MASVINGO — President Robert Mugabe was yesterday confirmed as Zanu PF’s sole candidate for the next presidential election in 2018, when he will be 94.
Dressed in a jacket emblazoned with his own face, the politician — known for his self-promotion — called for an end to infighting within the ruling party over his eventual successor.
Supporters at the Zanu PF conference in Masvingo that ended yesterday sang a song titled “Mugabe should rule until eternity” as the veteran leader rose to give a speech.
“We came with our problems, which we heard. We also came knowing we had differences. We agreed our differences should end and fighting should stop,” said Mugabe, who has faced unprecedented protests this year.
Some members of the ruling party have been calling on the 92-year-old leader to step down. That probably explains his plea to party members yesterday for tolerance.
“We have agreed that there must be no conflicts and fighting. Discipline, discipline, discipline. Those in leadership must be respected,” he said.
Now it remains to be seen how a 94-year-old will fare in Zimbabwe’s elections. He is already struggling to walk and makes frequent trips to Singapore for medical attention.
Mugabe — the only ruler that the southern African nation has known since independence from Britain in 1980 — has come under pressure owing to a deteriorating economy, corruption and cash shortages that have seen the central bank introducing a new “bond note” currency last month.
In July, he was deserted by some of his once stalwart supporters, the war veterans that have backed him in previous elections.
Still, Mugabe retains unrivalled support in Zanu PF, which is grappling with factional fights as party officials manoeuvre for advantage in a post-Mugabe era.
Zanu PF’s various entities, including the youth and women’s wings, confirmed him as the sole candidate to contest the 2018 election at the end of the five-day conference.
That means potential successors who wish to challenge Mugabe for the leadership of the party would have to wait for the 2019 party congress when Zanu PF chooses its leaders.
There are two camps vying to succeed Mugabe, with one faction supporting Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa while another backs first lady Grace Mugabe.
In one of its resolutions, the Zanu PF youth league said presidential term limits should be abolished and Mugabe should be declared life president.
Under the Constitution adopted in 2013, Mugabe can only serve one final term.
Political analysts say Mugabe runs an effective patronage system that rewards supporters and punishes those who seek to challenge his rule, as happened to his former vice-president of 10 years Joice Mujuru in 2014.