Zimbabwe: Replacing Mugabe, a Zanu-PF nightmare

By The Africa Report

Posted on Wednesday, 7 December 2011 12:17

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party opens its annual conference on Wednesday in Bulawayo with the contentious succession issue absent from the agenda.

Mugabe (87), who has been at the helm of Zanu PF since its formation in 1963 is expected to be endorsed as the first secretary and presidential candidate for future elections.

However, though not on the official agenda – the succession debate is set to dominate discussions on the sidelines.

Despite widespread consensus among senior party officials that Mugabe must retire before the next elections, fear of the unknown has prevented them from tackling the issue head-on.

“The reality is most people want the president to retire but no one has the courage to break the ice on that issue,” a senior politburo member said.

It is reported that Mugabe suffers from prostate cancer and many expected him to use this meeting to anoint a successor.

The Zanu PF constitution says one of the powers and functions of the conference is to declare the president of the party elected at congress as the party’s candidate. Congresses are held every five years, with the last one having being held in 2009.

no one has the courage to break the ice

Since Mugabe was elected at the party’s last congress, he remains its presidential candidate until the next scheduled congress in 2014, unless an extraordinary congress is convened to remove him.

But for now senior party officials say they are stuck with Mugabe, whom they fear will be a liability at the next elections.

Leaked WikiLeaks cables, which dominated political discourse earlier this year, are also not on the agenda. It was expected that Mugabe would use the occasion to crack the whip on party members that confided in American envoys that they wanted him out.

The WikiLeaks cables reveal that Mugabe’s possible successors, including deputy president Joyce Mujuru, had clandestine meetings with US diplomats where Mugabe’s weaknesses were discussed.

Party chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo said the conference was non-elective and was aimed at gearing up for the forthcoming elections, adding that they expected 6 000 people to attend.

“It’s a defining conference bearing in mind the fact that this is the last major meeting before the holding of elections,” he said.

Moyo says the gathering would be “introspection in terms of how the party has performed since last year as we prepare for polling next year”.

If Zimbabwe holds presidential elections next year and if Mugabe is re-elected, he could go on to become the oldest ever serving African president. He would be 93 in 2017 at the end of his next 5-year term in office.

He could beat Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, who would turn 91 at the end of his next presidential term should he remain at the helm of his party and get re-elected in presidential elections scheduled for 26 March.

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