At the ripe old age of 93, Zimbabwe’s long-serving President, Robert Mugabe, has offered himself as the candidate to lead his ruling Zanu PF party in elections next year.
In power since independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe would be 99 should he win the 2018 election and complete a five-year term. He has boasted that he will live — and rule — until he is 100.
His wife Grace, a political power in her own right, has gone even further. Speaking at a rally organised by Zanu PF’s youth league last year, the First Lady addressed her husband saying: “We want you to lead this country even from your grave.”
Mugabe has always been respected and feared rather than loved. But his Cabinet, stuffed with loyalists, relatives, and praise singers, is now outdoing itself in pushing his cult of personality into overdrive.
Behind the public scenes of loyalty and adulation is an intense power struggle, as Mugabe’s physical frailty becomes evident.
Factions are looking for his endorsement in the battle underway over his succession.
His public stumbles (fodder for an irreverent social media) and frequent absences from the country for medical attention, are all the more concerning for party apparatchiks as there is no obvious heir apparent.
“Mugabe wants to die in office and is not interested in seeing his successor,” said Pedzisayi Ruhanya, the director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute.
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