WASHINGTON, DC —
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has once again closed the door on the issue of who will succeed him, saying in a recent interview that “I’m still there.”
Responding to questions during a two-hour delayed annual interview with the country’s state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBC), Thursday, usually broadcast on the eve of his birthday, was as expected, full of jokes but also insightful on issues of national concern.
Aside from addressing the closure of the diamond mines due to non-compliance and “swindling” by some of the foreign mining companies, President Mugabe, who spoke between long poses, also addressed the pressing issue of succession, and his wife, Grace’s involvement in politics.
On succession, President Mugabe hit hard at those pressing him to select a successor, asking the interviewer jokingly, if he needed to punch someone for them to realize that he’s still around, and therefore a successor not necessary at this time..
“I'm still there, why do you want a successor? Do you want me to floor you with a punch for you to feel I'm still there?" President Mugabe said with a laugh, partly in Shona.
The 92-year-old president who marked his birthday at a huge bash at the Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo last Saturday, also took aim as those speculating about if he will voluntarily leave office before term, saying he did not accept his party’s nomination to lead his Zanu-PF party, or represent it at the country’s 2018 elections, only to quit.
"When we went to (Zanu-PF elective) Congress in 2013 and the people said you are the candidate,” he explained. “I did not say I was a candidate to retire…only to retire midway. I never say that. I was candidate for the term. For the term. The term is a five-year term, isn't it? Otherwise why did I accept?"
Dismissing allegations from many, including his former vice president Joice Mujuru, who in a recent interview with the Associated Press speculated that President Mugabe was likely trying to establish a dynasty by paving way for his wife, Grace, and family to stay in power.
President Mugabe said that was ridiculous.
“And it's ridiculous for that matter that others say the President wants to leave his wife in charge. Where have you ever seen that happening? Even our traditional systems do not allow that. We don't do that," Mugabe said, speaking in Shona.
As for whether or not he’d encouraged his 50-year-of wife, Grace, who is the chair of Zanu-PF’s powerful Women’s League, to publicly attack those suspected of sabotaging the party, like Mrs. Mujuru, Mugabe explained that while he supported his wife’s decision to enter politics, he does not control what she says.
“Sure we welcome your decision if you come into politics', I said so to Grace. I said 'fine, yes I will support you but to come into politics the decision is entirely your own, you are free'. And so there she is, free. Her ideas are entirely her own."
President Mugabe also commented on the formation of Zimbabwe People First, Mujuru’s newly launched party, saying dismissively that he was not afraid of her or her party, and that “they will live in the wilderness, where little ants and other biting insects are destined to live".
Mrs. Mujuru was kicked out of the Zanu-PF and government party in 2015, following allegations that she was disloyal to President Mugabe and that he had aspirations to succeed him in office.