News / Africa

At 89, Mugabe Sees 'Divine' Mission to Rule Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (4th R) and first lady Grace Mugabe (2nd R) stand with the presidents birthday cake among guests on the occasion of his 89th birthday celebrations held in his honor at the State House, February 20, 2013.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (4th R) and first lady Grace Mugabe (2nd R) stand with the presidents birthday cake among guests on the occasion of his 89th birthday celebrations held in his honor at the State House, February 20, 2013.
Reuters
Robert Mugabe said he had a "divine task" to lead Zimbabwe, shrugging off concerns about his health and fitness for office as he prepares for what could be one the closest election battles since he came to power in 1980.

Few Zimbabweans are ruling out victory for the 89-year-old Mugabe even though his country, once an African success story, is in a decade-long economic slump worsened by Western sanctions and more than four fifths of the population is unemployed.

Since Mugabe was forced to share power with his chief political rival after a disputed election in 2008, the economy has shown tentative signs of recovery.

Rampant inflation has calmed, the mining sector is buoyant and agriculture is picking up after turmoil caused by the seizure of farms from their white owners under Mugabe's policy of black empowerment.

Mugabe, Africa's oldest president, maintains that Zimbabwe's difficulties stem from a Western plot to re-colonize it, a view that strikes a chord with his supporters, who see the sanctions as punishment for a justified campaign to wrest their country's wealth from the hands of foreign corporations and the white minority.

To his critics, Mugabe's land seizures and a drive to force foreign-owned firms to sell majority shareholding to locals has delayed economic recovery by discouraging foreign investment.

They say Mugabe, long admired as a liberation hero and pragmatic leader, has turned Zimbabwe into a basket case and squandered national goodwill by clinging onto power through ballot box rigging and intimidation.

The champion of African popular rule has looked increasingly to God to bolster his claim to leadership.

Addressing his staff at a party they hosted for him on the eve of his 89th birthday, Mugabe was serenaded by one of the country's leading gospel singers and spoke of the solitude he has felt since many of his relatives and independence-era comrades died.

"Why is it that all my friends are gone and my relatives are gone and I continue to linger on? Then I say to myself, well, it's not my choice, its God's choice," Mugabe said at the party late on Wednesday, which was attended by state media.

"This is a task the Lord might have wanted me to fulfill among my people," he said. "I read it as a bidding of God... The bidding says you move forward ever."

Tight race?
 
Mugabe says he wants to continue the liberation struggle and  consolidate black economic empowerment.

More than 4,000 out of an original 4,500 white-owned farms have been seized since 2000 under a program he says is aimed at correcting land ownership imbalances created by colonialism.

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has endorsed his candidacy for the presidential elections, which he and his arch-rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have agreed to hold around July.

"I hear a lot of people talking about a tight race, but with his record I just don't see how Mugabe can win a free and fair election," said 28-year-old Charles Simukai, who was selling fruit on the streets of the capital Harare.

He said Mugabe should have retired from politics to play an advisory role as a senior statesman.

Tsvangirai says ZANU-PF rigged and robbed him of victory in three major violence-marred polls since 2000.

Many Zimbabweans say the fragile power-sharing government that has held together since 2008 has helped to make ZANU-PF less autocratic.

However, Mugabe's opponents say they expect ZANU-PF's campaign to repeat underhand tactics used to secure past election wins, deploying war veterans and youth militia to intimidate voters.

Supporters of Tsvangirai say he enjoys the support of an army of new young voters who might be less intimidated by such methods.

"The general consensus is that you need a free and fair election for a real democratic outcome... but there is no consensus that Zimbabwe will get that," said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe.

Questions over health

Mugabe has spent the last two days reorganizing the country's electoral commission and discussing funding for his campaign.

Some officials in ZANU-PF's politburo worry privately that he is taking risks with his health and want him to hand over the reins to a younger figure.

But nobody has openly challenged Mugabe - the result, to some, of a generous patronage system that rewards loyalty and his long-honed skills in outwitting potential rivals.

Mugabe appears fit and alert in public, but he is widely believed to suffer from ill health that could make it hard to cope with the pressures of the campaign trail.

A June 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks said Mugabe had prostate cancer that had spread to other organs. According to the cable, he was apparently urged by his physician to step down in 2008.

But ZANU-PF appears to have accepted that Mugabe has maneuvered himself into a position where he ends up president for life, a position that opponents say he wants as security against possible prosecution for rights abuses.

"What we have ... is a president celebrating his 89th birthday while planning on how he can continue in power after so many years in office. That is not normal," said professor Masunungure.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Emmanuel P. Akpan from: U.S.A.
February 21, 2013 10:48 PM
It is indeed sad to see someone who was respected and honored in the world , stoop so low. Mugabe is afraid to step down, even when he knows that he is destroying not only a government. but a nation and its next generation.
May God help the people of Zimbabwe.

by: Gregory Allen Leeds from: Lewes, Delaware, USA
February 21, 2013 3:31 PM
Tha Zimbabwean comments that they "will not harbour war criminals" did not fall on deaf ears.Gaddafai's remaining son's and family are in exile awaiting extradition for crimes against humanity in other pariah countries.So, now Zimbabwe can extradite the former dictator Mengistu to Ethiopia, who has convicted him in exile for genocide, and it's relevent death sentence. Now that Mugabe has been placed under personel sanction by the United States for his inflamatory remarks to the former leadership of the African Union "To seize the farms" parallel to the past in former Rhodesia, now Mugabe can face "crimes against humanity" charges for the North Korean trained "Fifth Brigade: he was personally responsible for from 1980-85 and the bulldozed mass graves of over twenty thousand+ of his own citizens.

by: dani from: ZIMBABWE
February 21, 2013 3:05 PM
nomater how u continue 2 demonise him and continue 2 punish us 4 taking what is rightly ours.. We will never give up on our fate...... LONG LIVE MUGABE LONG LIVE ZIMBABWE

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More