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Zimbabwe President Mugabe, at 88, Says Must Still "Groom" His Successor

20 February 2012

Jonga Kandemiiri, Ntungamili Nkomo | Washington

Observers are still sifting through statements by President Robert Mugabe in interviews with a range of state media outlets shortly before his 88th birthday on Tuesday.

The main takeaway from Mr. Mugabe’s comments was that he believes he is obliged to be the presidential candidate for ZANU-PF in the next elections because there is no one in the party besides him who has the stature to win that election.

Some critics characterized the statement as the clearest evidence yet that Mr. Mugabe is prepared to die in office. Others called it an embarrassment to senior ZANU-PF party officials who based on his comments did not have the stuff of senior leadership.

In a wide-ranging interview in the state-operated Sunday Mail, Mr. Mugabe said he had not yet groomed a successor and admitted to divisions within ZANU-PF though playing them down as “not so serious.” He also spoke with state radio and television.

Explaining his intentions to seek another term: “There is no one who can stand and win at the moment. You have got to groom a candidate. You must groom a successor.”

Mr. Mugabe vowed that elections will be held this year, though that is far from sure with the co-governing Movement for Democratic Change demanding more reforms first.

He said his reappointments of top security service chiefs were not up for discussion and that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC were merely politicking in opposing those appointments and demanding that they be undone.

"We don’t pay attention to that because they are like barking dogs with no bite and every village has such dogs," Mr. Mugabe said. He said Zimbabwe reserved the right to reject mediation by South African President Jacob Zuma if it believed he was biased.

Political commentator and Indigenization Ministry adviser Psychology Maziwisa told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that although it is time ZANU-PF resolved the succession issue, Mr. Mugabe is correct that no other candidate would be as strong as him.

But commentator Effie Dlale Ncube said Mr. Mugabe is deluding himself to think he can win the presidential election at this point given ZANU-PF's slide in popularity.

Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe Director Sydney Chisi told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that Mr. Mugabe’s statement showed that there was no democracy in ZANU-PF and a sign youths in the party will never be groomed to leadership.


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