Though only seven weeks have gone by, 2014 has been an eventful year. First there was news that President Robert Mugabe had collapsed (and died). Then there was “salarygate”, the Air Zimbabwe insurance scam, and Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s gaffe on corruption.
This week, all eyes are on Mugabe, who turns 90 on Friday. There is a lot of anticipation about what Mugabe will do. 90 is not a joke. And there have been a lot of whispers.
It has been stated before that if you want to see Mugabe at his best, put him in a corner. The European Union has just put him in a corner by removing sanctions on eight of his remaining lieutenants, leaving only him and his wife, Grace.
This is a big challenge. Mugabe is a scheming survivor as one American journalist once said, but at 90, people are bound to ask, what more does he have to prove? Indeed, the sanctions, no matter how camouflaged, will not only hurt him but the nation. But, one man can only do so much.
Mugabe has ruled the country for 34 years. He has been leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front for 37 years. He delivered a resounding victory – not healthy for the country though- in last year’s elections. He delivered the land. He has set the foundation for delivering the economy. So what else is left?
In my humble opinion, the only thing that is left is for Mugabe is to set his party and the country free. He could do that on his 90th birthday by announcing his retirement plans. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not saying he must retire, but he must tell the nation when he plans to retire. This will be enough to set the country and his party back on track.
As an elected leader Mugabe has every right to serve his current term as president of the country. But he could step down from the party and still remain Head of State. This year’s party congress provides a genuine opportunity for him to do that.
If Mugabe steps down as leader of ZANU-PF this year, this will, on its own, be a huge transformation. It will open doors for the country to develop. It will allow his successor to learn the ropes under his guidance and to asset him or herself. But more importantly for Mugabe, this will ensure that the policies and the direction that he set are not reversed.
The greed that has been displayed so far, shows that the country could go to the dogs if Mugabe hangs on to power, because some of his lieutenants currently singing the indigenisation tune, could wake up blowing the free-market trumpet while his grave is still wet.
It is therefore crucial that the succession issue is resolved before he dies.
It has been argued that Mugabe is holding the party together. It may be true, but it has also often been stated that in ZANU-PF, no one is bigger than the party. That also ought to apply to him.
It must be clear to everyone in ZANU-PF by now that people love the party and Mugabe, but they want a new leader to take the party to greater heights.