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Zimbabweans Welcome, Criticize Mugabe's Elevation to AU Chair

African heads of state, joined by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, sixth from left in front row, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, third from right in front row, pose for a group photograph at the annual African Union (AU) summit held at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. African leaders Friday appointed 90-year-old Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled his country since 1980, as the new chairman of the 54-nation African Union, succeeding Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. (AP Photo/Elias Asmare)

While some Zimbabweans view President Robert Mugabe’s election to the African Union chairmanship as Africa’s recognition of his experience in international relations, others say there is not much that Mr. Mugabe would change as his new post is largely ceremonial.

Mr. Mugabe, who is also chairperson of the Southern African Development Community, was unanimously elected African Union chairperson last week in what Zanu PF’s Gabriel Chaibva says is a tremendous show of support and confidence on him by African leaders.

Chaibva says as AU chairman, Mr. Mugabe now has a perfect opportunity to change the mindset of certain leaders who believed that America and Europe are the saviors of Africa’s challenges.

Political commentator, Takura Zhangazha, also says Mr. Mugabe’s election to chair the continental body is good as it marks Zimbabwe’s entry into international affairs after years being regarded as a pariah state.

Senior Zimbabwean journalist, David Masunda, adds that Mr. Mugabe’s election will boost his image internationally as the West which has imposed sanctions on him his colleagues can no longer afford to ignore him.

Masunda says Mr. Mugabe’s leadership of both the Southern African Development Community and African Union is good news for countries like China and Russia as the Zimbabwean leader is likely to push his policies such as the Look East policy.

He says Mr. Mugabe will no doubt use his experience to tackle burning issues such the International Criminal Court’s treatment of African leaders.

Masunda argues that Mr. Mugabe’s new role brings new challenges for the 90 year-old, who has to fix pressing social, economic and political issues in his own country.

Harare resident, Godsway Shumba, believes that while President Mugabe’s election to the position of AU chairperson is good for the country, chairing SADC and AU would be too much for him.

He says a man of his age does not need extra responsibilities.

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Another Harare resident, Chamunorwa Mutasa, is of the view that Mr. Mugabe is too old and should not be burdened with more responsibilities.

But Zhangazha dismisses these remarks saying the president will be looking mainly after Zimbabwean issues as most of the regional matters are set to be tackled by the AU Commission

But some Zimbabweans like Kwekwe-based human rights defender, Nkosilathi Moyo and Media Centre director, Enerst Mudzengi, say there is reason to celebrate Mr. Mugabe’s elevation to the chairmanship of the AU.

Mudengi says this is a ceremonial position.

Indications are that Mr. Mugabe can influence topics for debate and discussion by the AU Commission, which implements the continental body’s policies.

President Mugabe, who has been in power for more than 34 years, took over the chairmanship from Mauritania’s president Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz.

This is the second time Mr. Mugabe is leading the continental body. He once led it when it was the Organization of African Union from June 1997 to June 1998.

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