ZIMBABWE – The announcement by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe that he shall not choose his successor — and that his wife Grace may not be the default choice of the ruling party either — will be regarded with consternation in some circles. Not the least because he has also articulated the hope that beats strong in many a politician’s breast across the world: of staying in the saddle at least till he reaches a century. This figure, though not inconceivable, say, for the generally longlived British royal family, does appear very ambitious in the context of Zimbabwe where average life expectancy hovers around 59. However, at an apparently spry 92, Mugabe has convincingly beaten the odds on an imminent exit from the Zimbabwean centre stage that he has dominated since it gained independence 36 years ago.
Mugabe may see himself in the mould of neighbouring southern African leader Hastings Banda, who shuffled off his mortal coil just five months short of 100 in 1997. But he surely must remember that Malawi’s flamboyant ‘President for Life’ was stripped of his office at 95 and died in exile. That he already holds the dubious distinction of being the world’s oldest head of state, of course, must be a source of pride anyway for Mugabe. Hopefully, his 50-year-old wife does not harbour similar personal and professional ambitions. The president has made his wishes known. Do the people of the country have a say in the matter, we wonder.