- Published on 23 April 2014
- Written by dailynews
President Robert Mugabe may not contest the next election, saying he might appoint a successor just before the 2018 presidential election.
Mugabe told Ghanaian-born British film-maker Roy Agyemang in a BBC documentary aired over the weekend dubbed "Robert Mugabe @ 90", that the people would have to decide his successor although he had not yet made that decision.
The 90-year-old’s decision not to contest in the election comes as a surprise to the 51-year-old ruling Zanu PF party that has won successive elections, albeit under controversial circumstances, since independence from British colonial rule in 1980.
"I have people in mind who would want to be. But I have looked at them. I have not come to any conclusion as to which one, really, should be. I leave it to the choice of people," Mugabe told the BBC.
However, his statement lacked clarity on what exactly he wanted to happen at the elective congress in December, that is expected to choose his successor. The next congress is due in 2019, a year after the presidential election, meaning he might have to call an extraordinary congress ahead of the election to choose a Zanu PF candidate for the election.
Given his advanced age, it is not clear if he will still be around to make that call, but analysts warn that his failure to appoint a successor presents a very dangerous scenario for his party.
Piers Pigou, the International Crisis Group’s southern Africa project director, said the only way Mugabe can deal with the succession question was to provide a clear roadmap.
He said if Mugabe passes on without making his views on either his preferred successor or Zanu PF succession procedures very clear, factionalism could certainly get worse.
He said Mugabe must first and foremost provide decisive and unambiguous leadership by not waiting until the December elective conference to deal with succession issues within the party.
"Kicking this can down the road to the end of the year has fed uncertainties and is contributing to the fights you refer to, not to mention broader inertia and policy paralysis. He could make some very clear statements about what must be done, and he needs to be more consistent about sanctioning factionalism," Pigou said.
Senior Zanu PF officials in the past weeks have secretly demanded change at the December congress, questioning the point of having an elective congress if the party was averse to change.
It is impossible to know how widespread the sentiments expressed are among the party officials, but the flurry of calls for leadership renewal is almost unheard of and startling, given that criticism of Mugabe is generally unacceptable.
The succession debate has been stifled and Mugabe’s rule has been relatively smooth for decades, but time is approaching when he must decide who will assume the throne next, potentially putting himself in a quandary at the December conclave.
According to analysts, it appears the Zanu PF party has cultivated a culture of dying in office, as has been the case with the country’s former vice presidents such as Joshua Nkomo, Simon Muzenda, Joseph Msika and John Nkomo.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director, said it was clear that Mugabe wanted to leave the throne, considering his ill-health and advanced age.
"Judging by his frailties, Mugabe knows that he won’t contest the 2018 election. What he has done is to publicly tell the nation and Zanu PF supporters that his party will have a new presidential candidate in 2018," Ruhanya said.
He said the curtain was finally coming down on Mugabe’s long political career.
Some analysts claim that by refusing to outrightly announce a successor, Mugabe was displaying a penchant for playing one faction against the other, and that he is allowing this to continue and in so doing, he retains his relevance and leverage.
Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst, said Mugabe was finding it hard "to pick a possible heir from a pool of power-hungry and scheming sharks."
"He can’t trust anyone and he has sort of resigned to fate, he wants to die in power like (Hastings Kamuzu) Banda who died on November 25, 1997 after governing Malawi from 1963 to 1994, combining totalitarian political controls with conservative economic policies) or Mobutu (Sese Seko who died in exile in Morocco after he was overthrown in 1997 after looting $5bn over his 31-year rule)," Saungweme said.
He said Mugabe was setting a bad precedence, opening a platform for his cronies to fight for power in the event he dies in office.
"Thinking that he will be there and will contest the election in 2018 or appoint a successor is overstretching it," Saungweme said. "Zimbabwe has to think beyond this man. Unfortunately, he risks leaving us in a chaotic situation when he departs and his friends fight over to the reins.
"It’s sad that in spite of all the high literacy levels in Zimbabwe, we allowed Mugabe over the past 34 years to privatise issues of running our country to the extent that he and him alone knows who he wants to succeed him."