PRESIDENT-elect Robert Mugabe is planning a big inauguration to make a grand exit as his seventh term is likely to be his last which he wants to use to restore his battered legacy following decades of accusations of human rights abuses and economic mismanagement.
Government sources said Mugabe, who won resoundingly in the disputed July 31 elections, is likely to invite a host of African heads of state to attend the mega ceremony which Zanu PF wants to be as big as the 1980 victory party.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said although it was not clear whether the inauguration will be held since MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai is challenging Mugabe’s win in court, the swearing-in ceremony will not be as big as expected because if the election petition is thrown out by the Constitutional Court, there will only be 48 hours to invite other heads of state.
“I don’t think the swearing-in will be bigger because of time constraints since heads of state have to be informed well in advance so that they make preparations to attend. The court fight will spoil the magnitude of the ceremony,” he said.
But sources say Mugabe wants to use the mega event to rehabilitate his battered image and close the chapter on egregious human rights abuses and economic ruin.
At the height of the economic meltdown in 2008, blamed on Mugabe, even renowned economists failed to measure the hyperinflation rate, which was estimated at 231 million percent at the last count.
The President-elect wants to maximise his last term to restore the economy and respect for human rights so that he exits as a respected African statesman along the same lines as former South African president Nelson Mandela.
After winning the elections, Mugabe has already waited the constitutional two-week timeframe required for the courts to deal with any petition against his win.
The MDC-T has petitioned the courts disputing his re-election and his waiting is an indication that the aged leader is seeking to restore legitimacy.
The veteran ruler has suffered lack of legitimacy in two previous presidential elections, including the one-man race he “won” in the bloody 2008 run-off.
Over the past 10 years, Mugabe’s image took a pounding following his skewed policies such as the chaotic fast-track land reform programme and the Operation Murambatsvina “clean up” exercise which, according to the United Nations, left more than 700 000 urban dwellers homeless.
Legitimacy issues and recognition of his rule by the international community forced Mugabe to go to the negotiating table with his arch-rival Tsvangirai, which saw the birth of the just-ended Government of National Unity.
The current sprucing up of Mugabe’s tarnished image is meant to give him a decent exit, to enable him to escape a violent end to his rule like other African dictators such as the late Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko.