Mugabe: Stepping down would be ‘foolish, idiotic’

Zimbabwe’s veteran President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday slapped down speculation he would step down as “foolish” and “idiotic” as he sought to retain control of his ruling Zanu-PF party.

Speaking on the second day of a key elective congress, the 90-year-old tore into vice president and one-time heir apparent Joice Mujuru. 

“I go to an election and I am expected to bow to my deputy and say I won the election you take over. That was the wide expectation, foolish and idiotic,” Mugabe told a meeting of his Zanu-PF party’s powerful central committee.

Allies ‘hungry for power
The meeting – which moves into open session on Thursday with some 12 000 delegates attending – is expected to confirm Mugabe as party chief and his wife Grace as women’s league boss. 

Mugabe accused Mujuru, who was ousted from the central committee last month, of plotting to unseat him in factional feuding threatening to tear the party apart. 

“But to try and organise illegal ways of getting into power, that we shall not have. Never,” Mugabe said. “You can contest for the presidency instead of trying to oust the president.”

Mugabe said Mujuru and her allies were hungry for power and were using money to gain support. He said some of his opponents in the party were working with Western countries to overthrow him.

“If you are European-minded, you do not belong to Zanu-PF,” he said.

Rumours of his imminent death
Mugabe said rumours that his death was imminent had led to the internal jostling for his post.

“Did I not hear or read that this man was going to die in September and the man refused to die in that September. He is still resisting,” he said.

Mujuru was not present at the meeting and she missed a meeting of the politburo at the party headquarters on Tuesday. The party largely was meeting behind closed doors on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the congress moving into open session from Thursday to Saturday. 

Hardline Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to be named as party vice president at the meeting, putting him in prime position to replace Mugabe. 

Grace Mugabe (49) won a surprise nomination in August to lead the powerful women’s wing of Zanu-PF and has made no secret of her ambition to clinch the country’s top job.

Zanu-PF has been riven by factionalism over Mugabe’s succession for years, with the firebrand ruler avoiding naming a successor. 

Beatings and abduction of pro-democracy activists
The South African Press Association reported that, rights watchdog Amnesty International on Wednesday said Zimbabwe should launch an impartial investigation into the abduction and beating this week of three pro-democracy activists in Harare.

Itai Dzamara, Jerry Mugweni and Allan Chinewaita were abducted on Tuesday by unknown men who bundled them into cars and took them to an office of the ruling Zanu-PF party where they were beaten with metal rods. 

The three were later handed to police and released without charge. They are understood to have been receiving hospital treatment in the Zimbabwean capital. 

They had been taking part in a “sit-in” protest in Harare’s central Africa Unity Square calling for longtime president Mugabe to step down. “We are concerned about reports that the three activists were handed to police at Harare Central Police station by the abductors who were allowed to leave without being interrogated or arrested,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s regional director for southern Africa in a statement. 

“Such conduct by the police perpetrates a culture of impunity which fuels further human rights abuses,” Muchena said. 

Dzamara, a journalist, was beaten unconscious by police on November 6. When his lawyer Kennedy Masiye arrived on the scene, he too was beaten with batons and chased away.– AFP, Sapa

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