Zanu PF in Mugabe dilemma


President Robert Mugabe’s decision to hang on to power despite failing health and advanced age is an indication of a leadership crisis in Zanu PF rather than a desire to fight imperialism as he claims, analysts have said.

Zanu PF at the weekend endorsed the octogenarian to seek re-election at polls expected in 2012 even after he made at least six trips this year to seek medical treatment in Singapore.

Explosive United States diplomatic cables released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks this year also showed President Mugabe’s lieutenants were desperate for leadership renewal in Zanu PF.

At the age of 88 next year, Zimbabwe’s only leader since independence will be seeking to extend his 32 years in power.

He told the Zanu PF annual conference in Bulawayo that he was not willing to rest while the country was still under Western sanctions.
But analysts said this was just an excuse to cover up for Zanu PF’s problems in finding a successor for a leader who has controlled the party like an octopus.

“The endorsement of President Mugabe is against a background of an intensifying political environment both within and outside of Zanu PF,” said Trevor Maisiri, a political analyst.

“Given the very evasive and sensitive succession issue in the party, I think it will be a strategic dilemma to endorse a new candidate who would need to acclimatise and also find acceptance in the short time given that elections maybe anytime within the next two years.”

President Mugabe is set to meet the 59-year-old Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the polls, which would be a replay of the 2002 and 2008 contests, which were a close shave for him.

Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube (MDC) and former Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa (Zapu) have also promised to enter the ring, meaning that the campaign will not be a stroll in the park for the veteran ruler.

Tsvangirai has actually welcomed President Mugabe’s endorsement, saying his rival is too old to give him a decent challenge.

Maisiri believes Zanu PF had no choice but to stick to President Mugabe because it does not have an alternative leader with mass appeal.
The party is also riddled with factionalism and trying to find a new leader at this stage would worsen the fissures, he said.

“Endorsing a new candidate would have also meant having to deal with internal tensions as the succession battle would obviously leave others bruised and wounded,” Maisiri said.

“Those dynamics are further complicated by the stiff competition that the MDC parties are likely to give to Zanu PF in the next elections.”

Jack Zaba, a Harare-based political commentator, believes the veteran ruler has always wanted a life presidency.

“President Mugabe’s clinging to power is invariably motivated by his own unbridled hunger for power and an astonishing superiority complex, which makes him think he is the best brains ever to enter Zimbabwean politics,” he said.

“Sadly many in Zanu PF have grown to believe him with a divine loyalty.”

MDC founding youth assembly secretary-general Bekithemba Mpofu said President Mugabe could have created the factions in Zanu PF to perpetuate his rule.

“Individually, those in Zanu PF know Mugabe is a liability and the WikiLeaks disclosures confirm that, but he has built a system of patronage, a (President) Mugabe-bootlicking culture, a Zanu PF culture of corruption and blackmail that makes it difficult for anyone to organise against him,” Mpofu said.

In 2005, several Zanu PF chairpersons who met in Tsholotsho to try and influence a shake-up in the Zanu PF presidium were shown the door.

One of the victims was former Information and Publicity minister Jonathan Moyo, who has since been readmitted into the party and has turned into a fierce loyalist of President Mugabe.