It was a clear warning. But people did not take the then 82-year-old Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front leader Robert Mugabe seriously. The country was in a bad shape but the economy was not a priority for many. People were preoccupied with who would succeed Mugabe. They wanted him to go though he still had two more years in office.
Mugabe had already been in power for 26 years but he told his party supporters that there were no vacancies. Congress, at which leadership could be debated, was three years away. What could not wait, though, was the continued plunder of the country’s mineral resources. And he was livid because some of his own lieutenants were involved.
"Tose tinoda mari, sonke siyathanda imali ehe, (we all want money),” he told the party delegates at the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) annual conference at Goromonzi in Mashonaland East on 13 December 2006 in the country’s two main languages, Shona and Ndebele, “but there are proper ways of getting it and improper ways of getting it."
The country’s economy was in tatters with inflation galloping. At 1 281.1 percent Zimbabwe’s inflation was already the highest in the world but no one ever imagined that 18 months later it would skyrocket to such an extent that even the government stopped counting. It reached 23 figures but that seemed to be secondary. The pressing problem was to get rid of Mugabe because most people believed that there could not be any economic turnaround as long as he was at the helm.
Presidential elections were less than two years away but one faction, loyal to Mugabe, wanted them pushed by another two years so that all elections-presidential, parliamentary and local government- could be held at one go in 2010. Their argument was that it was too expensive to run all these elections separately. Besides, elections themselves were disruptive because people were always in a campaign mood. Nothing moved.
Another faction led by former army commander Solomon Mujuru, husband of Mugabe’s deputy Joice, whom he had catapulted from nowhere two years earlier despite fierce opposition, wanted the elections to be pushed forward to coincide with the presidential elections in 2008. But Mujuru’s group did not want Mugabe to stand for re-election.
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