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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid