PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is likely to hold onto power if he wins the presidential election contrary to belief that he would retire, while for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the polls would be a do-or-die affair as he is likely to be nudged off the helm of MDC-T if he loses again, analysts say.
There has been speculation that Mugabe (89) wants to secure victory for Zanu PF and retire, leaving his party in power while others believe he may take a back seat and assume a ceremonial role with his preferred successor exercising the main executive functions.
Effie Ncube, a political analyst and chairperson of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango), said Mugabe was most probably eyeing the life presidency.
“The most likely scenario is that Mugabe would prefer to die in office,” said Ncube. “He is unlikely to leave power in the hands of any of his subordinates such as (Vice-President Joice) Mujuru or (Defence minister Emmerson) Mnangagwa because he does not trust anyone.
“As long as he is physically able to function, we won’t see him relinquishing power unless he becomes incapacitated. He would probably want to use his term to salvage some of his legacy by introducing some democratic reforms and so on.”
Professor Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, also believes Mugabe would exercise his full executive functions for his whole term, barring incapacitation or death.
“He may be compelled by his fragile health and age to retreat from State House to his private residence, but he would not pass on the baton to anyone,” said Masunungure.
“His health may force him to shed some of his executive functions but, even then, he would retain the position of executive president and pull strings on strategic policy matters. He would want to complete his term unless some dramatic circumstances occur to stop him from achieving that goal.”
Masunungure said dating back to the days of the liberation struggle, Mugabe has learnt to be wary of those around him.
“Right now because of internal power politics in Zanu PF, he cannot trust the political gladiators around him. For that reason he will not resign,” he said.
He said in the event of losing the election, it was likely that Mugabe would not be persecuted but would be given a good package and be honoured for the role he played in liberating the country.
Both Masunungure and Ncube said the election was crucial for Tsvangirai as a loss would result in questions being asked about his ability to dislodge Zanu PF from power.
“After being at the helm of the party since September 1999, surely if he loses, he must consider dropping the hat for someone else. This will also define his legacy as a democrat because if he attempts to hold onto power, he may be seen as a selfish and power-hungry person.
This will be a do-or-die election for him,” said Masunungure.
Ncube said if Tsvangirai loses the polls and Sadc and African Union (AU) observers declare them free and fair, he would face an uphill task to retain the MDC-T presidency.
“If Tsvangirai doesn’t win this ‘peacefully rigged election’ and if it is declared free and fair by Sadc and AU, it will be difficult for him to hold onto power. He will be challenged from within and would most likely lose international sympathy after failing to dislodge Mugabe for so long,” said Ncube.
“He will only be able to survive if the election is violently rigged and the international community says the elections were not free and fair.”
Analysts say there may be a run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai but MDC leader Welshman Ncube may be a deciding factor.
Effie Ncube said Welshman Ncube needs just 10 parliamentary seats for his party to remain relevant while Masunungure said if he backs Tsvangirai in the run-off, which he believes is likely, he would remain relevant in the next government.
Masunungure also believes Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara may be given a role to play either as an advisor or in diplomatic missions by both Mugabe and Tsvangirai, depending on who wins.