Mugabe trashes two-term limits

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PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday slammed the two-term limit imposed on most African leaders, saying leaders must be allowed to continue if they were wanted by their people.

BY STAFF REPORTER

Speaking at the opening session of the African Union (AU) assembly of Heads of State in South Africa, Mugabe said African leaders had made a mistake by endorsing such legislation.

“We [in Africa] put a rope around our own neck and say leaders must only have two terms,” he said in apparent reference to Burundi where President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for an unconstitutional third time has thrown the East African country into chaos.

Mugabe himself has served seven terms and the new Constitution restricts presidential term limits to two.

However, Mugabe’s first term under the new charter started in 2013 and he is eligible to run for another term in 2018.

He said two terms could feel as short as two weeks.

“It is a democracy, if people want a leader to continue, let him continue,” he said.

Former Science and Technology deputy minister Patrick Zhuwao caused a stir recently when he said Mugabe would take advantage of the constitutional provision to extend his rule to 2023.

The 91-year-old ruler’s refusal to step down has caused strife in the ruling Zanu PF with tens of members recently suspended or fired for allegedly plotting to assassinate him.

One of the biggest casualties of the purge was former Vice-President Joice Mujuru.

President Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe

Meanwhile, Mugabe appeared to make fun of Nkurunziza’s argument that he had only served one term because he initially came to power after he was chosen by Parliament and not the people.

“They say the first term was not a real term,” Mugabe said. “But you were there for five years!”

Burundi has been one of the issues dominating the AU summit with calls for an urgent intervention to prevent civil war.

Mugabe also spoke against leaders seeking retaliation, saying African leaders should prevent conflicts forcing people to flee their countries.

“Then there are fights. You beat me yesterday, I beat you tomorrow, and you overthrew me yesterday, now we’ll overthrow you also,” he said.

“Things continue to happen. Let’s be brotherly, principled and avoid causing problems to our people, because then our people become refugees.”

He had no kind words for former United States President George W Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for their roles in toppling former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

“Then they look at their little British island, left with nothing to offer, except a little coal, which they are burning,” Mugabe said.

Mugabe is AU chairperson.