MORE details about President Robert Mugabe’s attempt to postpone the presidential election to 2010 for him to secure a two-year extension of his term of office emerged this week with indications that he was determined to avoid the next election.
Reliable official sources said Mugabe now wants to continue because he believes there is no one strong enough in the ruling Zanu PF to take over from him and lead the party to an election victory in just 22 months’ time. The scheduled presidential poll is in March 2008.
Sources said Mugabe was not convinced Vice-President Joice Mujuru or his former heir apparent Emmerson Mnangagwa were sufficiently strong to hold the party together and win the poll in which the opposition might field one candidate in a Kenyan-style coalition which brought President Mwai Kibaki to power in 2002.
Information to hand shows that Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and Mnangagwa have been given the task to work on proposed amendments to the constitution to postpone the election to 2010. Mugabe is expected to continue as president elected by parliament between 2008 and 2010 if his health permits.
Ruling party sources said there were several reasons why Mugabe wants to continue in power.
“The president seems to think that no one in the party at the moment can unite us and win the crucial election. He fears a new leader might not be able to galvanise the party to victory due to current divisions,” a Zanu PF source said.
“There is also this concern that beyond him nobody will be able to hold the party together, especially after the Tsholotsho saga which left us divided into two rival groups.”
The sources said Mugabe was also worried about his fate after leaving office due to growing accusations of human rights violations perpetrated during his tenure. Local and international human rights groups have accused Mugabe’s regime of violating people’s rights and warned of the possibility of holding its members to account.
Mugabe said last weekend in Malawi “the people” would decide on who will succeed him.
“Succession is a matter for the people,” he said. “The people decide who will rule them. We have a party, the party will nominate a candidate, otherwise there is no democracy.”
His reluctance to clarify the succession issue and give a firm timetable for his departure 22 months before the presidential election seems to confirm he is not planning to retire just yet.
An anonymous column in the government-controlled Herald, generally believed to be written by Mugabe’s press secretary George Chramba, two weeks ago seemed to confirm this.
“There is an assumption that Zanu PF will oblige its own destruction through a change of guard which has to come that year (2008) because Europe expects it, and which has to produce a softer, pro-West politician because Europe wants one such,” the columnist said.
“It is all staked on some tenuous remarks (in the press) attributed to the president that he will not run for another term. This is the same man whose word they say cannot be taken (for it), the same man they say cannot be trusted with the future of Zimbabwe. They desperately are inclined to trust him to leave Zimbabwe House in 2008. Ha, ha, ha!”
Vice-President Joseph Msika, who is understood to have a gentleman’s agreement with his boss that they will quit at the same time, was quoted by the state-controlled Sunday Mail saying he was not going anywhere either.
“I have no intention to retire and I have never thought of quitting. I’m still in it…We don’t want to leave this country in the hands of half-baked revolutionaries and half-baked nationalists.”