PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will not retire before 2023 despite the heightened jostling for his post in Zanu PF, his nephew has claimed as the debate over the 91-year-old leader takes yet another twist.
BY NQOBILE BHBEHE/SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
Former Science and Technology deputy minister Patrick Zhuwao said his uncle would only step down after completing two consecutive five-year terms provided for under the new Constitution.
Zhuwao, writing in the State-controlled Sunday Mail yesterday, said debate on who should succeed Mugabe must be shelved because the long-time ruler “has not even completed two years of his first five-year term”.
He lashed out at so-called secessionists in Zanu PF, in what could confirm a fresh battle to find a post-Mugabe leader for the fractured party. Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980.
By 2023, Mugabe — who is widely suspected to be battling ill health and other complications associated with old age — will be 99.
Zhuwawo said talk of Mugabe succession was “divisive, counter-revolutionary, regressive and contrary to Zimbabwe’s developmental and transformational aspirations”.
“The succession narratives are normally based on the comments of unnamed Zanu PF ‘sources’, with others based around the actions of some party members,” he said.
“It is Zanu PF members who feed these succession narratives.
“Zimbabwe’s Constitution gives President Mugabe two terms of five years each.
“This means he can only be succeeded after 2023. Any discussion of succession before that ndeye vatengesi (it’s sellouts’ stuff).
“The people of Zimbabwe elected RG Mugabe President of Zimbabwe with an overwhelming majority of 62%.
“He has not even completed two years of his first five-year term. He is due for re-election in 2018 for his second term.”
Zhuwao said the ruling party’s 6th National People’s Congress held last December elected Mugabe party president and first secretary from 2014 to 2019.
“There will be no other ordinary session of congress until 2019, but there will be national people’s conferences annually from 2015 to 2018,” he said.
“The 2017 National People’s Congress will be held prior to the 2018 presidential elections.
“Section 33 (3) of Zanu PF’s constitution states that one of the powers and functions of the National People’s Conference is to declare the president of the party elected at congress as the State presidential candidate of the party.
“This means President Mugabe will be Zanu PF’s candidate in 2018.”
Zhuwao’s assertion could add confusion in Zanu PF’s explosive succession matrix, which has been blamed for fuelling the current internal strife in the party.
The contested succession issue has seen several party heavyweights — including former Vice-President Joice Mujuru — labelled “rebels” and “Gamatox” elements.
Mujuru and tens of her supporters were expelled from both the party and government on allegations of plotting to topple Mugabe.
Zanu PF has remained unstable even after the departure of the so-called “Gamatox” elements with fresh succession fights threatening to further split the party.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu yesterday described Zanu PF’s insistence to have Mugabe as its candidate in 2018 as madness.
“At the very advanced age of 91, Robert Mugabe is yesterday’s man,” Gutu said.
“He is no longer fit for purpose. He is clearly in failing health as is evidenced by his regular trips to the Far East to seek medical attention.
“In 2018, Mugabe will be 94 years old and it will be the height of insanity for a 94-year-old nonagenarian to run the very demanding office of State President.
“The good thing is that Zanu PF is now in terminal decline and by 2018, there will be virtually no Zanu PF to talk about.
“Trust me, freedom is beckoning for the majority of Zimbabweans. Just watch this space.”
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said it was in the best interest of Zimbabwe to let Mugabe rest.
“The human body is made in such a way that some of its vital organs stop functioning at some stage,” he said.
“It is a fact of the science of the human body that when you reach a certain age you should retire and President Mugabe is way past that stage.
“It is not that we hate Mugabe so much, but he has said it publicly that he is tired.
“He comes late for important meetings and that in itself is a sign that he should rest.”
Mangongera said Zhuwao’s statements were meant to safeguard the Mugabe family’s security.
“There is a sense that the Presidency protects their interests. There is a sense that the President is some kind of firewall, but he ought to rest,” he said.
“It is an embarrassment that the country drags a 91-year-old out of bed every day to attend to the business of the day. It is in our best national interest that he should rest.”
Academic Ibbo Mandaza said Zhuwao’s assertions were only true in theory.
“In theory he (Zhuwao) is correct, but in practice that is another matter,” Mandaza said.