ZIMBABWE’S divided opposition has effectively contrived to guarantee another term in office for President Robert Mugabe, former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara has warned.
Speaking at Oxford University in the United Kingdom earlier this week, Mutambara said the veteran Zanu PF leader would rig his way to another five-year term in power next year.
Divisions among his rivals and the failure to back one presidential candidate would then be used to justify the fraudulent victory.
“Mugabe and Zanu PF will win next year’s elections,” Mutambara said.
“They will rig the vote and a deeply divided opposition will give Zanu PF the plausible rationale to get away with it.”
Mugabe, now aged 93, will be seeking to extend his 37 years in power in fresh elections, which are due next year. His main challengers include former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and long-term rival, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Attempts to form a grand opposition alliance backing one candidate against Mugabe collapsed after months of negotiations.
Mujuru and Tsvangirai will now head rival coalitions into the elections, while a third group backs former Energy minister Elton Mangoma.
However, while the opposition has failed to unite, Zanu PF will put aside its internal divisions and ensure it retains power next year, Mutambara said.
The ruling party is currently divided over Mugabe’s succession, with one group backing his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa. A rival faction is determined to stop the Vice-President, preferring, instead, Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
Mugabe is believed to support the latter group. His wife Grace has publicly attacked Mnangagwa in recent weeks, stoking speculation that the Vice-President would be ousted at an extraordinary congress due before year-end.
According to Mutambara though, the ruling party will, as it has done before, suspend its internecine wars for the 2018 vote.
“Zanu PF will unite for the elections,” he said. “Mnangagwa and his Lacoste group will be weakened, but the Vice-President won’t be expelled from the ruling party.”
The election, Mutambara added, would be manipulated because Zanu PF was determined to spare Mugabe the humiliation he suffered in 2008.
“Mugabe took his 2008 defeat very, very badly. He was devastated. So, Zanu PF will rig the elections to ensure its leader is not humiliated again,” he said.
“It did not help that the African Union (AU) and Sadc leaders stood up to him and insisted that they would not recognise his run-off victory.
“By the way, Mugabe cares about South Africa, cares about Sadc, cares about the AU, but everyone else can go to hell.
“So, when the AU tells him off and says you’re our thief for today, it’s a painful stab for him.”
Mugabe was defeated by Tsvangirai in the first round of the 2008 elections. The MDC-T leader boycotted the run-off election, accusing Mugabe of brutalising opposition supporters.
Regional leaders backed Tsvangirai’s accusations regarding the credibility of the run-off poll and forced Mugabe to negotiate with his rivals.
A government of national unity was then established, taking office in 2009 with the Zanu PF leader retaining the Presidency, while Tsvangirai was appointed Prime Minister.