PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s interview with state-run television, ZBC, last week to mark his 92nd birthday was very revealing even though many might have found it rumbling, soporific and eccentric.
Editor’s Memo Dumisani Muleya
One thing for sure, it’s very difficult these days to follow Mugabe’s thought process – his ideas or arrangements thereof from his thinking – given his old age and associated problems. He has become incoherent at times.
However, his sleep-inducing interview was instructive all the same. It clarified one of the most important issues currently gripping the national imagination action – his succession debate.
In brief, Mugabe made it as clear as an azure sky of deepest summer that he does not want anyone to talk about his succession while he is still alive and in office. He further dispelled claims by some in his party that he will leave before the end of his current term and allow Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to finish the remainder of his tenure. He also said he did not get elected in 2013 to hand over the baton to anyone, underlining if he was sick or could not handle it he would not have stood for re-election.
Insisting that succession should not be debated when he is still alive and in office, Mugabe said discussing the issue was alien, drawing parallels with traditional succession processes and dismissing speculation of dynastic arrangements involving his wife Grace whom he says has no presidential ambitions.
“Why successor, I’m still there? Why do you want a successor?,” Mugabe asked animatedly. “Do you want me to floor you with a fist to feel I’m still there?”
He then referred to how former vice-president Joice Mujru met her fate by engaging in his succession power struggle, indicating that issue could spell the end of more high-profile political careers for other ambitious party leaders and their supporters.
Mugabe made it also clear he is going nowhere and will not anoint a successor.
In short, the import of his interview was that he will die in office and only then would his party’s senior leaders and members sit down to choose a successor through political processes involving congress. So this means expecting him to resolve his succession issue now is not only a waste of time, but a complete misunderstanding of his thought processes. Even if he described the qualities of a successor he would want, he made it clear enough he will not anoint anyone. While the interview was informative, the reality is Zimbabwe is floundering due his leadership and policy failures, with little sign of meaningful reform and sustainable recovery.
Zanu PF, reeling from protracted divisions and infighting which Mugabe tried to downplay, faces implosion because of his long and disastrous grip at the helm. The ruling party, and to some extent the nation, is consumed by who will succeed him as people hope that once he is gone the country might finally get out of this mess – including the attendant madness – and move on.
Political uncertainty and economic instability have intensified, but Mugabe, 92, and visibly frail, shows no sign of plans to step down. His endorsement at Zanu PF’s annual conference last December in Victoria Falls to seek re-election in 2018 spells further doom for his party and the country which will not recover as long as he is charge.
Mugabe has long lost domestic and international credibility and legitimacy, and is now hanging onto power for his personal and family interests, not the common good.
His succession fights, which have spread to state institutions, including the military, now pose a serious national security threat, but then he is not concerned at all. He will only allow his successor to be chosen after he is gone.
The question is: at what cost to Zimbabwe and its people? And how self-centered, unpatriotic and irresponsible can a leader get?