Addressing a group of war veterans that had marched through the city streets to his party headquarters in Harare on Wednesday, Robert Mugabe declared he was not going anywhere and scoffed at the idea of an "exit package".
The march was organised by the Zimbabwe War Veterans' Association, a controversial group that spearheaded the government's chaotic and violent farm invasions back in the year 2000. Sources in Harare said the marchers appeared to be mostly elderly men and some youth from rural areas. Reports originally said thousands participated, but our sources now put the number at just over one thousand.
Mugabe told them he had not lost his appetite for power and would not be forced into exile because he was born in Zimbabwe and it is in Zimbabwe that he will die. The message seems to imply that Mugabe is not willing to accept or consider any deals that would require him to step down from office or leave the country. It also makes a mockery of the talks being mediated by South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki under a mandate from regional leaders.
Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro, the MDC secretary for international affairs, said he was amazed at Mugabe's comments, because Zimbabweans have never proposed an exit package for him. He said an exit deal was also not a policy of the MDC, but it was time for Mugabe to go. The professor explained: "Mugabe had been in power for 27 years. Clearly the challenges of governing the nation are simply defying his intellect and it's time I think that he takes a rest from issues of the management of public affairs."
Regarding Mugabe's assertion that he is not going anywhere, Mukonoweshuro said: "Any democrat who is in politics could never speak in such final terms when facing an election unless off course they are so sure that they will interfere with the expression of the people's wishes, because an election is unpredictable." He added that almost every rationale thinking Zimbabwean has come to the conclusion that Mugabe must depart from the scene and allow Zimbabweans to choose leaders and a government of their own choice.
Regarding the presidential and parliamentary elections due in March next year, Mukonoweshuro said the MDC will insist on free and fair elections under an independent electoral commission. They will also ensure that the voter registration is done properly and the voters' roll is cleaned up before they participate in any elections.