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Mugabe must resolve succession

IF you have never heard of Filipe Nyussi, you are certainly not the only one because in his own home country, Mozambique, many also don’t know much about him either even though he is shoo-in to become the next president, replacing current leader Armando Guebuza.

Editor’s Memo by Dumisani Muleya

Since the death of Samora Machel in 1986 after his presidential aircraft crashed in the mountainous region on his country’s border with South Africa, Mozambique has had two other presidents, Joaquim Chissano and Guebuza, whose second and last tenure effectively ends in October when elections are due.
Now Nyussi, barring unforeseen circumstances, is coming in.

The latest developments in Mozambique bring Zimbabwe into sharp focus. Despite that President Robert Mugabe last month turned 90 and his Zanu PF is going to an elective congress in December to choose a new leadership for the next five years, there is no sign of a succession plan on the table.

In fact, Mugabe last month came out openly denouncing Zanu PF factional leaders vying to replace him, indicating he still wants to hang in there.

It was a sad message coming from a leader who has badly mismanaged his own country and impoverished its citizens but doesn’t want to retire or quit in the common good.

It looks like Mugabe wants to be president for life — that sickening habit in African politics associated with anachronistic one-party state polities and dictatorships typical of the Cold War era.

Because of Mugabe’s tragic obsession with power and trappings of office, Zanu PF and Zimbabwe look condemned to his lifelong rule. He would rather go down with his party or even the country, instead of quitting to allow a new leader to come in to take the country forward.

Zimbabwe is not alone on this, even though Mugabe’s age and his disastrous 34-year rule dramatises the problem, which is prevalent from Cape to Cairo.

From Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Egypt and Zimbabwe, to South Africa, among other African countries, succession problems have plagued the political landscape.

In 2012, four African leaders died — Malam Bacai Sanha of Guinea-Bissau, John Atta Mills of Ghana, Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi and prime minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, testing the continent’s political and democratic maturity.

Even though Ethiopia, Ghana and Malawi relatively sorted out their succession issues smoothly, there have been ugly transitions elsewhere. For instance, when in December 2008 Guinean president Lansana Conté, one of Africa’s longest-running authoritarian rulers died, the army staged a coup, suspending the constitution and plunging the West African nation into political turmoil. The same chaos took place in Guinea-Bissau when Sanha died in 2012.

In Nigerian, when president Umaru Yar’Adua died in 2010, there were internal problems over who should take over. It also happened in Kenya in the past.
Besides, there is also a dynastic phenomenon of family rulers and successors in some African countries, for example, Gabon and Democratic Republic of Congo where deceased leaders were replaced by their sons.

Even in countries like Angola and Zimbabwe where incumbents remain in power, the question of leadership succession is always a moot issue. Zimbabwe looks like a disaster waiting to happen in that regard due to Mugabe’s protracted rule.

Even in South Africa, where the politics is relatively stable, there was turbulence when President Jacob Zuma in 2008 launched a hostile takeover bid against his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.

African leaders, including Mugabe, must understand succession, which has an impact on political stability and economic growth, is an inevitability of political life, and thus they must deal with it before serious waves of instability engulf their fragile parties or countries with potentially catastrophic consequences.

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