Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe lashed out Friday against factions in his party angling to take over from him, saying they have no backing. The 93-year-old spoke at a rally in Lupane, about 600 kilometers southwest of Harare – as part of his effort to recruit young people to support him in next year’s elections.
It was the first time Mugabe spoke in public since returning from Singapore, where he went earlier this month to seek medical treatment for the third time this year.
Mugabe did not mention his health in his speech. Instead, he attacked the opposition, accusing it of having nothing to offer Zimbabweans, and vowed he would win next year’s election.
He then turned to his own Zanu PF party.
“I want to say to those of us who are leaders, look at what the youths are able to do,” Mugabe said. “No fights amongst them. They are united. Firmly united. They could not achieve this without unity. No backbiting. No factions and no desire, at the moment, to be successors when the president is still there. The youths are saying no. The women are saying no. The majority of the people are saying no. Who then is saying yes?”
Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since 1980 when the country gained its independence from Britain, will be 94 next year when he plans to run again for president.
But Jacob Mafume, the spokesman for the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) which is led by former finance minister Tendai Biti, says Mugabe has stayed in power too long. Mafume says it is time for Mugabe to step down.
“There is no road without pothole in Zimbabwe, there is no water, there is no electricity,” he said. “People are doing hours in queues trying to get the money that they deposited in those queues. There is no cash, the economy is not running, so he is doing wonders in the wrong direction. The man is failing dramatically, he is defining a new depth of failure.”
But it seems those calls are falling on deaf ears – as the adage goes. Despite opposition complaints about Mugabe and his frequent trips to Singapore for medical treatment, he has shown no sign he will not run for re-election next year.