COLUMN: MARY REVESAI
Will Mugabe quit in 2010?
By Mary Revesai
NOW that what sceptics have suspected all along -- that Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe has no intention of relinquishing power when his current term ends in 2008 -- has been confirmed, the 64 million dollar question is: will the man be finally ready to pass on the baton in 2010?
It may seem premature to raise such a concern, but considering that dictators have never been known to leave office voluntarily, the possibility that the crafty Mugabe could have one more trick up his sleeve come 2010 is not farfetched.
One only has to look at how he has out-foxed everyone in the ruling party and the in the whole of Zimbabwe for that matter, to anoint himself absolute ruler over the last 26 years.
And the fact that
this latest announcement was made by Saturday Herald columnist
Nathaniel Manheru, George Charamba’s pseudonym, shows just how
adept the wily Mugabe has become at playing the politics of divide and
Note that the statement does nor refer to Zimbabweans choosing a “new leader” but “their president.” Coming as it does hardly a week before the Zanu PF people’s conference; it is bound to cause great discomfiture among delegates who must figure out a politically correct reaction in the few days remaining.
While presidential hopefuls in the main factions spawned by the murky succession process within the ruling party ponder their positions and new strategies, Mugabe will no doubt relish watching their confounded frustration and making mental notes ahead of 2010. His health permitting, he could be ready to make them see red again by engineering yet another scenario to postpone his departure.
Mugabe’s angry outbursts of late against anyone showing an interest in vying for the highest office in the land shows to what dangerous extent he now believes in his immortality and indispensability. He has become too used to the misplace adulation of sycophants such as the late Tony Gara, who once described him as the Son of God.
Of late, some misguided church leaders have fallen over each other to declare that despite his repressive governance, Mugabe was anointed by God to lead Zimbabwe as long as he lives. Taking this flattery to heart, the Zimbabwean leader has let rip on many occasions about how unimpressed he is with those aspiring to succeed him. He has variously accused them of visiting traditional healers for “muti” to enhance their chances. In one angry tirade Mugabe even characterised those members of his party entertaining hopes of taking over from him as witches.
Without saying who he was talking about, Mugabe angrily alleged that some people were so ambitious that “even before the president has left, you are waiting at the door like a witch”. And yet there is nothing sinister or untoward about anybody who decides to seek election to any political office in a supposed democracy. Mugabe fails to realize that such people are exercising their democratic right and that there are no taboos about when they choose to make their intentions known. In some countries, speculation about candidates for presidential elections begins years ahead of the polls.
name has been mentioned repeatedly in connection with the future presidency
of South Africa although Thabo Mbeki is not due to relinquish office
until 2009. Hilary Clinton and others have been touted as aspiring candidates
for the next presidential elections in the U.S. while it has been an
open secret in Britain for years that Gordon Brown has ambitions to
become the next Labour prime minister. None of these have been labelled
witches by the incumbents they intend to succeed as Mugabe has done
Under normal circumstances the term "regime change" should not cause any panic as it simply means a change of government. But it causes such consternation for Mugabe because he regards it as a personal affront and an attack on his ego and pride. Regime change is such an unacceptable possibility because it would mean the end of his reign. His regular and un-statesmanlike attacks against United States president George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who are cast as the main proponents of regime change show how determined he is to cling to power. It has nothing to do with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Zimbabwe.
In a speech following the mid term congressional elections in the U.S. in which Bush’s Republican Party lost some ground to the Democratic Party, the Zimbabwean leader displayed his knack for adopting double standards without bating an eyelid when it suits his purposes. He mocked Bush and Blair, who will both not be seeking re-election, as having got a taste of their own “regime change medicine” supposedly because their people no longer wanted them.
According to this
reasoning, regime change is alright for others but not for Mugabe. And
more importantly, while it is possible for some leaders to be guided
by public opinion in making decisions about their political future,
this is anathema for Mugabe. He will fight tooth and nail to forestall
any expression of dissent as he has done through the repressive state
machinery he has assembled and the draconian laws he has introduced
to buttress his iron-grip hold on power.
Zimbabweans have reason to be worried when their president pokes fun at those who pass on the baton after 10 years and he thinks he needs more time at the helm after 26 years!
By 2010, Mugabe will have been in power for 30 years. He may not consider this such a long time, after all, he has allies like Cuba’s ailing Fidel Castro, who has held sway since 1959.
Mary Revesai is a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and writes from Harare. Her column will appear here every Tuesday
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