via Time to rest, Mugabe told – DailyNews Live 1 September 2015 by Mugove Tafirenyika
HARARE – Last week’s matter-of-fact suggestions by controversial First Lady Grace Mugabe and embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa that time is not on President Robert Mugabe’s side have rekindled calls for the nonagenarian to stand down in his interest and that of the country.
Analysts and opposition spokesmen who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said both Grace and Mnangagwa — even though the latter had come under predictable heavy fire from his political foes within the warring Zanu PF — were “spot-on” in their observations that Mugabe was in the twilight of his life and political career.
They added that the seemingly synchronised pronouncements by the two could also have been meant to prepare the nation for Mugabe’s departure from office — all of which necessitated that the frail nonagenarian vacated office immediately in his interest, that of his family and the nation.
Speaking at Murombedzi Growth Point last week, the gaffe-prone Grace said, “Don’t criticise me because you hate my husband. Time will come when president Mugabe is gone, (and at that point) you will regret and wish that the president was around” — in remarks that some in Zanu PF interpreted as meaning that all was not well with Mugabe.
On his part, Mnangagwa — answering a seemingly innocuous New African magazine question on the post-Mugabe scenario — said, “We shall miss him (Mugabe) dearly (when he leaves). He is an outstanding leader and human being” — in comments that placed him in the eye of a humongous storm in the ruling party which is wracked by deadly factional and succession wars.
Zanu PF insiders who spoke to the Daily News at the weekend said the hullabaloo about the well-being of Mugabe reflected the ugly divisions that continued to devour the ruling party, and how many ambitious bigwigs were already thinking about life after the nonagenarian who is increasingly showing his advanced age and declining health.
During the burial of High Court judge Andrew Mutema at the Heroes Acre at the weekend, Mugabe moved around with the assistance of Grace, taking several brief rests in the process as he followed the undertakers.
And during the official opening of the Harare Agricultural Show, Mugabe moved around with the assistance of Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi. In addition, the nonagenarian has also lately cut down on his typically long speeches as the calls for his retirement or resignation grow.
The analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said Grace and Mnangagwa were “merely stating what Zimbabweans already know” about Mugabe’s age and state of health, noting further that the utterances were “shock absorbers for the nation to warm up to the reality”.
“This can be read to suggest that the president is about to retire from public life and that he may not be around for much longer.
“It may be a preparatory message to psyche the nation to expect the inevitable because this may come as a shock to half the population of this country who are aged just about 35 years and have known only Mugabe as the first citizen,” University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said.
He added that “the prospect of having someone entirely new at the helm of the country might be difficult for the country’s young generation to accept as the majority of them have only known Mugabe as their president”.
Analyst Alexander Rusero weighed in saying Zanu PF was slowly moving away from their usual “denial” mode to embrace the reality.
“It is actually realism creeping in on the part of Zanu PF officials who used to think that Mugabe was irreplaceable. It is not about his health but rather that they now realise that one way or the other Mugabe is on the exit door and that he now needs a successor, not assistants like his deputies have been saying all along,” Rusero said.
Commentator Ivan Vava said it had now dawned on Zanu PF bigwigs that Mugabe had not only reached the twilight of his political career, but also his life.
“It’s an obvious case that Mugabe is not just old but very old. What more can a 91-year-old man aspire for after ruling Zimbabwe for all these years? Probably, the VP and the First Lady are privy to some sensitive medical information which we might not be privy to,” Vava speculated.
Mnangagwa’s remarks on the post-Mugabe future were publicly criticised by the minister of Higher Education, Jonathan Moyo, on Twitter — who went on to say the sentiments were “premature”.
The Daily News first broached the sensitive subject of whether Mugabe was still fit to rule in its re-launch issue in March 2011 — following nearly eight years of its forced and unjust closure by the nonagenarian’s government.
In addition to his advanced age and increasingly poor health, which is commensurate with people of his age, and which often sees the nonagenarian making frequent and costly State-funded visits to the Far East for medical attention, Mugabe is also having to contend with arguably his biggest political challenge since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in April 1980 — an open rebellion by many senior members of his ruling Zanu PF party who are impatient to see him leave office.
Other analysts and spokespersons for opposition political parties who have previously spoken to the Daily News have said that it is time the nonagenarian stepped down as he had also allegedly now become a “lame duck” and “absentee” president who was often travelling outside the country on “frivolous” missions or for medical attention than actually governing the country.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC has said it was now time for Mugabe to pass on the baton stick to somebody else, who could stand up to the rigours of the job.
“Apparently, his health is failing and I think he is not doing himself any good by clinging onto power whilst he is now in that state of health.
“It’s time for him to take a bow from the hazardous and extremely demanding job of engaging in active politics. He should start writing his memoirs.
“In fact, I can volunteer to write his biography for absolutely no charge! The old man should simply step down and rest,” party spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
When Mugabe was preparing to give his State of the Nation address in Parliament a fortnight ago, analysts said then that only an unlikely announcement by the embattled nonagenarian that he was retiring with immediate effect would help Zimbabwe and save the country’s dying economy.
Mugabe’s address was made against the backdrop of rising poverty and unemployment levels in the country, with economic analysts saying Zimbabwe had now plumbed the depths and soci-economic horrors of 2008 when Harare’s perennial political crisis spawned a ginormous economic and humanitarian crisis that resulted in the death of the Zimbabwe dollar.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director, Pedzisai Ruhanya, told the Daily News then that Mugabe needed to reflect deeply about his continued stay in office and what this meant for the country before he worried about making states of the nation addresses.
“The only state of the nation worth looking at, at this time, is the state of the president. His state is affecting the political economy of the State. The shifting political economy requires that we have a shifting political culture that addresses this shift which has resulted in a huge informalisation of the economy.
“The economy is now hugely informalised. In a normal state, 90 percent of the economy should be formal, while the remaining 10 percent is informal. But in our situation, it’s the other way round. The state requires that government needs to shift as well. But this can only happen when the political status is addressed,” he said.
Ruhanya also noted “the fact” that Mugabe was no longer “a spring chicken” and that he was “way past his prime to be leading any country”.
“The president is 91 years old. Surely it is not permissible that he can lead a 21st century economy. There is a time in an individual’s life when one has to say I have run my race and it is now time to allow fresh blood to take over,” he said.