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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Succession, health doubts loom over new Mugabe term in Zimbabwe
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on the Reuters website
veteran president Robert Mugabe suavely hosted journalists at State
House on the eve of last month's election, there was only one question
that caught him off guard.
Asked if the
presence of Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa by his side meant
that he was his chosen successor, Mugabe paused awkwardly amid laughter
and then delivered an unconvincing reply that Mnangagwa just dropped
by to see him.
re-election in a disputed vote called a fraud by his main rival
but accepted by his African neighbors, there are no doubts Africa's
oldest leader is holding firmly on to the presidency after 33 years
But the question
of whether, at 89, he can serve out all of his new five-year term
- and who will succeed him if he steps down or dies - will hang
uncomfortably over his re-installation as Zimbabwe's head of state
It will also
be crucial for the future of the southern African nation, which
is rich in platinum, gold and diamonds but still emerging from a
decade-long recession brought on by political violence and government-backed
few immediate threats. Longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai has been
stunned by the enormity of his defeat in an election he says was
rigged from start to finish; last week he dropped a challenge
to Mugabe's re-election that his Movement for Democratic Change
had filed in the Constitutional Court.
The court confirmed
on Tuesday that Mugabe's win was "free, fair and credible"
and had reflected the "will of the people".
Faced with a
meek but broad endorsement of the result by African regional and
continental bodies, Western governments must now decide whether
to shun the man they have reviled as a ruthless dictator for years,
or attempt a rapprochement in the interests of practical diplomacy.
answer on the succession is typical of a wily and inscrutable guerrilla
politician who fought a liberation war leading to independence in
1980, crushed a revolt once in power and has outfoxed rivals in
and outside his fractious Zanu-PF party.
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
and Tsvangirai have fought their last elections ... one way or another.
Whether it was stolen or not, this was a historic election that
prefigures change," Stephen Chan, Professor of International
Relations at London's School of Oriental and African Studies, told
The United States,
a major critic of Mugabe, has made clear it does not believe his
latest re-election was credible and that a loosening of U.S. sanctions
on Zimbabwe "will occur only in the context of credible, transparent
and peaceful reforms that reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people".
Union, which had eased some sanctions, is considering its own response
after expressing concern about alleged irregularities and lack of
transparency in the election.
Adding to Zimbabwe's
uncertain outlook is the perception that another Mugabe term will
intensify a succession battle within the ruling party. Zanu-PF has
a history of feuds and splits dating back to its bush war against
white minority rule in what was then Rhodesia.
faction-fighting is in the DNA of Zanu-PF," said Stephen Ellis,
a professor at the African Studies Center in Leiden, the Netherlands.
Mnangagwa, a 66-year-old guerrilla war veteran and Mugabe's main
security enforcer, is widely seen as a succession contender, along
with Vice President Joice Mujuru and State Security Minister Sydney
as "the Crocodile", earned a hardline reputation as security
minister in the 1980s for his role in suppressing rebels in the
western province of Matabeleland. Human rights groups say about
20,000 civilians were killed in the crackdown led by the army's
North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.
and Sekeramayi have been members of Mugabe's cabinet since 1980,
and played a major role in Zanu-PF's re-election machine.
Mujuru addressed rallies, Mnangagwa acted as Mugabe's presidential
election agent and Sekeramayi was the ruling party's point man for
the legislative elections in which Zanu-PF was declared the overwhelming
On the face
of it, Mujuru, 58, another liberation war veteran whose nom de guerre
was Teurai Ropa ("Spill the Blood") appears to hold an
advantage in the succession stakes because as first party vice president
she acts for Mugabe when he is away.
But under a
new constitution adopted earlier this year, Zanu-PF would choose
a new president if Mugabe stepped down or were to die before the
end of his term. Many fear this could lead to a scramble for power
among ambitious aspirants.
Mugabe's problems, he has been able to keep the peace in Zanu-PF,
and has commanded the authority to keep a potentially chaotic party
organized," Zimbabwean political analyst Eldred Masunungure
absence could lead to chaos because he has managed the party in
such a manner that nobody else has his kind of unquestionable authority,"
Some party insiders
say Mugabe has skillfully played the Mujuru-Mnangagwa rivalry to
strengthen his own position.
Nine years ago,
when Mnangagwa appeared headed for election to the Zanu-PF vice
presidency with the backing of six of the country's 10 provincial
party structures, Mugabe stepped in to engineer Mujuru's appointment
to the job.
There was speculation
at the time that Mugabe penalized Mnangagwa for his leadership ambitions
and that Mujuru's husband, ex-army commander Solomon Mujuru, had
prevailed on the president to promote his wife.
This week, breaking
with party tradition that individuals do not actively promote themselves
for leadership, Mujuru attacked party rivals and presented herself
as the moderate leader Zanu-PF needs after Mugabe, local media reported.
that the president will soon be 90 and God might decide to call
him ... I am best placed to succeed Mugabe if he departs whether
by natural wastage or voluntary retirement," she told a private
weekly newspaper in surprisingly frank comments.
say Mujuru may have been frustrated by Mugabe's statement that he
plans to serve his full term to 2018.
Far from mellowing
his anti-Western and nationalist rhetoric, Mugabe has told his critics
since the election to "go hang" and promised to increase
the pace of "indigenization" policies forcing foreign-owned
firms to sell majority stakes to black Zimbabweans.
an Africa expert at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations,
said he saw Zimbabwe going into "a holding pattern", with
little prospect of significant economic and political change until
Mugabe disappears from the scene.
think anything will be settled until he's gone," said Tawana
Shomwe, 35, who sells recharge cards for mobile phones on the streets
reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare and Pascal Fletcher in
Johannesburg; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and David Stamp)
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