News / Africa

Succession, Health Doubts Loom Over Mugabe Term

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe holds the bible during his inauguration, Harare, Aug. 22, 2013.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe holds the bible during his inauguration, Harare, Aug. 22, 2013.
Reuters
— When Zimbabwe's veteran president Robert Mugabe suavely hosted journalists at State House on the eve of last month's election, there was only one question that caught him off guard.
 
Asked if the presence of Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa by his side meant that he was his chosen successor, Mugabe paused awkwardly amid laughter and then delivered an unconvincing reply that Mnangagwa just dropped by to see him.
 
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, and Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, at State House press conference, Harare, July, 30, 2013.Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, and Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, at State House press conference, Harare, July, 30, 2013.
x
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, and Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, at State House press conference, Harare, July, 30, 2013.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, and Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, at State House press conference, Harare, July, 30, 2013.
Three weeks after Mugabe's re-election in a disputed vote called a fraud by his main rival but accepted by his African neighbors, there are no doubts Africa's oldest leader is holding firmly on to the presidency after 33 years in power.
 
But the question of whether, at 89, he can serve out all of his new five-year term — and who will succeed him if he steps down or dies — will hang uncomfortably over his re-installation as Zimbabwe's head of state on Thursday.
 
It will also be crucial for the future of the southern African nation, which is rich in platinum, gold and diamonds but still emerging from a decade-long recession brought on by political violence and government-backed land seizures.
 
Mugabe faces few immediate threats. Longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai has been stunned by the enormity of his defeat in an election he says was rigged from start to finish; last week he dropped a challenge to Mugabe's re-election that his Movement for Democratic Change had filed in the Constitutional Court.
 
The court confirmed on Tuesday that Mugabe's win was "free, fair and credible" and had reflected the "will of the people."
 
Faced with a meek but broad endorsement of the result by African regional and continental bodies, Western governments must now decide whether to shun the man they have reviled as a ruthless dictator for years, or attempt a rapprochement in the interest of practical diplomacy.
 
Mugabe's non-committal answer on the succession is typical of a wily and inscrutable guerrilla politician who fought a liberation war leading to independence in 1980, crushed a revolt once in power, and outfoxed rivals within and outside his fractious ZANU-PF party.
 
Mugabe comes across as feisty and sprightly for his age. He has denied reports that he has prostate cancer and told reporters he intends to serve his full new term.
 
But his advanced years and the persistent questions about his health, compounded by successive medical check-up visits to Singapore, means that his endurance in office carries its own cloud of uncertainty for Zimbabwe's future.
 
"Mugabe and Tsvangirai have fought their last elections ... one way or another," said Stephen Chan, Professor of International Relations at London's School of Oriental and African Studies. "Whether it was stolen or not, this was a historic election that prefigures change."
 
The United States, a major critic of Mugabe, has made clear it does not believe his latest re-election was credible and that a loosening of U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe "will occur only in the context of credible, transparent and peaceful reforms that reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people."
 
The European Union, which had eased some sanctions, is considering its own response after expressing concern about alleged irregularities and lack of transparency in the election.
 
Succession scramble?
 
Adding to Zimbabwe's uncertain outlook is the perception that another Mugabe term will intensify a succession battle within the ruling party. ZANU-PF has a history of feuds and splits dating back to its bush war against white minority rule in what was then Rhodesia.
 
"Vicious faction-fighting is in the DNA of ZANU-PF," said Stephen Ellis, a professor at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands.
 
Defense Minister Mnangagwa, a 66-year-old guerrilla war veteran and Mugabe's main security enforcer, is widely seen as a succession contender, along with Vice President Joice Mujuru and State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
 
Mnangagwa, known as "the Crocodile," earned a hardline reputation as security minister in the 1980s for his role in suppressing rebels in the western province of Matabeleland. Human rights groups say about 20,000 civilians were killed in the crackdown led by the army's North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.
 
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, celebrates with newly sworn-in vice presidents Joyce Mujuru, right, and Joseph Msika, center, State House, Harare, Oct. 2008 file photo.Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, celebrates with newly sworn-in vice presidents Joyce Mujuru, right, and Joseph Msika, center, State House, Harare, Oct. 2008 file photo.
x
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, celebrates with newly sworn-in vice presidents Joyce Mujuru, right, and Joseph Msika, center, State House, Harare, Oct. 2008 file photo.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, celebrates with newly sworn-in vice presidents Joyce Mujuru, right, and Joseph Msika, center, State House, Harare, Oct. 2008 file photo.
Mnangagwa, Mujuru and Sekeramayi have been members of Mugabe's cabinet since 1980, and played a major role in ZANU-PF's re-election machine.
 
During campaigning, Mujuru addressed rallies, Mnangagwa acted as Mugabe's presidential election agent and Sekeramayi was the ruling party's point man for the legislative elections in which ZANU-PF was declared the overwhelming winner.
 
On the face of it, Mujuru, 58, another liberation war veteran whose nom de guerre was Teurai Ropa ("Spill the Blood") appears to hold an advantage in the succession stakes because as first party vice president she acts for Mugabe when he is away.
 
But under a new constitution adopted earlier this year, ZANU-PF would choose a new president if Mugabe stepped down or were to die before the end of his term. Many fear this could lead to a scramble for power among ambitious aspirants.
 
"For all Mugabe's problems, he has been able to keep the peace in ZANU-PF, and has commanded the authority to keep a potentially chaotic party organized," Zimbabwean political analyst Eldred Masunungure said.
 
"Mugabe's absence could lead to chaos because he has managed the party in such a manner that nobody else has his kind of unquestionable authority," he added.
 
Mnangagwa Vs. Mujuru
 
Some party insiders say Mugabe has skillfully played the Mujuru-Mnangagwa rivalry to strengthen his own position.
 
Nine years ago, when Mnangagwa appeared headed for election to the ZANU-PF vice presidency with the backing of six of the country's 10 provincial party structures, Mugabe stepped in to engineer Mujuru's appointment to the job.
 
There was speculation at the time that Mugabe penalized Mnangagwa for his leadership ambitions and that Mujuru's husband, ex-army commander Solomon Mujuru, had prevailed on the president to promote his wife.
 
This week, breaking with party tradition that individuals do not actively promote themselves for leadership, Mujuru attacked party rivals and presented herself as the moderate leader ZANU-PF needs after Mugabe, local media reported.
 
"We know that the president will soon be 90 and God might decide to call him ... I am best placed to succeed Mugabe if he departs whether by natural wastage or voluntary retirement," she told a private weekly newspaper in surprisingly frank comments.
 
ZANU-PF insiders say Mujuru may have been frustrated by Mugabe's statement that he plans to serve his full term to 2018.
 
Far from mellowing his anti-Western and nationalist rhetoric, Mugabe has told his critics since the election to "go hang" and promised to increase the pace of "indigenization" policies forcing foreign-owned firms to sell majority stakes to black Zimbabweans.
 
John Campbell, an Africa expert at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, said he saw Zimbabwe going into "a holding pattern," with little prospect of significant economic and political change until Mugabe disappears from the scene.
 
"I don't think anything will be settled until he's gone," said Tawana Shomwe, 35, who sells recharge cards for mobile phones on the streets of Harare.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid