ZIMBABWEANS could be saddled with President Robert Mugabe’s despotic rule for longer than feared if recent statements by his inner circle are anythi
ng to go by.
While his ruling Zanu PF party is being whipped into line at its forthcoming “national people’s conference” to extend his term of office to 2010 on the pretext of “harmonising” presidential and parliamentary elections, his closest associates have been quoted as supporting a move to make him president-for-life.
A South Africa-based news website this week reported Lands and Security minister Didymus Mutasa as endorsing an indeterminate extension of Mugabe’s term.
“When people talk about harmonising the elections and holding them jointly in 2010, they think we are using this to give the president a ticket to hold office till 2010,” he was reported as saying. “No. It could as well be that we might actually want him there for much longer.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, Mutasa denied making the statement and said it would be unlike him to anticipate conference resolutions.
“I am the party secretary and senior enough to know not to discuss such issues in the media. Resolutions are for party delegations at the conference to discuss,” he said.
In 1996 in a BBC interview Mutasa compared Mugabe to Britain’s monarch who was not elected.
Zanu PF information chief Nathan Shamuyarira recently suggested his party was mulling a constitutional amendment that would harmonise presidential and parliamentary polls, a move Justice minister Pat-rick Chinamasa advertised as one of several possibilities in an interview with a state newspaper last year.
The move to extend Mugabe’s term could face opposition from the political camp associated with Vice-President Joice Mujuru and that for Rural Housing minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“There is a realistic chance that someone among the delegates or one of the provinces could come up with a proposal that Zanu PF should make him president-for-life and that he remains the party’s presidential candidate until Amen,” Mutasa is quoted as saying. Mutasa said Mugabe (82) had done “so many wonderful things” for Zimbabwe but was still not showing any signs of tiring despite his advanced age and it was possible delegates
could decide to appoint him for life.
Resolutions emanating from Zanu PF’s annual conference have in the past been endorsed by government. For instance, the decision in December 2003 to pull out of the Commonwealth stemmed from a similar arbitrary decision by party seniors at their annual conference in Masvingo.
Harare and Midlands are proposing different agendas concerning the succession issue that could ignite serious intra-party fighting over whether to hold presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time in 2008 or 2010.
Harare province secretary for publicity William Nhara yesterday said his executive had only discussed the harmonisation of mayoral and council elections.
“The issue of harmonising presidential and parliamentary elections is a highly explosive political issue. Our main focus of discussion was issues that affect Harare as an urban province,” Nhara said.
Harare province would go along with others if the harmonisation of presidential and general elections came up for discussion, he said.
“It is not a matter of competing resolutions. The conference is meant to discuss issues that come up.”
Although there appears to be general agreement on harmonisation, it is the dates that have become contentious with the two provinces deciding on different dates.
Zanu PF Midlands chairman Jaison Machaya said the issue must be discussed and that the elections must be harmonised.
Nhara said discussion of harmonising elections was premature because President Mugabe’s term does not run out until March 2008. But given recent statements from Zanu PF luminaries, the issue is rapidly moving to centre stage. This comes as reports circulate of Joice Mujuru fading as Mugabe’s anointed successor.