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Mugabe’s last stand

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PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s inauguration today will be the biggest in the history of the country, raising speculation that it could be his last, with focus probably shifting to the Zanu PF succession race.

Report by Staff Reporter

Mugabe has declared a public holiday today and plans a mega event, where up to 80 000 people will attend, a far cry from his last inauguration in June 2009, which almost went unnoticed, as he left the country immediately for the African Union summit.

Three days after last month’s elections, The Herald’s columnist, Nathaniel Manheru, believed to be Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba, hinted that today’s ceremony could be the President’s last.

“Soon Mugabe will go through the rituals of enthronement,” he wrote on August 3. “We call it inauguration. It shall be a big event, what, given that this may be his last such.”

Manheru described the inauguration as Mugabe’s second coming, saying he would use it to make his mark in a lasting way.

At 89 and with health concerns, it is highly unlikely that Mugabe will stand for another term in five years and observers say he may use this this time to anoint a successor, an issue that has been a pain in Zanu PF’s side for a while.

Mugabe comes across as feisty and sprightly for his age, he has denied reports that he has prostate cancer and told reporters he intends to serve his full new term.

But his advanced years and the persistent questions about his health, compounded by successive medical check-up visits to Singapore, means that his endurance in office carries its own cloud of uncertainty for Zimbabwe’s future.

Adding to Zimbabwe’s uncertain outlook is the perception that another Mugabe term will intensify a succession battle within the ruling party.

Leaders from across Africa started arriving into the country yesterday for today’s inauguration of President-elect Robert Mugabe.

Among them were current and former Heads of State whose presence seeks to endorse the victory of Mugabe.

Among the first to arrive were former presidents of Tanzania Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin William Mkapa, while current President Jakaya Kikwete arrived later in the day.

In a statement, South Africa’s international relations department said Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe would represent the country at today’s inauguration.

Motlanthe would be accompanied by International Relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. South African President Jacob Zuma was the Sadc appointed facilitator to the Zimbabwean crisis.

Others invited to attend the event include former Botswana Presidents Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae.

Swaziland Prime Minister Sibusiso Dhlamini and a special envoy of the Sudanese President Omar Hasan al Bashir also arrived yesterday.

China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Li Liguo would attend the event as the special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Li is the head of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Also expected are former Mozambican and Namibian Presidents Joaquim Chissano and Sam Nujoma.

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda is also expected to grace the occasion. Presidents of Malawi and Zambia have also been invited.

At least 40 Heads of State have been invited.

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