By Sij Ncube
HARARE, July 14, 2015 – Tanzania’s ruling Chama Chamapinduzi party has anointed the country’s Minister of Works John Magufuli as its presidential candidate for polls slated for October 25 in a development expected to see him step into the shoes of the incumbent president Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete as leadership renewal takes root in former liberation movements in Southern Africa.
Kikwete steps down after his second and final term, a political episode which has been given prominence in Zimbabwe’s partisan state media, unwittingly exposing President Robert Mugabe’s octopus-grip on power in Zanu (PF) and as the oddball in Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc).
Mugabe (91) has been at the helm of Zanu (PF) since the 1970s during the liberation war and in power in Zimbabwe since independence from colonial Britain in 1980.
Critics say while Magufuli (55) prepares to take over power in Tanzania’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi, Mugabe, who is battling old age and failing health, has not shown any signs of slowing down or let along allow debate on his possible successor.
Discussing succession in Zanu PF is taboo, critics say, yet in CCM it was put to vote with Magufuli garnering 87% of the votes cast.
In Mugabe’s situation his former deputy Joice Mujuru was last December hounded out of Zanu PF and government for allegedly showing signs of ambition, rightly or wrongly, by virtue of being the second in command.
Nearly 140 other Zanu PF politicians suspected to be sympathetic to Mujuru were axed in a ruthless purge which has seen Mugabe’s wife, Grace, assuming political clout in the revolutionary party.
It is the bloodless leadership changes in CCM which again bring the spotlight to Mugabe’s long stay in power in both Zanu PF and government, a situation which has not be held by the Mugabe Chete syndrome among the party faithful.
“Zanu PF is unique in the fact it is the only one of the former liberation movements that has not changed its president of both the party and the government,” says political analyst and blogger, Takura Zhangazha.
“The main reason for that is its lack of internal democracy and debate and functioning in a manner that promotes personalities above values and principles.”
Five months ago former Mozambique president Amarndo Guebuza handed over power to new president Filipe Nyusi after serving for two terms from 2005 to 2015.
Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba also told fellow regional leaders at the Victoria Falls SADC in April it was his last summit, intimating he would not go past he two five years terms .
Trust Matsilele says leadership changes in the region shows others SADC countries are democracies while Zimbabwe is not.
He said some countries like Lesotho there are coups as citizens vehemently oppose leaders who cling to power despite being clueless in taking their nations forward.
“In Zimbabwe we have not had such experiences (but) Mugabe is obviously a problem and Zimbabweans too, especially those who burden him with responsibility to keep on leading,” said Matsilele.
Rashweat Mukundu, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said while the rest of SADC is on the path to establish firm democracies buttressed by peaceful leadership change, Zimbabwe is indeed stuck with no prospect for an orderly leadership change.
“The problem is with President Mugabe who has assumptions that his leadership is all that is for Zimbabwe. He has created structures that make it impossible for anyone within or outside ZANU PF to take over and Zimbabwe is stuck with him till either he decides or nature decides.
“His stay in power seems endless and symbolized by failure on the economic front and widespread poverty and suffering. He appears desperate to leave a legacy of sorts, unfortunately he is sinking deeper into the mud and with him the rest of Zimbabwe’s citizens. The legacy of poverty and suffering seems to be all that he will ultimately leave Zimbabwe and only God knows when and how.”
Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for MDC Renewal Team, charged that the country has been very unfortunate to have a selfish founding leader who has seen it fit to punish the Zimbabwean people with his permanent presence.
“We then have cowardly former comrades of his who would rather give the presidency to his wife than to any one of them. They pass through the years tounges tied unable to say anything or do anything unless it echoes the wishes of Robert Mugabe and or now his wife,” he said.
Mafume added that the people have tried at great cost to show that they do not like Mugabe anymore but have been let down by leaders both within and outside Zanu(PF).