HARARE – A visibly-tired President Robert Mugabe once again openly admitted yesterday that his governing Zanu PF’s seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars had destroyed the party, appealing for unity among his brawling lieutenants.
Opening the ruling party’s central committee meeting in Harare, Mugabe also admitted that he had thus far failed to contain his party’s mindless bloodletting in which a faction loyal to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is at war with one made up of Young Turks known as the Generation 40 (G40) group.
“Look where we are now compared to what we used to be, especially during the time of the struggle? … we need to work and revamp the party.
“There are factions that are accusing each other, using the opposition papers to say bad things about one another … we need to stop this. Where are we going? I appeal to you to unite for the good of the party,” the exasperated nonagenarian said.
“The trust has been lost among party members. Everyone must do a self-introspection … youths should be united, focused. The leadership of the party should provide that element of unity, provide that historical understanding that enables us to go forward as a party,” he added.
Mugabe also revealed that Zanu PF would continue to take a tough stance on the party’s much-criticised indigenisation policy.
“We need to take our independence seriously. Indigenisation, in its exclusive way, should be taken seriously. Some are saying we are driving away investors but that’s not it,” he said.
This is not the first time that Mugabe has bemoaned the ugly ructions that are devouring the ruling party. Speaking late last year, he also openly expressed the fear that his party could completely fall apart owing to its worsening infighting.
“The problem that we now have has to do with personalities, people wanting to advance themselves within the party, wanting this position or that position and so we have a problem that threatens to split the party.
“Some are looking at the forthcoming elections and the elections are still far, they come in the year 2018, but the ambitious ones are working, some openly, some behind the scenes in order to place themselves in positions which they think will enable them to be elected.
“Some want to be in those positions now. Hazviiite (it’s not possible) just now,” the worried Mugabe said, calling on party bigwigs to be patient until the country’s next elections in 2018 when “we will all resign and ambitious ones can line up”.
He also said while there was nothing wrong per se with party officials being ambitious, there was need for them to use proper procedures.
“Chigaro ngachiuye netsika dzakanaka. Zvigaro hazviturunurwe samatamba, zvinouya nechimiro chako, nekudiwa kwako nevanhu (leadership should be assumed through good works and the correct channels),” he said.
As all this is happening, respected Zanu PF elder, Cephas Msipa, who has been one of the few voices of reason in the warring ruling party, this week took the unprecedented step of urging the long-ruling leader to retire immediately.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Daily News on Thursday, Msipa said Mugabe’s 56 years in politics were long enough for a “normal human being to hang the boots”.
“My serious advice to him (Mugabe) is that he should rest now, as he has done so much for the country,” he said.
Msipa, a close friend of Mugabe of many decades, said the nonagenarian — who is the only leader that Zimbabweans have had for the past 36 years — cannot rest after death.
“In a way, he has done a lot for this country, and really in all fairness we are punishing him. When will he rest, when he is dead?” he asked rhetorically.
“I feel sorry for him as a friend. I think he must just be given time to rest. We live in this world for a much shorter period than we realise. He really needs a rest. A race is run up to a certain point and there comes a point when you must rest.
“It’s good for him, good for his family and good for the party. We need new ideas. These can only come with leadership renewal. I would like him to rest,” the concerned Msipa emphasised repeatedly.
He also challenged some Zanu PF hardliners who were advocating for the nonagenarian’s further stay in power to be “human and stop punishing” him.
“We should all feel sorry for him. We are punishing him. Those who are saying he should continue, we don’t seem to care about him. I know some people want him to stay for their own protection.
“I also know some of them feel he is protecting them. He gave them certain positions and so they are afraid that if he goes they will lose those positions. It’s unfair for us to punish a man for all this time. Let him sit back and watch. It’s very important after all that hard work,” Msipa said.
The veteran politician said if he was to get an opportunity to talk to Mugabe, he would convince him to take a rest immediately.
“If it was to become possible for me to meet him I would convince him to rest. I am talking about retiring. I am saying he has worked so hard, so much that he needs to rest now.
“There will be no other time except now. He can’t rest after death of course. They call that rest in peace, but I don’t know what that means,” he added.
Msipa further advised the 92-year-old to take a leaf from him and retire from active politics on his terms.
“As you can see, I am resting and I know what I’m talking about and what he is missing that. I am enjoying myself, for the first time in my life. I can for a change do what I like.
“I can wake up at any time, I can decide to spend the day asleep, I can decide to visit my children, and I have no one to report to. Imagine for Mugabe, putting on a tie, having endless appointments at his age,” he said.
Msipa claimed that just before he left active politics he had asked Mugabe to retire, an offer that was turned down.
“I went to see Mugabe with my two sons where I told him to retire. He told me that in politics you don’t retire, but that you rather die there. That’s his philosophy.
“So in a way he seems to be enjoying the position, but he must also think of rest, because he is punishing himself physically. We are all human beings and the fire in us burns out and you can’t go on trying to keep putting on some light when it’s burning out,” he said.
Asked what kind of a person Mugabe was at a personal level, Msipa described the nonagenarian as a “difficult” character to understand.
“He is in a way difficult to understand. He can be very charming but also he can be repellent and very cruel. He can be very charming and the next moment he can do things that you cannot believe he can do.
“For instance, when Murambatsvina (operation clean-up) started, I phoned him because I thought that was uncharacteristic of him, but when he has decided that this man is my enemy, he will do everything to crush you.
“That is his problem, there are no two ways about it. So in short, he can be very cruel if you stand in his way because he wants things to be done in his way,” he said.
Msipa further noted that Mugabe was the type of leader who would also often indicate right and then turn left.
“There are times when he says one thing and he does another. Listen to what he was saying about our independence a year ago. He says it makes us all equal, no one is greater than another and so on, but in practice does he practice that? So I have a problem there.”