HomeOpinion & AnalysisThe Mugabe factor in next presidential election

The Mugabe factor in next presidential election

LAST week’s proclamation by President Robert Mugabe of his intention to stand for another term should his party confirm him stands out as one very pivotal political  pronouncement that has pungent effects for Zanu PF and the MDC-T.

In typical political genteel posturing, Mugabe seemingly put his political fate into the hands of the decision-making framework of his party, yet we all know that when he makes such statements the party will have no choice other than to affirm.

It is therefore clear and final that he will indeed be Zanu PF’s presidential candidate in the seventh presidential election in Zimbabwe since Independence.

Zanu PF has lately been known to have so many presidential hopefuls — evidently and assumed.

The political undertones that have been simmering in the party will now be put to the test by this self-confessed intention by its leader to continue on the presidential trail.

What this does is really throw some aspirants off course as there maybe another five or more years’ delay to their intentions of breaking the one-man domination that has been prescribed since Independence. I

feel that the next five years in Zanu PF will actually bring in new succession dynamics which may involve more contenders than those currently known.

Five years is long enough a period to create new political scenarios especially in political parties that are now as impatient about leadership renewal as Zanu PF.

In my analysis, Zanu PF is a party that has perfected the art of creating a generic political strand of leaders.

It has created a brand of leaders who would otherwise not survive anywhere else outside of this party.

The party has a strong compulsion for indoctrination and self-identity which has made its leaders and members unite even on agendas that would otherwise defy conventional discharge.

Saliently some party members seemed to have been entertaining the idea of presidential replacement for some time now. The Tsholotsho debacle of 2004 was one such marked expression of by-standing aspirants in projecting their impatience.

The continued nuance of internal political reform has bogged the party even up to its last congress where there were incidents of open defiance to the continued dominance by the old guard.

The recent appointments to the politburo also failed to quench the thirst for the leadership renewal quest within the party. There is therefore a syndrome to stick to the old guard and Mugabe’s announcement puts on ice any hope of new presidential entrants from Zanu PF, at least within the next five or so years.

The current presidential aspirants will likely face some frustrations at the thought of holding on for another five or more years. At the same time there may be new entrants into the race, who will therefore ruffle the current expected genealogy of succession.

Predominantly there has been mention of two factions that are currently battling to eventually replace the president.

This order may actually be re-arranged in the next five years as there may be new players from within or outside of the two factions who will express the same desire of ascendance into the high office.

As Mugabe holds on to power without any imminence of release, this will temporarily work in creating some leadership stability in the party.

However, in the medium to long term, his recent announcement and intention may eventually cause greater instability in the party as there may be more aspirants piling up in the background waiting to replace him.

This piling will eventually create a pressure plug which may lead to a bloody succession battle in the party.

Zanu PF has for long conceived a ritualistic approach to presidential succession, intentionally elevating it to sacredness.

Mugabe has on many occasions avoided the succession equation by publicly claiming that his successor will come from the people and not from his imposition.

The party has fallen into the temptation of immediate and desperate power entrenchment at the expense of sustainability.

Mugabe’s announcement also has connotations for the MDC-T, who are best advised to start strategising for the next elections.

With President Mugabe likely running against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, this will be an epic battle. Mugabe may really be ruminating at a last presidential term should he win.

Tsvangirai may on the other hand be looking at his last opportunity to stand for the office that has eluded him since 2002, given that his party’s constitution indulges such limitations.

For the MDC-T, they will be facing a man who has been at the helm of the country for the last 30 years and would therefore be determined not to bow out with a humiliating electoral defeat.

The issues of legacy-building must be strongly evident in the mind of Mugabe, who confers himself as the champion of Zimbabwean sovereignty and self-identity.

In that regard, Zanu PF is likely to put in as much, if not more effort and intention into winning this next election for the sake of this one-man driven desire.

The other dimension of this next election is that the two contenders will not enter the race from a purely bad-fellows platform, but will do so against a background of having known each other closer from the unity government matrix.

As Mugabe and Tsvangirai live out their roles in the coalition government, they will now start to develop notions of gauging each other in terms of how the next election will pit them.

Their respect for each other, though evidently limited, will continue to dwindle as they prepare ground to throttle each other for the presidency.

To the MDC-T, the announcement by Mugabe must have come as no surprise.

When the global political agreement was signed, there was assumption that there would be some form of compliance to its stipulations and guidelines.

However, it is now clear that the agreement has now been relegated to being a procedural undertaking of power bickering. In that regard, the letter and spirit of the GPA indicated and assumed that the government would be able to handle all reform processes leading to a substantive election.

There was therefore no provision by Sadc, the Africa Union or the UN to at least create interventions in future elections in Zimbabwe.

However, given the background that we now know of the unity government, it is prudent to go back to Sadc, AU and even the UN to come up with an international framework that must run this next election on behalf of the deeply divided government of Zimbabwe.

If we attempt to run our own election in the midst and depth of this political wrangling, we might as well be subjecting our nation to an election that will leave us ripped apart, ungovernable and conflict-ridden.

Trevor Maisiri is the executive director of the African Reform Institute — a political leadership organisation which also functions as a political “think tank”.


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