Mugabe buoyant with election confidence

Robert Mugabe's desire to run for elections next year has left analysts, politicians and the general public baffled as to what his motive is, given that the 86-year-old leader has lost support over the years.

Political analysts have rushed to conclude that Mugabe, who is part of a large group of liberation war veterans who helped fight for Zimbabwe’s independence, is either grandstanding due to his own insecurity or to gauge the readiness of his rivals, especially Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Reports also indicate that members of his own Zanu-PF party, including some hardliners, are not interested in the elections and are equally stunned why Mugabe seems desperate to have elections in 2011 given that his party structures have virtually crumbled. Loyal Zanu-PF supporters believe the only way they can remain in power is through the current arrangement in the country where Mugabe is still president despite losing elections.

Mugabe’s calls for elections have left opinion divided with other commentators arguing that at the age of 87 next year, the Zimbabwean strongman cannot wait one more year to run for elections and with reports of ill-health continuing to dog his presidency, he wants to show that he can still lead.

Some in Zanu-PF have suggested that Mugabe wants a dignified exit in which he will lose elections and decide to embrace the winner and in the process leave his already divided Zanu-PF party to disintegrate.

Civic society groups, however, believe that if Mugabe is indeed going ahead with elections next year, he will use all instruments of cohesion at his disposal which include the army, police, intelligence and militia with fears that he will unleash violence on the people to force them to vote for him.

With memories of the post-March 2008 elections still fresh in the minds of the people, civic society groups are opposing elections next year until the playing field is levelled and instruments of repression removed.

Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya believes that Mugabe is not interested in elections but is just grandstanding to appear as if he is still strong. He doubts if Mugabe is ready for an election. "He is certain to lose if it is free and fair," says Ruhanya.

"There is the question of age. Mugabe will turn 87 next year and time is obviously not on his side. If he prolongs, it will be disastrous for him because he does not know what will happen.

"Secondly, he is grandstanding; he is a guy who does not want to be seen as weak politically. He is sending a message to Tsvangirai that he can beat him in the elections. His ego forces him to keep announcing that he wants elections.

"Thirdly, Mugabe is a man under self-inflicted pressure. Remember Tsvangirai started the election mantra some months ago when he addressed huge crowds in Gokwe and other areas," says Ruhanya.

Another political commentator, Takura Zhangazha, said it was probably a gimmick by Mugabe to divert attention from the pressure he faces from the international community on the failure to implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

"Mr Mugabe initially committed himself to elections next year out of clear exasperation at his inability to do anything in government without the MDC-T raising issues and refusing to accept his decisions. He now insists on the same primarily because he does think it is a way of trying to get the MDC-T out of government.

"The only problem is that he has to work very hard to persuade his party that it can win an election that the SADC will be monitoring very closely.

"He probably feels that there is too much pressure on him and Zanu-PF regarding outstanding issues by the international community and he feels that the MDC-T is not being put under pressure to address the issue of sanctions. Essentially he wants more pressure placed by SADC on the MDC," argued Zhangazha.

Last month Zanu-PF secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, admitted to the Sunday Times that Mugabe had not yet officially informed his party structures that he wanted elections next year. He confessed that the party structures had indeed collapsed but they would use other means to ensure they win the elections, a point which raised fears that Zanu-PF wants to use violence.

Mutasa did not rule out the use of violence, saying they would react if provoked.

Mugabe’s call for elections has also raised fears of intra-party violence given the war of words that has erupted between senior officials from the MDC and Zanu-PF.

Two weeks ago Tsvangirai described Mugabe as a "crook" and "dishonest" person.

Zanu-PF politburo member, Saviour Kasukuwere, insisted that they would win the elections next year and will reduce the "puppet" MDC to size.

"The MDC is finished. They have no ideology so how are people going to vote for them. It is clear to the people that the MDC was created to sort out the white men’s anger."

While the war of words rages on and the drama of pre-elections continues, confusion reigns supreme. -Times Live