Robert Mugabe makes poll plans to bury power-sharing
by: Bruce Loudon
HE is just two months shy of his 88th birthday, but Zimbabwe’s President
Robert Mugabe isn’t giving up.
On the contrary, the most despised of Africa’s despots – to the despair of
adversaries and those who have so long forecast his political demise – is
preparing to mark the occasion by standing for re-election for another
Not for him the sort of retirement at 87 of that most famous of postwar West
German chancellors Konrad Adenauer, who took office at the age of 73.
Rather, having been in power almost 32 years, Mugabe, it seems, may be
seeking to emulate the longevity in office of that other notable central
African potentate, the Homburg-hatted Hastings Kamuzu Banda, of Malawi, who
was 101 when he died in 1997, three years after he reluctantly left office.
It would be an “act of cowardice,” Mugabe told 6000 cheering delegates of
his ruling Zanu-PF party during a two-hour, Fidel Castro-style harangue the
other day, for him to retire now. “It would be wrong, completely wrong, when
the West is still holding sanctions against us and pursuing regime change,”
he said. “I am not a coward. I am lucky God gave me this longer life than
others to be with you.”
On cue, they nominated him by acclamation as the party’s candidate for the
election Mugabe is determined to hold early next year, aimed, he says, at
“digging the grave” of the power-sharing deal he was forced to accept with
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
It was a powerful performance by the octogenarian demagogue, one that
confounded critics and those expecting to see him on his last legs. And in
it was a telling reminder of just how little progress has been made by the
international community in getting rid of Mugabe and dismantling his brutal
There have been years of opprobrium, isolation, and sanctions. Even
neighbouring African countries have turned against him. He has looked
vulnerable. But as he cunningly sets about plotting the destruction of the
power-sharing government, the old boy has a surprisingly strong deck of
cards to play.
This was seen during the Zanu-PF conference when Gwede Mantashe, powerful
secretary-general of South Africa’s ruling ANC, pledged direct help to
ensure the re-election of Mugabe’s party. It is a stance that is
diametrically at odds with longstanding South African policy to pressure
Mugabe not to hold elections until after constitutional changes to ensure
they are fair and free.
Given the unique potential South Africa has to influence events in its
landlocked neighbour, the assurance of direct ANC help will have been music
to Mugabe’s ears. But it’s not his only good news. Amid the moves to bury
the power-sharing government has come a welter of controversy about the
personal life and loves of opposition leader Tsvangirai, most dramatically
with an unedifying account of how he has walked away from a “marriage” that
embarrassingly lasted 12 days – a spectacle he blames on dirty tricks by
Mugabe’s notorious spy agencies.
The “marriage,” Tsvangirai said, had been “hijacked” and was a “dark patch
in my private life.” This and other “brief flings” have, it seems, done
little for his standing. Hence his Movement for Democratic Change, victors
in the election Mugabe outrageously stole in 2008, is against the ropes.
As well there is the sudden lifting of international sanctions on the sale
of “blood diamonds” from Marange, a field estimated to hold more than a
quarter of the world’s diamond reserves and which will realise a staggering
$2 billion a month, providing the regime with an unmatchable war chest to
buy votes and crush the opposition.
The 2008 election is acknowledged to have been a travesty. But the outrage
and sanctions that followed have done little to mend Mugabe’s ways. And now
as he prepares to force an election aimed at destroying the power-sharing
government, the cards all seem to be falling his way.
With his pretty, 47-year-old wife Grace Marufu (Gucci Grace, to some) on his
arm, Mugabe exudes confidence that he has years at the helm ahead of him.
That is both a fearful prospect for long-suffering Zimbabweans, and a sad
comment on the international community’s inability to get rid of one of the
world’s most loathed despots.
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