Robert Mugabe goes back in time to battle Zimbabwe election foes as age …

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July 24, 2013 – 10:59AM

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Zanu-PF activists hold a banner featuring the 33-year-old picture of Robert Mugabe

Zanu-PF activists hold a banner featuring the 33-year-old picture of Robert Mugabe Photo: AFP

Johannesburg: President Robert Mugabe’s party is using images of its leader from 1980 on posters for Zimbabwe’s election because it is concerned that his age has made him a liability, rivals claim.

Opposition politicians have raised concerns that at 89, Mr Mugabe’s age is an issue of national security. If he were to die in office, Zimbabweans fear that a power struggle could destabilise the country.

Nelson Chamisa, organising secretary of the Movement for Democratic Change, said Zanu-PF’s use of the 33-year-old pictures from when Mr Mugabe first took office showed a “loss of confidence” in the ageing leader.

Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe in more recent times. Photo: AP

“Even if you go to get an identification card they won’t ask for your picture of years ago, they want the current picture,” Mr Chamisa told party supporters at a rally in Gweru, central Zimbabwe. “If one uses his picture of 1980… this is fraud and a show of loss of confidence.”

He said that Zanu-PF was also wary of Mr Mugabe’s recent record in power, including land seizures, economic collapse and widespread poverty and hunger, and preferred to remind voters of his time as a freedom fighter.

“They are in love with the Mugabe of the 1980s but not the Mugabe of today,” he said. “I don’t think they want to be associated with the Mugabe of today.”

His comments come just a week before Zimbabwe goes to the polls to decide which party and president will rule the country for the next five years, and amid claims of skulduggery and vote-rigging.

Mr Mugabe turns 90 in February, making him the world’s oldest political leader. He is known to have suffered from prostate cancer and there has been concern about frequent trips to Singapore, reportedly for medical treatment.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of a wing of the MDC and prime minister of Zimbabwe’s coalition government since 2008, recently said at a party rally: “We can’t trust our future in the hands of a 90-year-old president. His age is a national security issue and everyone has seen it that clearly he needs to rest.”

Elias Mudzuri, an engineer and MDC MP, said there was little doubt Zanu-PF was engaging in a spot of retouching of its ageing figurehead. “In the posters I have seen, he’s about 70,” he said. “We Africans may respect our elders and value their wisdom but this country has been through an economic crisis and needs some fresh thinking.”

Dr Ibbo Mandaza, a Harare-based political analyst, said Mr Mugabe’s age represented a problem for Zanu-PF but he could not be persuaded to stand down. “It’s clear that his age is a liability and it was a major gamble to put him up for election again,” he said.

There has been much debate in Zimbabwe about Mr Mugabe’s plans should he retain office. He recently allowed his deputy, Joyce Mujuru, to chair cabinet several times, prompting speculation that he was looking for an heir and had chosen the more moderate of two front-runners – the other being Emmerson Mnangagwa, the defence minister nicknamed the Crocodile, who has reportedly been working behind the scenes to deliver another Zanu-PF victory. Dr Mandaza said Mr Mugabe was more interested in remaining in power. “He wants to die in office and that’s the big concern for everyone because what would happen if he did?”

No one from Zanu PF or Mr Mugabe’s office could be reached for comment.

The Telegraph, UK


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