"Zanu PF will collapse on the day I retire" – Mugabe

HARARE – The beleaguered Zimbabwean President has made bizarre admission ruling out retirement, saying his Zanu PF party would collapse if he were to leave office.\r\n

Mugabe, 87, has led the country since independence in 1980 and has been at the helm of his Zanu PF party since 1975.

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The veteran Zanu PF leader, who faces increasing questions about his health, has refused to indicate when he might leave office or groom a successor.

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And in a recent interview with a government-owned newspaper based in Namibia, Mugabe claimed Zanu PF would collapse without him.

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“The party needs me … Once you have change, and if we had it now for example, the new man, or new woman, that is an act that might destroy the party for a while as it goes through transition,” he said.

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“Any new leader needs time to consolidate, so we don’t want to take risks at all.”

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Mugabe said he could not retire at a time his party was in what he described as a “crisis”, assailed on all fronts by forces of “regime change”.

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“You don’t leave the party amidst problems and in a situation of crisis such as we have. You’ve got to get the party out of the crisis and then you can retire,” he said.

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“We have got to ensure that we are out of the crisis first before we can think of that (retirement).”

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The Zanu PF leader said the British government was still keen to see his party thrown out of power.

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“There’s that other man with a round … what’s his name? Hague, William Hague – the one with the round head. He seems very critical of us and seems to be onto regime change,” he said of the UK Foreign Secretary.

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“[David] Cameron seems to be quiet for now. I have been listening to what he says. They may talk about Zimbabwe in general terms but I haven’t heard him making really critical remarks about me. The British have their own plan for us.”

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Mugabe has over the years ruthlessly dealt with challenges to his hold on power.

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Five provincial party chairmen were handed lengthy suspensions following an alleged coup plot against the party’s presidium at a meeting held in Tsholotsho in 2004.

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The party is said to be divided into two camps led by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice President Joyce Mujuru, who are seen as Mugabe’s most likely successors, but both will not make a move while Mugabe remains on the scene.

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Mugabe has previously encouraged the party to debate his succession but critics dismissed the move as a ploy to identify disloyal lieutenants.

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The Zanu PF leader has brushed aside mounting concerns over his health insisting he is well enough to live past 100 years.

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“I’m as good as my age says I must be. I’m not old, I am 87, but my body says the counting doesn’t end at 87, at least you must get to a 100,” he said.

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Mutambara protection

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Meanwhile, Mugabe has dismissed claims that he is protecting Deputy Prime Minister, Arthur Mutambara who is clinging onto power despite being deposed as leader of his party.

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Mutambara, then leader of the MDC, was appointed deputy prime minister in 2009 at the establishment of the coalition government.

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But Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube, insists Mutambara must now relinquish the post after standing down as party leader at a congress held in January this year.

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However, President Mugabe has refused to have the MDC leadership changes reflected in government in changes that would see Ncube taking over as deputy prime minister.

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Mugabe maintains he is not refusing to recognise Ncube as the leader of the MDC and says he has held lengthy meetings with him over the issue.

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“We have not refused to recognize Welshman Ncube as president of the party (and) we have not protected anyone in any way,” Mugabe said in an interview with a regional newspaper.

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“Mutambara … himself says firstly, that there was an agreement between him and Ncube that should there be a change at the congress, that change would not affect the principals and he would continue (as deputy prime minister).”

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Mugabe also said his hands were tied as the matter was before the courts.

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A faction of the MDC led by its former national chairman is challenging in court the legality of the leadership changes made at the January congress.

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Mugabe said the dispute was unfortunate but insisted he would abide by the decisions of the courts.

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“We also feel that the change is unfortunate in that he is the man they gave to us, with whom we have signed signatures, we have sown seeds, and the fathering of the GPA was with him,” he said.

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“So, to unravel that is an unfortunate thing. But if they succeed in their quest to have him dropped, we cannot contest the decision of the court.”