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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs