine years ago, when Mnangagwa appeared headed for election to the Zanu-PF vice presidency with the backing of six of the country's 10 provincial party structures, Mugabe stepped in to engineer Mujuru's appointment to the job.

There was speculation at the time that Mugabe penalised Mnangagwa for his leadership ambitions and that Mujuru's husband, ex-army commander Solomon Mujuru, had prevailed on the president to promote his wife.

This week, breaking with party tradition that individuals do not actively promote themselves for leadership, Mujuru attacked party rivals and presented herself as the moderate leader Zanu-PF needs after Mugabe, local media reported.

"We know that the president will soon be 90 and God might decide to call him ... I am best placed to succeed Mugabe if he departs whether by natural wastage or voluntary retirement," she told a private weekly newspaper in surprisingly frank comments.

Zanu-PF insiders say Mujuru may have been frustrated by Mugabe's statement that he plans to serve his full term to 2018.

Far from mellowing his anti-Western and nationalist rhetoric, Mugabe has told his critics since the election to "go hang" and promised to increase the pace of "indigenisation" policies forcing foreign-owned firms to sell majority stakes to black Zimbabweans.

John Campbell, an Africa expert at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, said he saw Zimbabwe going into "a holding pattern", with little prospect of significant economic and political change until Mugabe disappears from the scene.

"I don't think anything will be settled until he's gone," said Tawana Shomwe, 35, who sells recharge cards for mobile phones on the streets of Harare.

  • JMaree - 2013-08-22 10:11

    The people of Zim can only dream of a mad bob free country!

      Eterni80 - 2013-08-22 12:04

      hell awaits his soul in chains..

      Maybi Maybi - 2013-08-22 12:08

      he love him come and see

      Muke Matshaba - 2013-08-22 14:05

      @Connie stop that nonsense,,,is that a 419 scam or what.

  • Joseph Shange - 2013-08-22 10:13

    The answer to that question is pretty simple and depends on how good his western healthcare is in Singapore. Yes Singapore use Western Healthcare...

  • Sani Mabena - 2013-08-22 10:18

    Of course Comrade Mugabe will serve his full term.He's stronger than you,the journalist who penned this!! Even if he doesn't serve his full term,Zanu pf already has a clear succession plan.The First Vice President Joyce Mujuru is the first in line to succed the president.

      Mangwana Ndiwe - 2013-08-22 11:30

      only if she is not dead.mnangagwa will kill the space

  • Stanley Dust - 2013-08-22 10:18

    Only god can judge him

  • Graziella Mali - 2013-08-22 10:21

    The economic reform are not particularly about Mr Mugabe, but about power dynamics in Zimbabwe. And the same is true about other issues relating to that country. Reducing it all to Mr Mugabe was wrong in 2000 and continues to be wrong now. Mugabe has been systematically demonised because Zimbabweans directly challenged relations of power and land ownership. Any leader that refuses to be tied into the sphere of the western hegemony is demonised and his government earmarked for overthrow, and the usual dupes are lining up to help demonise Mr Mugabe to provide political cover for the colonial thieves. Any claims that Mr Mugabe is somehow "especially" evil are simply preposterous and are easily seen as the routine demonisation that accompanies all western regime change projects. The process of selective demonisation of non western leaders is a precursor to aggression, whereby a leader can become so demonised in certain countries or populations that it is no longer possible to assess their achievements and failures in a balanced way (technically known as the "e-halo effect").

      Joseph Shange - 2013-08-22 10:27

      All I can say is Zim definitely needs you, not the Western Cape...

      George Slade - 2013-08-22 10:38

      Crazy : You appear very well versed in the use of your hated Colonial "thieves" Language .Congratulations on accepting this means of Communication to spew your drivel over the Western Developed Imperialist Internet system. My congrats on your achievements in this regard : Clearly you are well educated , so I will take all your other comments as being very clever Sarcasm .

      Graziella Mali - 2013-08-22 10:45

      Your comment far exceed any other in sheer patheticism. There, you won something!

      Joseph Shange - 2013-08-22 10:48 Interesting article.

      Jason van Heerden - 2013-08-22 10:55

      Thank you Joseph for Sharing that article, very interesting read indeed.

      Michael Hurdlestone - 2013-08-22 11:12

      Graziella, if you are so pro-Mugabe and support his dictatorship, why are you living in South Africa and not in Zimbabwe? Correct me if I'm wrong but haven't 3 million Zimbabweans fled into South Africa to escape being under Mugabe's rule? Zimbabwe was one of the economic powerhouses of Africa, making huge exports of tobacco and food produce, as well as having their currency equal to the American currency; now 1 American dollar is worth 361900 Zimbabwean dollars; are you truly telling me that Mugabe is good for the country? Please wake up. And don't say it's because of unfair sanctions by the West; the West has no sanctions whatsoever on any other African country because they are not run by an evil dictator who has killed millions of his own people.

      FJ Cele - 2013-08-22 11:16

      Graziella - Stop trying to sound clever you are not impressing anyone. It is actually quite sad that someone of your intellect, has got such a narrow minded view on the world. Please pack up your bags and make your dream come true- move to Zim and never come back. While you are at it do some international travelling so you can see that no country/continent can function in isolation. You do not have to be stuck here in SA with the western tendencies of education, technology and internet access.

      Graziella Mali - 2013-08-22 11:40

      A conversation so likely to be unproductive is not worth continuing. I prefer exchanges where there is a possibility of a mutual increase in understanding. I am not interested in point scoring or repeating well-worn rhetorical positions.

      FJ Cele - 2013-08-22 11:48

      Ok then let me hear your opinion on the following: A hard working white person was borne after the struggle against Western Imperialism - he started out with nothing and slowly educated himself made a life and bought a farm. By your general stereo typing (racism) you say that his life's work should be taken away from him...or are you going to exclude certain people from your stereo typing?

      George Slade - 2013-08-22 12:19

      Crazy :When You Lose the Argument , then it becomes "Unproductive" . You really are quite good at English : A lawyer as well perhaps ? Not a Judge I hope as Judges need to be able to listen and reason!

      Graziella Mali - 2013-08-22 12:43

      Your level of discourse is more suited to the tabloid forums. I see they have opened an thread about Joost. Scuttle over there!

      Qawe LaMaqawe - 2013-08-22 12:51

      Mugabe said "I am Hitler ten fold and that he has degrees in violence" himself so @Graziella if you think that is not evil than I wonder what is otherwise your head is evil for you canot see, hear or speak evil. He is a monster and that is why you are enjoying life in Joburg.

      John Stoltz - 2013-08-22 14:38

      Me Mali, please remove every stitch of Western invention from your attire and even daily lifestyle, and rewrite your comment ! You love the milk but hate the cow ??

      Graziella Mali - 2013-08-22 14:51

      I don't know what I would do without your immensely mature, considerate, and well thought contributions. Thank you very much!

  • Tawizee - 2013-08-22 10:28

    This Mugabe succession battle has been going on for a few decades now.

      Joseph Shange - 2013-08-22 10:32

      We can only hope it's Mujuru that takes over. I believe she will bring about a good change in the country.

      Ashanzi Afrika - 2013-08-23 09:07

      Joseph, Zimbabwe needs a government that serves its people, and I don't believe ZANU-PF are capable of serving anyone but itself and its own members.

  • Chirombo Chirombo John - 2013-08-22 10:37

    Lets unite and build our country and support our dear leader. Zimbabwe will propsper by means of Zimbabweans uniting and working together. Any other so called prosperity is hocus-pocus

      Vlad Wasinsky - 2013-08-22 12:39

      Politics won/t benefit Zimbabwe, only hard work will.

  • Bradley Liebenberg - 2013-08-22 11:09

    Free drinks on me when comrade Bob drops Dead! Senile old F..rt!

  • Firstseed Mbeva - 2013-08-22 11:14

    Yep, he did it in the past

  • Jo van Katwijk - 2013-08-22 11:25

    May the devil take him sooner rather than later.

  • Peter James Cock - 2013-08-22 11:53

    Disappointed in the headline..... I thought MadBob had been arrested found guilty and sent to prison.

  • Tshepo Molebalwa - 2013-08-22 11:56

    How taste less is this article.

  • Tadiwa Teddy - 2013-08-22 12:27

    Long live Gushungo,,,long live Zanu-PF!!!!

      Qawe LaMaqawe - 2013-08-22 12:54

      Long live till when????????????????

  • Vlad Wasinsky - 2013-08-22 12:30

    Mugabe puts up a brave face, but anyone can see that time has caught up with him and that he is on his last short lap. The rigged election is an empty victory for him at best.

  • John Stoltz - 2013-08-22 14:35

    Quiting now won't change anything, as the damage are done ! However, if the person following in his footsteps is of the same corrupt/racist/demonic nature, the slide of the once "bread basket of Africa" will continue unabated !

  • Gaylord Masango Mandizvidza - 2013-08-23 09:28

    Time people came to terms with the reality that Mugabe won the election! It's all that matters now, whether he will make it to the end of his term and be available for another is irrelevant. No one is certain he'll live to the end of his/her term of office among all the presidents in the world. There was talk of that he wasn't gonna make it to 2013 due to the same prostate cancer condition back in 2010 but because God has it his way, President Mugabe has even won the 2013 elections resoundingly at the peril of his haters pretending to be critics! The Zimbabwean who voted Bob has a sound mind and true vision (unblinkered) to see for himself and endorse his leadership! Let's focus on his ideas!

  • Mthokozisi Makhetho - 2013-08-23 20:38

    mujuru is on the cards of death,surely mnangagwa wont let her stand on his way...

  • pages:
  • 1