HARARE – South African opposition leader Julius Malema has once again said President Robert Mugabe must step down, as he accused the long-time ruler of destroying the little left of his legacy by clinging on to power.
Reiterating his call for the leader to step down in an Africa Day speech, Malema — once an admirer of Mugabe and his revolutionary Zanu PF policies — pleaded with the increasingly frail nonagenarian to step down with immediate effect and allow others to take over.
His call, the third in less than six months, comes as Mugabe is eyeing a fresh mandate in next years’ election — when he would be 94.
“Of course Mugabe must go. Of course we don’t want leaders who overstay their welcome,” Malema said in Johannesburg on Thursday, adding that “but Mugabe is 100 percent right about land”.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader’s remarks come as President Jacob Zuma’s pledge to expropriate South African land has raised the spectre of violent seizures of farms like those that impoverished neighbouring Zimbabwe, and could hurt the economy by scaring off investors worried about property rights.
Mugabe, who turned 93 in February, is the only leader Zimbabwe has known since the country attained its independence in 1980.
Mugabe claims his land reform was aimed at addressing colonial imbalances whereby a few white farmers owned most of the best agricultural land in Zimbabwe.
Earlier, EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu had also said Mugabe should retire.
“We appreciate the land programme in Zimbabwe, but Mugabe’s overstay in power can’t be celebrated. We can’t celebrate god presidents,” Shivambu said.
Malema later said that if other Sadc countries did not adopt Zimbabwe’s land policies, the land issue was bound to fail.
“If Zimbabwe takes land and other countries near Zimbabwe don’t take land, then the land struggle will not succeed. They will simply leave Zimbabwe for South Africa like they did, and irritate us here,” he said.
In December, Malema’s militant EFF also made headlines when it said it was time for Mugabe to get off the political stage.
“We believe that the Zimbabwean president … Mugabe should take a lesson and accept that other Zimbabweans can also lead, while maintaining and sustaining his great legacy.
“He must give way and not set an example that if one does the things he did for Zimbabwean people, like land expropriation, then one must stay in power till death,” part of the EFF’s statement read.
“Political power should not have to be taken to the grave. Great political leadership in the continent ought to live to see others lead the country to demonstrate to the whole world that theirs is an immovable legacy as Fidel Castro of Cuba did.
“In addition, this allows them to also give guidance and counsel,” the EFF, said, adding that Gambia’s Yayha Jammeh was “a great example” to many African leaders who wanted to stay in power till death.
“Staying in power till death does not help you see to it that the country can indeed go forward without you. It is inevitable that we all die. Thus, great leadership is one that allows to hand over so they can die knowing the country and their legacy is safe,” Malema’s party further said.
The nonagenarian is facing the biggest challenge to his 36 years in power, as rising discontent within his warring Zanu PF party where deadly tribal, factional and succession wars have taken the former liberation movement to the brink of yet another split.