By Caiphas Chimhete
STRONG indications are that President Robert Mugabe, who recently won another five-year term, is not in a hurry to leave office despite his advanced age and ill-health.
There have been suggestions that Mugabe could retire soon after the elections to pave way for a younger hand-picked successor, that would protect him from possible prosecution for past human rights violations.
Analysts however said, the 89-year-old president, who is the oldest living African head of state, would be around longer than expected, as he still has to solve the succession crisis in Zanu PF, fulfill election promises and reconstruct his battered image.
That definitely would not take a few months but several years for a man, who is running a bankrupt country battling to feed its people and pay international debts. The analysts said the likelihood of Mugabe, who is still basking in the glory of his controversial election victory, dying in office was very high, because he needed more time to carry through his pledges.
Mugabe was also recently elected deputy chairperson of Sadc at the summit in Malawi, and will assume the chairmanship of the regional body next year. Analysts said this was too grand a post for the octogenarian leader to pass to a successor, considering that he was battling to leave a memorable legacy.
Political analyst, Dumisani Nkomo said it was highly unlikely that Mugabe would voluntarily leave office in the near-future because he wanted to assume chairmanship of Sadc and consolidate his legacy.
He said Mugabe wanted to be remembered as a president who never lost an election, led Zimbabwe for over three decades and chaired Sadc, among other achievements. Nkomo said chairing the body would enhance his regional and international stature and that fitted well into his grand legacy-building project. Nkomo also thinks that Mugabe would not retire soon because he had a young family which he needed to safeguard.
“I see him serving his full term,” said Nkomo. “He may die in office or later give leadership to someone whom he trusts. The fact that he has young children will force him to stay in office a little bit longer.”
Chatunga is still a teenager, while Robert (Jnr) and Bona are both in their early 20s.
Mugabe has promises to fulfill before he retires: Analysts
A political analyst, who requested anonymity, said it would be a mammoth task for Mugabe to erase the sad memories of Gukurahundi, land invasions and the 2008 elections, which have become his major stumbling block to achieving the position of “an elder statesman in Africa” in the mould of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Shakespeare Hamauswa also said it was improbable that Mugabe would retire before delivering some of his election promises, which might take several years to fulfill, considering that Western powers were unlikely to financially support the country.
In the Zanu PF manifesto, Mugabe promised to create about US$7,3 billion through indigenisation of 1 138 companies across 14 key sectors of the economy to enable him to create 2,265 million jobs in the next five years.
If Mugabe achieved this, it would help reduce the unemployment rate which tops 85%.
Zanu PF also promised to build 250 000 low-income housing units, 1 250 public houses and create 2 500 shell factories, flea and vendor market stands, build 310 clinics and 300 schools.
“I don’t see him retiring soon, unless something extraordinary happens like failing health,” said Hamauswa. “He will be working hard to turn the election promises into reality. Remember, he has said the people’s votes were not in vain and he would want to prove that.”
Political analyst, Charity Manyeruke also said Mugabe would not retire because he has a mandate to lead the country for the next five years. She said Mugabe would not want to disappoint those who elected him and he still needed to share his visions with Zimbabweans as he promised.
“I don’t see him retiring that early,” said Manyeruke. “Sadc is also expecting his leadership, and he should live up to their expectations as he has always done.”
Outgoing Zimbabwe Ambassador to Senegal, Trudy Stevenson also believes Mugabe will not retire soon. She said Mugabe wanted to try and rebuild the country, see the indigenisation of the economy “as well as keeping his party intact”.
Already, there is fierce jostling for Mugabe’s post, a development that is threatening to tear the revolutionary party apart. Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are said to be positioning themselves for the post in the event that Mugabe retires or dies in office.
The two have denied harbouring presidential ambitions. But analysts said the two cannot openly declare their ambitions in Mugabe’s face, lest it would wrongly be construed.