ZIMBABWE – A scramble to endorse President Robert Mugabe’s candidacy for the 2018 national elections has strengthened views that Zanu-PF factions are trying to block each other from taking the lead in succeeding the 90-year-old, meaning he will contest the next elections.
Analysts have pointed out that this means Mugabe is set to be life president as no one will challenge him at the December congress.
Zanu-PF has set out to make the case for another term for Mugabe suggesting the country is on the cusp of an economic boom so long as he can finish the job he started.
This is despite reports in South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper at the weekend that Mugabe will quit in December due to old age.
Ahead of the December Zanu-PF congress, the Mugabe camp has been aggressive in lining up prominent figures to endorse him.
On Saturday, Senate president Edna Madzongwe listed a number of accomplishments of the Mugabe administration at a belated Women’s Day commemorations at Ngezi High School in Mhondoro, Mashonaland West.
Earlier, the Zanu-PF Zvimba District leadership endorsed Mugabe.
The speeches were unequivocal in their support for the current Munhumutapa Offices occupant.
With the Zanu-PF leader turning 90, stark contradictions surrounding his endorsement are only part of Mugabe’s paradox; a counter-intuitive scenario that has secured the president the default support of the nation’s king-making, provincial leaders — without, experts say, addressing its most pressing problems.
All the provinces have already indicated they want to endorse Mugabe, even though there could be a challenge to vice president Joice Mujuru for the second secretary’s post.
As the congress approaches, some Zanu-PF leaders are not amused by this scramble to endorse Mugabe, who will be 94 at the next elections in 2018.
Several Zanu-PF leaders have rallied behind the former guerrilla leader’s candidacy.
Earlier, at a consultative meeting at Murombedzi Growth Point, Zvimba North legislator Ignatius Chombo, speaking off-the-cuff at times, meticulously crafted an argument that detractors have pushed a false narrative about Mugabe and that with a little more time, the economy will spring into action.
No doubt recognising that millions of jobless Zimbabweans pine for the prosperity of the ’90s, Chombo pointed at ZimAsset to hint that the economy would soon show the same signs of life he saw two decades ago.
“The thunderous victory in last year’s elections was testimony that the people enjoyed president Robert Mugabe’s leadership on a variety of issues,” Chombo said at a meeting also attended by Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa, Francis Mukwangwariwa and the Chirawu chieftainship.
“He deserves to rule the country for more years. Since he was elected president of Zimbabwe, we cannot have another person to lead Zanu-PF.
“He must continue to lead both the party and government.”
Several Zanu-PF leaders claim Mugabe has laid the foundation for a new, modern successful economy and urged Zimbabweans to “keep president Mugabe on the job”.
Several of the officials making the endorsements, through much of their speeches, argue that the alternative would be much worse.
Academic and political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said the endorsement betrayed Mugabe’s grand plan.
“I am not surprised with what is happening because the president has made it clear that he wants to die in office,” Mandaza said.
“So there is nothing unusual with officials endorsing him.
“I don’t know what it means for the future of our country but what I can tell you is that he intends to die in office.”
Alex Magaisa, a legal expert and ex-advisor to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, said the country will remain in the doldrums as long as Mugabe refuses to vacate office.
“The man wants to die in office,” Magaisa said.
“This much is now too obvious to even the most politically averse person. But the country will remain on ‘stand-by’ mode as long as he remains at the helm. It won’t move forward and no one will take us seriously. Everyone will just be waiting for the dawn of a new era whether provided by Zanu-PF itself or the MDC or both.”
University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure, said what was happening was not surprising given how things have been carried out in the past.
“The captain will be unanimously endorsed by all provinces,” Masunungure said.
“But we are likely this time not only to see the endorsement and nomination but endorsement as a life president. This will mean he will die in office or he will rule until he is incapacitated.
“No one will challenge Mugabe at the congress and the idea of succession is definitely not there. Mugabe will be endorsed in the December elections and maybe even in the 2018 elections. In other words, Mugabe is life president of the party and God willing, the life president of the country.”
He said this was becoming more apparent.
“It is imperative for Zimbabweans to orient themselves to this reality,” he told the Daily News.
“As long as Zanu-PF is in power and president Mugabe is around, he will be the leader of the nation.
“Going forward, we will see more of the same. We will see the factions’ fighting against each other. We will see the factions’ gladiating to strategically locate themselves in the right place, waiting for the right time when the captain passes on or is incapacitated.
“So we are likely to see a Zanu-PF in limbo and the captain failing to steer the ship of the state out of the crisis that it is in.”