Published on 30 Jul 2013

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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5 reader comments

  1. Pamberi says:

    The hard facts are MDC has lost some of its urban vote to ZANU PF while ZANU PF has reinforced is hold on the rural vote. Accordingly, all things being equal, Mugabe is more likely to win this election – and I believe freely.

    In 2008 Tsvangirai was in his prime, untainted by personal scandal, and with no notable corruption in his ranks – he also lead a united anti ZANU opposition front. Fast forward to 2013, not only has corruption ripped through MDC ranks, the opposition has been split (more or less along tribal lines) with 2 different MDC formations – the only benefactor being ZANU.

    On the other hand ZANU seems to have re-galvanised its vote – the new resettled farmers have started bearing fruit – evidenced by over $0.5bn of tobacco sells this year.

    Many report on Mugabe’s age as a liability. On the contrary those who see both men as interim measures find Mugabe’s age more reassuring – Tsvangirai’s personal life has brought into question his suitability as a long term leader. Even within the MDC many believe Tsvangirai has over stayed as party’s leader with potentially better candidates being side lined – he has clearly tasted power and, his womanising aside, many fear if elected he is more likely to end up as a long term fix rather than an interim move.

  2. john says:

    Mugabe led his people through freedom way, but now he leads them to the enslavement of poverty and world isolation. There’s time to talk and time to listen. Mugabe should let go off his country.

  3. Daniel Bolyn Chatama says:

    In whatever situation, changes is always nice, but it is not the same when we are dealing with a post-colonial country that wolfish colonialist tries every means possible to get back into the safety womb of colonialism through the back door. After decades of starving and bleeding Zimbabwe they want to return through their puppet candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. In 1995 the Anglo-Americans have blackmailed Mozambique into becoming a member of British commonwealth so they had a place to dump fascist farmers who had once hogged 70% of Zimbabwean arable land for themselves. These leeches greedily siphoning Mozambique’s Niassa Province under 50 years’ lease and other enemies of Zimbabwe elsewhere who had been salivating for their return to once again turn Zimbabwe into tomato plantation for all the Heinz and Gallagher tobacco are counting on this sycophant’s victory. Long live Brother Mugabe!

  4. Ren says:

    I know many Zimbabweans who in 2008 voted for Tsvangirai who are now hooting for Mugabe sighting the blatant Western media bias towards Tsvangirai – therefore giving some credence to Mugabe’s rhetoric on Tsvangirai being a western puppet, in front of a wider west conspiracy. In this regard Tsvangirai’s problem is that some of his main backers are his biggest liability. Remember this is a country in which the war of liberation is still in many people’s minds – the UK still honours its heroes from world war 2, what of a country who’s war only ended in 1980. People are naturally suspicious of the West and hence the question why there is such an obvious bias and what’s in it for the west.

  5. quietoaktree says:

    Mugabe´s attitude to homosexuality is nothing exceptional — it exist throughout Africa from citizens to leaders to churches. One can only hope that after his death the pain and suffering of Zimbabweans will end.

    His hatred of Britain is an issue not willingly discussed but may hold the key to the catastrophic developments after independence.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7899057.stm

    ´Telegraph´(UK)

    `The hotel rooms of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo were bugged during the 1979 Lancaster House talks on the future of Zimbabwe, as were the rooms in Lancaster House used for meetings.
    As a result, Lord Carrington, the then Foreign Secretary, was briefed at the start of each day on what positions the various parties would take and what their fall-back positions in the negotiations would be.´

    The possibility that Mugabe sees the event a ´British treachery´ should not be overlooked –especially if Mugabe entered the talks with honorable intentions.

    -If any attempts were made by any British government since then to ´kiss and make up´–they appear to be few and far between.

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