Zimbabwe elections: Mugabe in power until he dies?
Zimbabwe is holding an election so President Mugabe is banging on about homosexuality again.
“This thing seeks to destroy our lineage by saying John and John should wed, Maria and Maria should wed. Imagine that this son born out of an African father, Obama, says if you want aid, you should accept the homosexuality practice. Aah, we will never do that,” he said at a rally in Mutare recently.
He had a go at Tony Blair (does he think he’s still in power?) and described Britain — the hated old colonial power – as “a very cold, uninhabitable country with small houses.”
It’s hard to imagine that such preoccupations are uppermost in the minds of Zimbabwean voters. Things have improved since 2008 when inflation reached 231,000,000 per cent (that is the correct number of ‘0s’ – 231 million per cent). It’s now less than 5 per cent. Abandoning the Zimbabwean currency and adopting the US dollar has helped. But twice as many women die in childbirth now as they did in 1990, and deaths of children under five have increased from 78 to 94 deaths per 1,000 in the same time-frame. Unemployment is high and most Zimbabweans are scraping by on a pittance. The moral degeneration of western society and our supposedly pitifully minute houses are as far from most Zimbabweans’ reality as Jupiter.
Robert Mugabe is 89 and has ruled Zimbabwe for 33 years, yet he looks like a dapper 60-year-old on election posters, thanks to airbrushing and photoshop. The idea that he should rule until he’s 94 may seem absurd, but that — at least in theory — is the plan. Within his ZANU PF party they’re squabbling about who should succeed him.
The two leading candidates are Joice Mujuru, the vice president, and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is regarded as the leader of what many Zimbabweans call “the chaos faction” within ZANU PF. This is the faction that pushed for elections on 31 July, even though a new constitution, with different rules governing elections, had only come into effect in March, and there was no chance of getting everything into place on time. They want Mugabe firmly in power for another five years so when he dies Mr Mnangagwa can glide seamlessly into his position.
In 2008, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), Morgan Tvsangirai, won the most votes in the first round of the poll. The campaign of intimidation and violence that followed forced Mr Tsvangirai to withdraw, with the result that Mr Mugabe won the second round. A deal was struck whereby Mr Tsvangirai became prime minister and his MDC colleagues took control of key ministries, including finance. Western governments attribute the improvement in the economy to Finance Minister Tendai Biti, but not everyone in Zimbabwe is happy with the way the MDC is cooperating with its former rivals.
In a recent poll, just 20 per cent said they would support the MDC-T party (down from 38 per cent in 2010), while 31 per cent said they would vote for ZANU-PF (up from 17 per cent).
Mr Mugabe increasingly looks like a man out of time. He’s put a bounty on the head of a certain “Baba Jukwa”, a supposed ZANU PF insider who’s been leaking secrets on a Facebook page. You can imagine Mr Mugabe like the archetypal ancient British judge: ‘What is this Face Book thing?”. I followed @RGMugabe on twitter only to find it was a spoof. (“$300,000 reward & still no leads on blasted Baba Jukwa fellow!”)
Predicting election results is a mug’s game so I won’t do it. But whoever wins this week’s poll, I predict that Robert Mugabe will remain in power. I think he will stay there until he dies. Only then will change — for better or for worse – come to Zimbabwe.
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