Mugabe kicks off 2018 push

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HARARE – With all eyes on President Robert Mugabe’s mega rally in Marondera on Friday, Zanu PF insiders say the nonagenarian will not only be launching his 2018 election campaign in earnest, but will also once again use this gathering and others to follow to “crush” the ambitions of his lieutenants aspiring to succeed him.


The well-placed sources who spoke to the Daily News last night were adamant that in addition to marking “the beginning of his 2018 push”, where the nonagenarian would be mobilising the youth vote, Mugabe would also use all his forthcoming rallies “to deal with internal dissent” — as Zanu PF’s ugly tribal, factional and succession wars burn hotter.


“There is no doubt that Friday’s rally in Marondera and the others to come, which are all being organised by the youth league, will present opportunities for the president to show that he is still very much in charge despite all the infighting and the talk of succession.


“From what we have gathered, he will once again remind ambitious senior party officials and their factions that he is going nowhere and that he will be the party’s presidential candidate in 2018,” one party bigwig said.


“The rally is meant to deal with internal dissent which has caused so much grief for His Excellency.  Whether he decides to attack one faction or both factions is up to him, but the mood in the party is such that things are getting out of hand and he has to step in and say something.


“You are likely to see him reminding everyone, including those fighting to succeed him, that he is the sole candidate for 2018 and that they must wait for their turn and time when the party will decide to deal with succession,” another consistently-reliable senior party official told the Daily News last night.


“Overall, this rally is mainly to unite the party and call to order the two factions. It is also no coincidence that the youth league is behind this rally and others to follow.


“It (the youth league) has been clear that His Excellency is the sole centre of power and that he is the party’s 2018 presidential candidate,” the second insider added.


Mugabe — who spent all of last week in Mexico, attending an obscure conference on climate change — returned home at the weekend at a time that there are growing fissures within Zanu PF, as the bigwigs fighting to succeed him escalate their mindless bloodletting.


On their part, political analysts also say it will be interesting to see how Mugabe uses Friday’s rally and others slated for weeks to come, in dealing with Zanu PF’s worsening succession brawls.


“The rallies will be a litmus test for the youth league, as it is a critical constituency in the voter registration drive for 2018.


“Will the G40 also do as it did with the million-man march in May 2016? Will negative narratives from war veterans generate a blowback for Lacoste?


“Much will depend on Mugabe’s messaging on Friday and whether he uses the rally to build and unite or expose and excoriate,” Piers Pigou, a senior consultant with the International Crisis Group, said.


However, Pigou said while Mugabe could belt his warring colleagues, he was unlikely to show the direction the succession issue was likely to take.


“It’s certainly an opportunity to engage this issue, but on past form it seems unlikely he will provide any clarity or direction on this matter


“His strength seems to wax and wane with increasing unpredictability. His strength is visibly declining, but whilst the body is weak, it appears the spirit remains strong,” he added.


Youth league secretary, Kudzanai Chipanga, told the Daily News that the nonagenarian would use the Marondera rally to launch a voter mobilisation for the youths, whose participation in elections has been very low in previous elections.


“We are also taking that opportunity to launch our campaign for a massive voter registration exercise.


“It is our constitutional mandate as the youth movement to mobilise young people to fully participate in social and economic activities of this country.


“These programmes (forthcoming rallies) fall under the political structures whereby we afford young people the opportunity to interface with the head of State. They will raise their concerns and challenges that they are facing daily with him.


“We need such interactions with the president so that we get to tell him about our issues. We need the assistance of the principal to access resources. Every province will get that opportunity to host the president,” Chipanga said.


This dovetails with what opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said last month when he launched a massive campaign urging youths to register and vote in the eagerly-awaited 2018 plebiscite.


“In our last election, only five percent of those between the age of 18 and 35 voted. I am now challenging all these young people because you are allowing us the old people to continue defining your future.


“Are you aware that you are outsourcing your future to the old, even to grandfathers like Mugabe. You are outsourcing your future to that old man. What does that mean?


“Let’s all go and register to vote. On voting day, we are not supposed to go home without casting our votes.


“And simply going to vote is also not good enough. We must also defend our vote. We must not leave this duty to only a few people,” Tsvangirai said then.


“I am making a final appeal to you. You are the game changers, as 60 percent of those below the age of 40 are the majority of the country’s population … unfortunately, you are leaving everything in Tsvangirai’s hands.


“When Zanu PF rigs elections, many of you simply look up to me. Some of you don’t have national identity cards, others do not even make an effort to get these ID cards.


“Yet others don’t even come around on the days to register for elections. So … you are in effect saying the old generation must define your future,” he added.

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