President Robert Mugabe sounded like a broken man — a man on the ropes — but hardly a defeated man, as he prepares for what could be the fight of his life.
BY OUR STAFF
Mugabe evoked memories of Simba Makoni, Dumiso Dabengwa and Joice Mujuru at his Bindura rally, to remind his supporters of people who had ostensibly betrayed him, yet he had defeated them, and the scene of the rally was to remind anyone who crossed his path that he was ready to take them on.
It sounded like a warning more than anything else as he dared his would-be opponents to lay their cards on the table, although it would be surprising if any did.
It was telling that Mugabe raised the 2008 spectre, where he felt he was betrayed by the now infamous bhora musango campaign, but more instructive was that he felt he was ready to deal with any internal rebellion looking more to the 2019 Zanu PF congress, rather than the 2018 election that many fear could be the ruling party’s waterloo.
“Wait until we go to congress,” he admonished. “If there are those who think they can do a better job than the president, you then choose them, if congress chooses, then fine.”
In a lifetime in politics, Mugabe has fought many battles and has been victorious in most of them.But unlike before, age could be taking its toll.
But could there be life left in the old dog?
In the same breath, he invited war veterans to what he described as a no-holds barred meeting early next month, but he let no one be under the illusion that this would be a free-for-all meeting. Instead, he could use it to lay down the law.
“We will be saying; speak your mind. I will leave if that’s what you want,” he said.
“It has to come through the party. But will that help you at this moment?”
One moment Mugabe says he is willing to go if asked to leave, but then says any challenger should wait until 2019 — an indicator that he is here to stay.
In true Machiavellian fashion, Mugabe has in the past called for honest debate on his succession, but instead he has used such discussions to identify those angling for his job and he has descended on them ruthlessly.
War veterans have been at the forefront of the latest episode of dissent against the veteran ruler and the April meeting will serve as a reminder of who the godfather is and the former freedom fighters will be called to order.
It was instructive that Mugabe contradicted himself and in so doing, deligitimised the war veterans’ call for a bigger role in the country’s politics.
In the past, Mugabe has subtly hinted that elections cannot undo what was achieved by the liberation struggle, saying the pen cannot supersede the bullet.
But now he is singing a different tune, saying politics always leads the gun.
Many would think this was a slip of the tongue, but it was calculated and delivered with chilling effect.
Mugabe genuinely believes there is a plot involving war veterans to push him out of power as part of a raging war to succeed him.
The former liberation war fighters are openly backing Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa against the G40 faction, which has links to First Lady Grace Mugabe.
One of the gladiators believed to be behind G40, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo took to Twitter yesterday to repeat Mugabe’s point, that the gun cannot command politics as the pummelling of Mnangagwa’s faction intensified.
“Plots to end Pres Mugabe’s tenure through gun politics are anti-legacy of liberation struggle and unconstitutional,” Moyo tweeted.
“An issue has arisen that some in the nationalist movement now wrongly think the gun should command politics.
“Zanu PF and Zimbabwe’s constitutions uphold the principle that politics commands the gun. It’s called democracy.”
War veterans have been key to the veteran leader’s re-election at polls since 2000.
Last month police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse veterans who had planned a march to Zanu PF headquarters, amid tussles between party factions over who should succeed Mugabe.
War veterans’ leader Chris Mutsvangwa — fired from the Cabinet by Mugabe two weeks ago — accuses some members of the ruling party of trying to manipulate the president by rallying behind his wife Grace.
Earlier this month Mugabe said his successor must be chosen democratically by the ruling party, but that it would not be his wife as some have speculated.
Mugabe said on Friday former army general Solomon Mujuru, husband of former vice-president Joice Mujuru, had failed to get him to retire ahead of elections in 2008.
Mujuru died in a fire at his farm in August 2011. His wife Joice was fired from the vice-presidency in December 2014 over accusations of plotting to remove Mugabe from power and she launched a new political party — Zimbabwe People First — on March 1.