Mugabe hints at retirement, on his own terms
Harare - For the first time, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 91, has said he will retire.
He did not put a time line on when he would go, but he said Zimbabwe was in a (financial) crisis and that he would retire, but would do it “properly”. It was not clear what he meant by “properly”. Mugabe has always maintained he would never retire and would die in office.
He was speaking at the weekend to a group of people involved in the 1970s war against minority white rule and who claim they are owed money by the state, which can neither fund them nor pay civil servants on time.
Mugabe told the “war collaborators” that he believed he had now “defeated... the British and Americans...” and that he understood times were difficult in Zimbabwe. “We are in a critical time... for regime change.”
It has never been clear what Mugabe and the governing Zanu-PF mean when referring to “regime change”, as the British have few financial interests in Zimbabwe and the Americans “have zero political and economic interest in Zimbabwe”, said a senior Western diplomat this week.
Mugabe regularly tells supporters that Zimbabwe has unexplored financial riches, but that is not what local geologists and other analysts say.
“There was a time, some years ago, when Zimbabwe seemed important, that it could be a powerhouse in the region, but that moment has long gone, and now it is hard to find anyone who can forecast how it can repay its debts even with a new leadership, let alone attract foreign investment,” said a Harare-based financial analyst who asked not to be named.
“There are no so-called unexplored minerals. The best opportunities are a few, well-managed small mines, but nothing big.”
He also questioned why anyone with alternatives would choose to live in Zimbabwe, as it was short of water and electricity. “There is not much to attract anyone to Zimbabwe these days. It is not a particularly comfortable or attractive place to live nowadays.”
Zanu-PF says Mugabe will be its candidate in the 2018 elections and will only retire in 2023, when he 99. Mugabe told his old friend Cephas Msipa four months ago that he would never retire.
Mugabe also acknowledged that there were factions within Zanu-PF, but that they would come together ahead of the next elections. Veteran Zimbabwe political analyst Brian Raftopoulos says chances that the fractured opposition could win the next elections are “bleak”.
Zimbabwe is so broke it has largely run out of the cash it uses - US dollars - and later this week, a new currency called Bond Notes will emerge in some bank exporters’ bank accounts.
AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY