ZANU PF’S “one million men and women” solidarity march in the capital today is part of President Robert Mugabe’s project to secure the
life-presidency and to close the succession battle in the ruling party.
The march from the Zanu PF headquarters to Harare Grounds in Highfield, party insiders said, was a public roadshow for those opposed to Mugabe’s continued stay in power that the 83-year old leader was still popular.
The move, the sources said, was the culmination of lobbying by the war veterans, women and youth leagues that started at the Zanu PF people’s conference in Goromonzi last December and at a crucial central committee meeting on March 30.
In Goromonzi and at the central committee meeting, the women’s league headed by Oppah Muchinguri resolved that Mugabe should remain in the party and as head of state until death.
No one in the party opposed the league’s proposal that was also adopted as part of proposals at the Goromonzi conference.
War veterans vice-president Joseph Chinotimba and youth chairperson Absolom Sikhosana yesterday confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent that they wanted Mugabe to die in office.
Chinotimba said: “President Mugabe is our leader for life. Comrade Mugabe is a father figure to us and have you ever rejected your father because he is old? It is only (USA President George) Bush, (former British Premier Tony) Blair and (ex-Australia Premier John) Howard who leave office, not our president.”
He said the march was to encourage Mugabe not to quit even after winning next year’s elections and serve his five-year term.
“We are saying Comrade Mugabe is not like Howard who lost elections. Our president has no terms, he should rule for ever,” Chinotimba added.
Sikhosana said the youth wanted Mugabe to rule for life.
“The youth should go in their numbers to demonstrate their unwavering support to our only presidential candidate, the hero of the nation President Mugabe,” Sikhosana said. “We are praying to the Almighty God that he gives President Mugabe good health and more days on earth so that he continues to lead our party and our great nation till death.”
He said Mugabe should be life-president if he is to achieve his goal to “totally liberate Zimbabwe and Africa”.
The only official to comment on the matter after the Goromonzi conference was Vice-President Joseph Msika who said people must be careful not to make emotional decisions in politics.
However, since Mugabe’s endorsement by the politburo and central committee, there have been a lot of buy-ins for Mugabe’s project to remain in power from various constituencies in the party.
Msika recently said Mugabe should be allowed to stay on so long as he was serving the nation.
“We do not change leaders as fast as we change our shirts,” Msika told a Zanu PF Harare province meeting on November 17. “In Zimbabwe, we do not accept that. So the issue of changing a leader after a specified period is out of the question. It is a luxury we cannot afford. If they are still serving the people, then they should stay on or even die there.”
Mugabe’s continued stay in power was being challenged by a faction in Zanu PF led by Solomon Mujuru, which wanted Vice-President Joice Mujuru to take over.
The Mujuru faction has since made a u-turn insisting that it never questioned Mugabe’s leadership, and did not oppose his endorsement as the party’s 2008 presidential candidate by the politburo and the central committee last month.
Mugabe’s project to remain in power for life is spearheaded by war veterans, women and the youth leagues of Zanu PF who in the past three months have organised solidarity marches.
Rural and Social Amenities minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, another presidential hopeful and a rival of the Mujuru camp, is reportedly the mastermind of the marches by the war veterans to rally support for Mugabe ahead of a special congress by Zanu PF in mid-December.
But despite Mugabe securing the endorsement, the marches continued with insiders saying they were meant to garner support for the president to be declared a life president at Zanu PF’s five-day extraordinary congress starting on December 11.
While efforts to get a comment from Muchinguri yesterday were fruitless, at a march in Chinhoyi at the weekend organised by war veterans, women and youth leagues, placards written that Mugabe should stay in office till death were being waved by party activists.
Didymus Mutasa, Zanu PF secretary for administration, could not be reached for comment last night as his mobile phone was not being answered.