The only ringing message from the Zanu PF annual conference that ended in Bulawayo on Saturday was that President Robert Mugabe is determined to rule until he drops dead.
As expected, the veteran ruler, who turns 88 in February, was “unanimously” endorsed as the party’s candidate for elections he wants held next year.
“Sometimes the call has come to say, ‘Please retire’.”
“But as long as there is work and I am sure that the party is in your own hands and moving without hindrances, it would be wrong, completely wrong, when the West is working against us and holding us back and we are still in this creature of the inclusive government,” he said.
“I cannot leave you in a dam alone. It will be completely wrong on myself and an act of cowardice.”
President Mugabe claimed that he was “doing good work”, something he was perhaps told by the same advisers who misled him in 2008 into believing elections would be a walkover.
While it is Zanu PF’s right to choose its own leaders, our major concern is that with President Mugabe at the helm and determined as ever to remain at State House, chances of a free and fair election are remote.
Memories of the 2008 sham election are still very fresh and signs of history repeating itself are there for all to see.
President Mugabe lost the first round of the 2008 election to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who was an opposition leader then.
But Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff poll citing violence against his supporters, which his MDC-T party says claimed over 200 lives.
President Mugabe went on to run alone, but received the shock of his life when his so-called resounding victory was rejected even by African governments who are very notorious for endorsing flawed elections.
It was the same story in the 2002 polls where Zanu PF resorted to massive violence to ensure its leader remained in power when it was clear that Zimbabweans wanted leadership renewal.
Zanu PF hardliners who want life presidency for their leader will certainly go to any lengths to ensure President Mugabe wins the next polls despite clear indications that Zimbabweans are tired of his ruinous rule.
However, it would be wise for them to take lessons from the Arab Spring seriously.
Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Tunisia’s Ben Ali and slain Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi told themselves that they were indispensable before they were swept away by popular uprisings.
President Mugabe might suffer similar humiliation in the next elections if he insists on standing.
There is still time for him to reconsider his decision and take heed of the calls for him to retire.
This will allow for leadership renewal that Zimbabwe desperately needs after 31 years of one-man rule.