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'Mugabe to retire by September'


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By Staff Reporter

A KEY ally of Zimbabwe's Vice President Joice Mujuru has said he expects President Robert Mugabe to retire before the end of the year, seen as proof of growing disillusionment within his Zanu PF party over his plans to run for office in general elections next year.

Mugabe, 83, has been power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980.

But an unprecedented economic crisis and growing international pressure has encouraged rivals within his own party to pressure him to quit.

Dr Ibbo Mandaza, an influential Zanu PF supporter and adviser to Mujuru, said he expects Mugabe to announce his retirement as early as September this year, warning that "to do otherwise would be crazy".

In February this year, Mugabe was furious, accusing Mujuru of commissioning a biography of nationalist leader and former Zanu PF secretary general Edgar Tekere, written by Mandaza, which was highly critical of him.

On the eve of his 83rd bithday, Mugabe openly admitted for the first time that Mujuru was plotting against him after Tekere published his biography, A Lifetime of Struggle, portraying Mugabe as a reluctant leader who rose to power through political coups and detention-camp plots. It also says some of his leading comrades during the war viewed him as a "sell-out".

Mugabe blasted: "The Tekere/Mandaza issue, ah they are trying to campaign for Mujuru using the book…you can’t become a president by using a biography. Manje vairasa (they have lost the plot). They don’t realise they have done her more harm than good."

But speaking in Johannesburg during a discussion organised by the SA Institute of International Affairs on Wednesday, Mandaza said he had advised Mugabe to retire, as no economic reform can take place if he is still around.

Mandaza also dismissed the current Southern African Development Community (SADC) peace initiative to bring Zanu PF and the MDC to a negotiating table to agree on the ground rules ahead of general elections next year.

Mandaza said: "I think that the major determinant is what happens in Zanu-PF this year, and my expectation is that as he promised to do last year, Mugabe will retire... He will make the announcement by September to give the party time to campaign that he will retire.

"In my view, that is the obvious thing to do. To do otherwise would be crazy..."

Mandaza's remarks are likely to be met with derision by Mugabe's supporters in Harare, already determined to fight off the veteran leader's rivals -- mainly to preserve their own political careers.

Zimbabwe, grappling with record inflation, faces its worst economic crisis in history. Food shortages, low unemployment and rising poverty have combined to fuel public anger against Mugabe's government, but he refuses to take blame as he accuses Western countries of imposing economic sanctions in a bid to oust him from power.


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