Mugabe's Re-Election as Party Leader

EDITORIAL – Robert Mugabe got the backing of his fellow veterans of the independence struggle, members of the ruling party, to get re-elected as leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

In effect, Mr Mugabe is qualified to stand as the country’s president for a fifth term. The party has been ruling the country since independence from Britain in 1980. The next round of elections is due in 2013, when Mr Mugabe would be 89 years old.

It is true that the Zimbabwean constitution does not impose any restrictions on the number of times the president may stand for election; there are no term limits. However, with the wind of democratic change blowing all over the world, such open-ended situation presents several challenges, one of which underlines the fact that the tendency to perpetuate one’s tenure in office does not promote democracy.

The inability of the ruling class in Zimbabwe to come to terms with this reality is at the root of the problems that have dogged the country for several years now.

No one doubts, nor should we belittle, Mugabe’s considerable stature as a staunch opponent of colonialism and a consistent defender of his people against foreign domination of the country’s economic and political interests.

Despite threats and rumours of invasion by outside forces and the imposition of economic sanctions by some Western countries, Mr Mugabe has remarkably remained unbowed.

This apparent obstinacy has brought untold hardship to the people and a diminished stature of Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket and a bona fide leader in the Southern African Development Commission (SADC), has itself become, by many accounts, a basket case.

A power-sharing arrangement with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has made little headway in healing the rift among the people of this one picturesque country.

We have reached the point that it has become imperative for other African leaders to persuade Mugabe to give up what appears to be to a wish to be President-for-Life. It would do no good to the people that he struggled so much to liberate, if in his desire to attain that goal he ends up bankrupting the country.

It is good, and a show of confidence in his leadership abilities, that his party chose him to lead it in the next elections. For us, it would be a greater demonstration of statesmanship if Mugabe were to demur, and passing the chance to the younger generation, even within the ruling party.

No individual has monopoly of knowledge and wisdom; Mugabe should not be an exception. He should be confident that the foundation of the independence struggle can lead Zimbabwe to greater heights should he choose the path of a wise man that he has been acknowledged to be, and bow out.

What is expected of Mugabe now is to play a fatherly role and advice those who will eventually take over power from him. One of the major processes in a political system is electoral system. It allows citizens to choose, through election, the people who will represent and govern them.

Election is therefore very crucial in this process. Mugabe should begin to create a conducive atmosphere for free and fair elections to take place.

The opposition in Zimbabwe must not capitalize on Mugabe’s widely-popular but hugely controversial land policy, which has been at the root of Western countries’ aggressive posture towards Zimbabwe.

African leaders should learn to understand that there is virtue is leaving power when the ovation is loudest and not hang there until they are pushed out. They have the moral responsibility to lead by example and leave a good legacy for future generations to emulate. SOURCE