According to reports, President Robert Mugabe said he had no plans to step down as Zimbabwe’s leader and nor would he be appointing his wife as his successor, as he made clear his ambition to live until he is 100.
The comments from Africa’s oldest leader, now aged 92, are his clearest indication that he wants to be President for life after 36 years in power. Asked who would follow him, during a two-hour interview with the state broadcaster, ZBC TV, he responded: “Why successor? I am still there. Why do you want a successor? I did not say I was a candidate to retire.”
Making his point more forcibly, he asked the interviewer: “Do you want me to punch you to the floor to realise I am still there?”
Mr Mugabe said he was not behind his wife Grace’s quick rise within the ruling Zanu-PF party, which has led to reports that she has plans to follow him. “Others say the President wants to leave the throne for his wife. Where have you ever seen that, even in our own culture, where a wife inherits from her husband?” he said.
In any case, he added, leaders should be elected, not appointed. “In a democratic party, you don’t want leaders appointed that way to lead the party. They have to be appointed properly by the people, at a gathering of the people, at a congress.”
Mr Mugabe, who led the struggle against white rule and was Zimbabwe’s first president after formal independence from Britain, was chosen in 2014 to lead his party for another five years, automatically becoming its presidential candidate for the 2018 election. He will be 99 if he wins and completes that term, his last under a new constitution.
He also told ZBC TV he wanted to live to 100, that he was fit and still did daily exercises. “I am happy because I am about to reach the age I want. You know the age I want to reach – 100 years. So only eight years remain,” he said.
Infighting within Zanu-PF has intensified since late 2014, when Mr Mugabe accused his deputy, Joice Mujuru, of plotting to oust him and sacked her. Ms Mujuru launched her own party this week – Zimbabwe People First – in a challenge to his authority.
During his interview, Mr Mugabe said Ms Mujuru’s party was doomed to fail and that Zanu-PF was still intact. The infighting was “peripheral”, he said.
He also said his government would take possession of all diamond operations, a week after his Mines Minister ordered a halt to mining in the Marange fields.