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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Announces 2012 Election Bid

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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said Saturday he will not retire, but instead will lead his Zanu-PF party in elections that he announced will take place early next year.

The 87 year-old president appeared fit after a four day annual conference of Zanu-PF where his leadership of the party was reconfirmed. As leader of the party, he will be its candidate in the next legislative and presidential elections.

More than 4,000 delegates attended the conference in Bulawayo, a city where many opposed Zanu-PF and Mugabe for decades.

Delegates heard that the party is broke and is running on bank over drafts. Mugabe chided delegates for divisions in the party.

“We have not allowed the best man or best woman to emerge. Rather, we have stood in the way of peoples choices rigged and ousted people’s preferences,” he said.

Nearly three years ago, the president was forced to share power with his opposition after Zanu-PF lost legislative elections to the Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC).

For more than a year, Mugabe has been calling for fresh elections, but he has been restrained by regional leaders who guaranteed the multi-party political agreement that brought the inclusive government to power.

The Zimbabwean leader now says the inclusive government must be buried.

“This inclusive governmental animal must now see its death," he said to applause. "It must come to an end and we must dig its grave. Let us now start preparing for elections and as we do that we are digging the grave of this monster.”

Mugabe said he cannot retire while western sanctions against most top Zanu-PF leaders and some companies remain.

“When the West is still holding the sanctions against us and they are still working on regime change, and also, we are still in this inclusive government… I say ah, no! I am now on show and it would be completely wrong and loss of confidence in myself and an act of cowardice as well.”

The United States and Europe imposed sanctions after violent elections in 2002, and has said they will not be lifted until all reforms President Mugabe agreed to as part of the 2008 multi-party political agreement are fulfilled.

That poltical agreement says a new constitution must be in place ahead of new elections which negotiators say will not be concluded before mid- 2012. But MDC finance minister Tendai Biti did not set aside money for elections in his 2012 budget.

The political agreement was mediated and guaranteed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which says undisputed elections are only possible after significant political and legislative reform.

Chris Mutsvangwa, former Zimbabwe diplomat and member of Zanu-PF and a member of the media council, claimed Western media is anti-African and supports the invasion of the continent.

“We need to devise strategy so the message of people can come across so they are not hoodwinked by these messages of despondency and of despair in Africa," said Mutsvangwa.

So far no Zanu-PF leader has emerged as a front runner to succeed Mugabe.

Opposition to him from within the party subsided after the death in August of his former army commander, Solomon Mujuru, in a mysterious fire.

His wife, Joyce Mujuru is one of two vice presidents of Zanu-PF.

Article by Peta Thornycroft, VOA News