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plans to leave only in a hearse
Unendoro, Institute of War & Peace Reporting (IWPR)
January 17, 2007
Robert Mugabe's attempt to extend his hold on power until
2010 has sent shock waves through Zimbabwean industry and commerce
and, more significantly, galvanised opponents within his party.
At Mugabe's ruling
Zanu (PF) party conference on December 16-17 the president tried
to arm-twist his party into endorsing a motion that would have seen
him renege on his promise to step down from power at the end of
his current tenure next year.
In recent interviews
with both local and international media, Mugabe explained that he
wished to continue as the country's head of state and government
because it would be imprudent of him to step down while his party
was in what he described as a "shambles".
Although the majority
of delegates supported his move to remain at the helm for at least
another three years, meaning he would have been in power for 30
years, he did not get the overwhelming endorsement he sought. Only
six out of 10 provinces supported the extension of his rule.
Instead of Mugabe being
crowned at the conference as state president until 2010, the motion
was referred back to the provinces for a decision later.
Ruling party sources
said there was intense behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to stop Mugabe's
extended power bid, with panic evident among captains of industry
and commerce as the drama unfolded.
The country representative
of a multinational auditing firm said many companies had decided
to scale down on their operations as a consequence of Mugabe's
declared ambitions. "It doesn't matter that no resolution
was made at the conference to extend Mugabe's term,"
he said. "The mere attempt itself was shocking."
He said no multinational
company would be happy to keep pouring human and financial energy
into an economy facing more battering than ever before. "We
are scaling down our operations here and so will many companies,"
he said. "The idea is just to keep a token presence in anticipation
of better days."
He said many companies
were approaching his organisation for due diligence audits to facilitate
their partial exits from the country.
The giant London-based
Anglo American mining consortium, once the owner of 40% of Zimbabwe's
private sector, has almost totally liquidated its holdings. Mobil
and BP oil companies are removing their signs from petrol stations
throughout the country in what looks like preparation for their
said Juliet Masiya, a Harare travel consultant. "He's
old and has nothing new to offer except continued disintegration."
Many industries in Zimbabwe
are working at only 30% capacity while thousands of others have
shut down completely. "We're going to see huge disinvestments
from Zimbabwe," said the auditing company representative.
"Maybe only the
mining sector will survive, but even then only the big companies
that have poured in huge amounts of money into infrastructure and
other developments. Otherwise, the small miners are also going to
But it is at the political
level that the drama is most riveting. "Mugabe's promise
that he would not leave office because Zanu (PF) is in a shambles
is shocking, to say the least," one senior party official,
a Mugabe-appointed provincial governor, said. "It means Mugabe
values the party ahead of the country. Everyone, including in Zanu
(PF), knows that Mugabe is at the epicentre of the political crisis."
The main opposition political
party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is in disarray
and has yet to make a powerful response to events at the ruling
Powerful Zanu (PF) politburo
member and former commander of the army Solomon Mujuru is spearheading
the fight against Mugabe's continued stay in power beyond
spread across industry and commerce in one of the biggest business
empires ever built in Zimbabwe. To protect the empire, Mujuru —
leader of Mugabe's pre-independence exiled liberation army
under the war name Rex Nhongo — wants his wife, Vice-President
Joyce Mujuru, to succeed Mugabe. But the possibility of this happening
would be diminished if Mugabe does not step down next year.
In a rare show of a common
stance, the other faction in Zanu (PF), led by the wily former head
of intelligence, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has also come out strongly,
though somewhat more subtly, against Mugabe.
Sources say the factions
are clandestinely going for rapprochement. They are agreed on the
steps that have to be taken first before taking Mugabe head-on.
The first step, the sources
say, would be to remove George Charamba, the powerful public service
secretary for information and Mugabe's spokesman. Charamba
single-handedly controls the state press. It is he, say the Mujuru
and Mnangagwa factions, who has to be disabled because he is entirely
responsible for whatever the dominant state-owned newspapers, radio
and television say about the political crisis.
The factions also want
to see the exit of the head of the much-feared Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO), Happyton Bonyongwe. Not only does the CIO control
a newspaper group, Mirror Newspapers, but Mugabe has also militarised
the spy agency so that he, as commander-in-chief of the national
army, has immense control over Bonyongwe, a former military officer.
The third step would
be to remove the ambitious Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon
Gono, who has emerged as Mugabe's most important lieutenant
in the fight to remain in power. Gono has been ordered to print
inflationary money to finance his master's extended-power
Mugabe's plan is
to "harmonise" the 2008 presidential election and the
2010 parliamentary election into one single poll in 2010, arguing
that this would be simpler and cheaper. Few disagree with the superficial
logic. But key Zanu (PF) politicians argue that Mugabe is trying
to become president for life via the back door of a term extension,
finally leaving office only in a hearse.
Diplomats say that the
events at the party conference have opened an even darker chapter
for the people of Zimbabwe, who have already suffered enormously
since the country began its precipitous decline at the end of the
last decade of the 20th century.
They say that soon the
diplomatic community and the few states that still co-operate with
Zimbabwe will have no choice but to abandon the country.
Many commentators fear
Mugabe may be faced with a violent exit and the country subsequently
left in enormous turmoil.
These comments are based
on widespread discontent in the uniformed forces. Lower ranks in
the army and the police are among the poorest Zimbabweans. Many
have left the employ of the state but many, especially those who
live among civilians, have begun to openly voice their disillusionment.
The long-awaited trigger
may just be the levels of unashamed corruption among Mugabe's
lieutenants. Uncertain themselves about their future, government
and parastatal officials have increased their corrupt activities.
Recently, there has been
an upsurge in farm evictions in which senior government officials
are taking over the holdings of "new farmers" —
black peasants for whom once white-owned land was earmarked.
writes for International War and Peace Reporting, a nonprofit media
organisation, from Harare
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