Deputy says Mugabe should rule until he dies

Robert Mugabe’s vice-president has endorsed the veteran Zimbabwean leader’s candidature for presidential elections next year and has suggested he should even rule until he dies, a report said on Sunday.

Joseph Msika said no-one was so far challenging Mugabe’s bid to seek a sixth consecutive term and urged supporters to endorse him at a ruling party congress in the capital Harare next month.

“We do not change leaders as fast as we change our shirts,” the state Sunday Mail weekly quoted the vice-president as telling a provincial meeting of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party.

“So the issue of changing a leader after a specified period of time is out of the question. It is a luxury we cannot afford. If they are still serving the people, they should stay on or even die there.”

Msika’s statements came just over a week after Vice-President Joyce Mujuru, once regarded as Mugabe’s most obvious successor, poured cold water on reports that she still had an eye on the presidency.

Mugabe (83) has ruled the Southern African country since independence from colonial power Britain in 1980.

When Mujuru was chosen as Mugabe’s deputy in 2004, Mugabe appeared to have annointed her as his successor saying she was destined for higher office.

But relations between the two appeared to have cooled following reports that Mujuru was leading a faction in Zanu-PF seeking to take over from Mugabe.

Matter of principle

Meanwhile, Africa’s insistence that Mugabe be invited to a summit in Europe is a matter of principle and not a sign of support for the Zimbabwean leader or his government, the chairperson of the African Union (AU) said on Friday.

The prospect that Mugabe could attend a European Union-AU summit in Lisbon next month has threatened to derail the meeting.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he will boycott the summit, the first to be held since 2000, if Mugabe is invited. The 53-member AU, however, has held firm in its demand that Mugabe be allowed to attend.

“It’s a matter of principle,” AU chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare told reporters at a conference outside Johannesburg. “That position does not mean that we support what is happening in Zimbabwe. It is the principle.”

Konare, the former president of Mali, said he was confident that the controversy had largely been defused, adding that he did not think the political crisis in Zimbabwe would be an issue high up on the agenda in Lisbon.

The summit is intended to focus on areas requiring closer cooperation between Europe and Africa, notably trade, migration and the establishment of an energy partnership. - Sapa-AFP, Reuters

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